Friday, 21 January 2011
The last few days have seen me racking up the business dinners. Typically English, one night was a curry, another night was an Argentinian steak house, next was an Italian and then yesterday we were in a Chinese with the spinny table in the middle.
It was a co-incidental series of face to face meetings in the day-time and then suppers before people headed back to their respective countries on the next mornings. We had Americans, Dutch, Belgian, French, Swiss, German, Finnish, Danish, Italian, Canadian, Swedish, Slovenian and probably more mixed together at the various sessions.
I couldn't help notice the change to the 'now-ness' of these events though. They were all on a still personal scale, perhaps 10-15 people together at a time, rather than huge filled ballrooms. But in all cases there was an 'always-on' culture of laptops, iPhones and Blackberries.
Its a bit like inhabiting two worlds simultaneously. The physical, and the parallel virtual one. Many of us already do this on phone calls and teleconferences, where we'll also be connected to email and the net, but when its face-to-face I suspect it can dilute effectiveness.
The availability of networks raises a more general point about the way meetings work. What's the level of engagement we can expect? Nothing against multi-tasking, but there's also a need to use judgement about when to be in the moment and to 'switch it off'.