Handheld screens are everywhere now, including in the hands or on the podiums of a presenter. It’s available, it’s convenient — but is it effective? I’ll cut right to the chase: I don’t think it’s a good idea to speak from your digital device. Here’s why:
It will fail
Battery charged, wi-fi’ed, saved on the device. What could go wrong? Clicking the wrong thing in your nervousness (I swiped too far, now I’m lost). It’s warm up front (sweaty fingers do weird stuff to touch-screens). My son is calling me via FaceTime (Forgot to put it on Airplane mode).
Sure, pieces of paper can get out of order. Note cards can go flying across the stage. But your recovery will be much smoother than a reboot, or closing Amazon to go back to your notes app. Besides, I’d rather spill the little cup of podium water on my printed notes than my iPad.
In the end, it’s not when but if your technology will fail you. Go old school and recycle when you’re done.
It sends an unintended social cue
The studies tell us what we already know: we’re remarkably distracted by our technology. Have you been eating at a restaurant with friends when someone suddenly pulls their phone out? What happens? The rest of the table checks their phones, too. Why? Call it FOMO (fear of missing out) or FOBB (fear of being bored) (I made that up).
People don’t disengage their sensitivity to social cues when watching a presentation. As you fiddle with your bible app or look at Google docs, your audience is subconsciously thinking about their phones, too. And probably getting them out, therefore ignoring you (because multitasking is a myth – more on that later).
Some of the hippest speakers I’ve seen use their phone or their iPad to communicate, either out of convenience or, perhaps, to signal that they’re hip and “with it”. While some people may notice that, rest assured that every person with a phone notices their phone-filled pockets. Don’t add to the madness of our distraction.
It breaks the connection you’re trying to make
It may seem a little extreme, but smart phone addiction is becoming a major issue. As noted above, a visible phone/tablet might be almost as destructive as drinking with a recovering alcoholic.
Even if it’s not an addiction, there’s no doubt that smart phones are messing up how we connect. I use my smartphone all the time, and I agree that it’s a central way of connecting for me (and probably you). Some studies suggest that smart phones do help us connect in meaningful ways. But that’s not what we’re aiming for when we speak. Speaking in front of a group is like sitting across the table and connecting with 10 or 1,000+ people. Eye contact, body language, and all the other non-verbals are critical for our connection with an audience.
In order to connect, you need their eyes and they need yours. Even a glance at screen disrupts our neurological process. Using your screen for notes will only add to the disruption.
As a speaker, your goal is to have as much of a face-to-face connection as possible, and phones interrupt that beautifully human process. We want to model communication as it was before the smartphone revolution, a unique and novel approach that will make you a different kind of communicator because you’re fully present.
In another post, I’ll admit that I’m a hypocrite who uses his phone for live texting as I speak. Stay tuned.