In an Age of Rapid Communication, Are We Losing Our Ability to Converse?

7 Feb

Are in-depth discussions becoming a thing of the past in business meetings? For many people, the word “meeting” evokes mental images of a group of colleagues sitting around a large oval table with pads of paper, coffee cups, and pitchers of water. More recently, that image has changed to include laptops, iPads, and cell phones. In some companies, however, the notion of what a meeting looks like is being altered even more. Instead of having employees sit around a large table in comfortable chairs, managers are implementing “stand-up” meetings in which employees are required to stand in a large circle facing one another for the entire length of the meeting.

In our increasingly busy world, people have little time, and even less ability, to stay focused on a single topic. The “stand-up” meeting combats this problem and ensures that managers can command most, if not all, of their employee’s attention. When standing up, people are less inclined to daydream or be distracted. Additionally, when standing up, meeting participants tend to keep their contributions short in order to avoid the fatigue caused by standing for long periods of time. Theoretically, as concise updates become the norm, the overall efficiency of meetings should increase.

The evolution of the meeting from sitting to standing is also a clear indicator of the changes occurring in traditional modes of communication. With the Internet available on more devices than ever, “disconnecting” has become increasingly more difficult. Multi-tasking has become the norm, especially when sitting at a table during a long meeting. With “stand-up” meetings, however, it is virtually impossible for employees to covertly text or surf the web because the table behind which they would hide their actions has been removed. A reduction in multi-tasking should translate into increased focus on the topic at hand.

While it does seem to have its advantages, I can’t help but wonder if the “stand-up” meeting is a good idea. In an age where social media and text messaging are replacing face-to-face communication, does shortening the average meeting help us or hinder us? Will people begin to lose their conversation skills in favor of pointed, concise question and answer sessions? The manner in which people communicate is definitely changing. Although people are becoming more efficient, they are also becoming more impersonal, and the “stand-up” meeting will serve to perpetuate this trend.

by Diana DeVries



One Response to “In an Age of Rapid Communication, Are We Losing Our Ability to Converse?”

  1. Ariel Berkson February 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm #


    From personal experience I have found that technology has definitely changed the atmosphere of meetings. In my own executive meetings at WashU, the president struggles to hold the attention of every exec member. We sit there online, on Facebook, or on our phones texting our friends who we just saw, and who we will see in just one hour. And unfortunately I must include myself in the problem; I have found myself doing these very things during our meetings.

    Before reading your blog post I had never heard of a “stand-up” meeting, but I think this would be an interesting thing to try at one of our exec meetings. Although it may not be feasible for every meeting, I think trying it once would shock us and make us realize that we must give our full attention in all meetings held.

    Thank you for enlightening me with this new meeting strategy! I will bring it to my president and get her input.

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