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Monday, May 25, 2009

SOUTH AFRICA: Cell Phones During Meetings - How Serious are You to Build Your Business Relationships?

By Karl Smith
South Africa Bureau Chief

Today I want to talk about a trend in the business environment namely “cell phones during meetings”. I might have missed these during my formal studies or perhaps a business grooming school in South Africa or elsewhere are training business people to be experts in it. If you know of such institution, please let me know. I was having a coffee at a restaurant in Durbanville (Cape Town) after my keynote speech at a business network breakfast. I left the event satisfied that attendees not only learned some vital relationship-building skills but they showed delight in the fact that it was not another eating - and - speech presentation: they were involved and made contacts!

Enjoying a cup of coffee after the delivery of a keynote or workshop is a ritual I follow before moving to my next task. Whilst sipping my coffee, a loudly spoken gentleman - dressed smartly in a very expensive business suit - introduced himself to someone who seemed to be a prospective client. Now you know, nowadays with cell (mobile) phones around - you can hear everything without eavesdropping, because many cell phone users are loud! He interrupted the meeting with his conversation partner at least four times to answer the phone. You may or may not know that active listening with sufficient eye contact and a warm smile, when appropriate, are key ingredients in showing sincere interest in your conversation partner. What I cannot understand is how so many people make contact, secure an appointment and then enter the meeting with his/her cell phone switched on. I understand if one expects an urgent call and you declare this before you start the meeting e.g. “Karl, I value your time but I am keeping my phone switched on because…). And then only for serious matters!

However, one finds these days that some people request meetings with you and then use half of your time to engage in conversations with others on their cell phones. This habit is not restricted to business meetings - just have a look at how many bosses are sitting with their cell phones switched on while they have meetings with their employees. What message do you think are you sending out to your conversation partner? Are you sincerely interested in his/her needs? Are they so unimportant? Do you fear that you next deal may be better? It is nothing less then face-to-face cold calling and then you wonder why people don’t buy you, your products, service or ideas?

John Maxwell in his book, 25 Ways to Win with People, stresses the importance of listening for people’s feeling not just their ideas. Says Peter Drucker, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” One should put oneself in a good mental environment for listening says Maxell. If you are aware of a grooming school where they groom business people that it is acceptable business etiquette to enter meetings with cell phones switched on – then please let me know!

Karl Smith is South Africa’s Business Networking & Referral Coach and the owner of ExecuEdge Consulting - a successful consulting and business relationships training company. Visit to see Karl in action, see what Karl’s clients says, book Karl to speak or to do in-company training, attend a public event, subscribe to his newsletter or to use the free networking resources.

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The Emergence of The Relationship Economy
The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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