Thursday, January 26, 2012

to attend = to be present, to give attention

I attended a webinar today that focused on teaching ethics. I attend a lot of webinars (on teaching, business, management, and communication), as I believe that when one educates others, one must continually educate oneself.

Doesn't that sound good? A little highbrow, but still, sounds good. Right? Hmmm. . . .

Unfortunately, I noticed something today about the way I usually "attend" webminars: I listen in. I write something in the chat when asked a question. I look at the slides and maybe download them if they're good. I check my email. I check my phone messages. I check my twitter feed. And, oh yeah, I listen in.

This is not attending -- I am not fully present, even if my name is on the attendee list! When I read emails or facebook in a meeting, I'm not learning. Multitasking only works when the tasks don't require full brainpower. So much for high-brow!

I noticed this only because the webinar facilitator asked me a question by name while I was off on my email. "Oh gosh," I thought. "She expects me to be involved here!" In fact, the facilitator, unlike the vast majority of lecture-happy webinar facilitators, asked many open-ended questions. She stopped asking us by name after the first few minutes, but her open-ended questions kept me attending for the rest of the session -- for real this time.

What about you? Do you glance at the status of a recent ebay bid while your peer presents the latest financial data (particularly when in a remote meeting) or check out your facebook page while your child tells you about his day? If not, how do you maintain your attention, even when the subject loses your interest for a short while?

As meeting leaders, what tools or techniques do you use to engage all your meeting participants? Or do you let them attend in body (or computer connection) only?

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