Smartphones and tablets and projectors, oh my! Today’s business meal often includes a full menu of technology. Knowing how and when to power down has never been more important.

The Pew Institute reports that among U.S. adults, smart phone ownership reached 64% in 2015. This “always on” culture tempts us to stay in constant contact -- but using technology during business meals is rude and distracting. It tells your companions that they are not important, that something else is more worthy of your attention.

Even the Emily Post Institute has weighed in. Emily Post’s great-granddaughter, Cindy Post Senning, calls our obsession with texting “texting anarchy.” She pronounces “It’s not good manners.” 

Still, many find it difficult to unplug even for a few minutes. In American’s Views on Phone Etiquette, 82% reported they believe phone usage hurts conversation. Yet 89% report using their cell phone during the last social event they attended.

Especially if you are the host or a featured guest, answering a call or text is a highly visible disruption during a business meal.

Your best strategy? Think of a meal like any other business meeting. It lasts only a short while; your companions deserve your full attention.

Don’t let technology ruin a great time. You wouldn’t stop in the middle of a meeting to take a call; handle your business meal the same way.

Place your phone on vibrate before entering the restaurant. Better still, turn off your phone or leave it behind so you’ll be spared any temptation to use it. Put it your pocket, purse or briefcase, and not on the table.

Say no to texting at the table. Texting, like calling, diverts your attention from the meal and your companions. Although quieter than a phone call, even “discreet” texting is noticeable to everyone at the table.

Step away for unavoidable calls. On that rare occasion you simply must make or take a call, keep it brief. Excuse yourself and step away to the lobby, empty bar area, or another quiet place where you can conduct business in private. If you anticipate something that could be an unavoidable interruption, mention the possibility at the beginning of the business meal.

Plan ahead and prepare for tech fails. When planning to use a restaurant’s meeting room, projector and/or screen, arrive early to ensure everything necessary for a smooth presentation. We tend to take technology for granted, but lots can go wrong. Check ahead of time that the restaurant has what you need. Better still, bring along different computer adaptors and cords so you never get caught empty handed.

Use tablets only for business. If using a tablet to make presentations, resist the urge to expand its use. Sharing that latest dancing cat video can seem immature. Using a restaurant’s wifi to stream video can also slow down internet access for other business diners. If you’re determined, you can always send a link after you return to the office.

Has technology been crashing your business meals? Share your tech nightmare story in the comments below. 

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