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Dealing with cell phones

Cell phones can be a challenge for every teacher and trainer these days.  Here are some suggestions and anecdotes to set expectations in mature, respectful, or funny ways. Many of these were drawn from a series of LinkedIN discussions.

Have an adult conversation about it!

For the sales people I train, their phone is their livelihood and I must be sensitive to this.  Because I train adults, I engage them in an adult conversation about it.  At the end of the day, if not picking up the phone means they miss an important sale I’m not sure how happy the client would be about that. So I reassure that that I understand life goes on beyond the training room and if they need to make a call to reply on the breaks if possible or let me know up front if they have meetings and conference calls booked in the time span.

This seems to really work for two reasons, 1) banning things puts people offside and 2) if people do start disappearing then I know my content isn’t engaging or giving enough value!

Establish ground-rules:

  1. Set expectations for classroom behavior, respect, and courtesy INCLUDING CELL PHONE USE!
  2. Communicate required information (like safety exits and evacuation procedures)
  3. Make the participant more comfortable and prepared to be attentive (bathrooms, break times, lunch, etc).

Get a receptionist

“I like the idea of a temp/receptionist taking the messages, if this is feasible. Pre-mobile phones, I worked in a sprawling office where all senior staff had bleepers they were supposed to carry. A few were very good at giving them to their secretaries, prior to a meeting, and asking them to respond if necessary, with instructions as to what was urgent enough for them to be disturbed – same principle.”

Embrace the enemy

In his article, 35 Ways to Use an iphone in a Workshop, Dwayne Hodgson takes a different approach to cell phones.  He admits to being an iPhone addict and has come up with 35 constructive ways to use an iPhone during a workshop.


Other suggestions – use at your own peril

Some have techniques that may work for some but not others. These include:

  • “For a small fee you can buy a mobile phone signal jammer which will block signals for a small area around the training room.”  Here’s one:
  • “I knew of someone who had a stack of fake phones. He would drop one on a table before the training and when the training started, pick it up, pretending it belonged to a delegate, tread on it and say “and that’s what happens if a phone rings during the training.”
  • “If a phone does ring, I generally say nothing – I ensure that there is quiet in the room and simply stare impassively at the offender. Everyone turns to focus on that one person and they tend not to do it a second time. As you say, Sue, it’s just plain rude!”


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