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Milton, Ontario, Canada

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I do want a blackberry, but...

I don't want to turn into a rude person who can't function without checking it every five minutes.

Yesterday I went to an industry luncheon event that was about three hours long. There was a "networking reception" (read - Free Booze), followed by lunch/intro speeches, followed by a keynote speech.

During the networking reception various people were using their technology, checking in with work emails or calling people along with schmoozing, drinking and general faking loving everyone within a 10 foot radius. I think that use of the blackberry is fine. I mean, you're at an event that is taking you away from work for a number of hours. You likely aren't going to be able to excuse yourself at any other time to take a look at your emails or make any urgent calls, so why not do it during the casual part of the luncheon.

But it seems that people have lost the art of being "disconnected". During lunch and the opening remarks I saw a few people brave the blackberry check, but most made an attempt at discretion holding the devise under the table and only briefly checking in with glances.

It was during the keynote where things went downhill. To say that the keynote speaker was awful would be an understatement. Obviously the organizers of the event believed she would be a great speaker, after all she came with all of the right credentials and was in a position powerful enough that she had to have spent many hours in front of groups presenting or giving speeches. In truth she was horrid. Ironically the speech was on "Engagement".

No one in the room was engaged after about 10 minutes due to her rambley, off-point, inside joke type of speech. And that was when the mass blackberring began. As I don't own such a device, I got to look around the room as people grew bolder and bolder in their use of the device. Maybe they were linking to the websites detailed in her speech... or not.

At my table of 8, only two of us didn't check in (and I would have been twittering away if I actually HAD a blackberry). The girl beside me was engaged in an IM conversation. The man I was sitting beside was setting up meetings for later in the week. All around the room of 600, people were doing the same. Then, then! The speaker pulled out her iPhone (with a point related to her speech, I'm guessing) and got distracted by her Twitter updates and IM pings! EVEN the speaker was lured by the technology.

So does it prove her point? Is Engagement, true engagement when people can't even go to a luncheon anymore without interacting with your product/brand? Have we forgotten our manners? Is blackberring during these situations rude?

People blackberry in meetings all the time. It really pisses me off. Don't come to the meeting if you're too busy. We're in advertising. No one is going to die because you didn't respond to an email right away. I find it plain rude. I bet that some people would even blackberry at a wedding or funeral!

I have a boss who has a device but never, ever takes it out during meetings. When my boss decides to attend something, my boss ATTENDS with full engagement. I really feel that it shows a certain level of class and position to do so. If I ever do get a blackberry it is my goal to follow the example of my boss, not that of the plethora of people in my industry.

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