Please Close Your Laptop

I have to go to bed soon, but I wanted to quick note a challenge that I faced in my diligent note-taking that surprised me.

I was at a presentation at which laptops were provided because part of the agenda was to have us explore a particular online course. I decided to just use that computer for my notes instead of the one I brought.

So I popped it open and started myself a word document. I happily took notes for a few minutes, then we did an interactive activity. When we came back and were regrouping, I opened up the laptop to get ready to take more notes. The presenter came over and very kindly and with no edge at all asked me to keep it closed because they were going to start again.

When I said I was using it to take notes, she thought for a beat or two and then said ok. I kept it closed anyway though. I thought that despite whatever assumptions she had made about what I was doing on the computer that she treated me with respect, and the best way I could think to repay that respect was to not be on the computer while she was talking.

But as a result, my notes are less detailed and much less accessible to me. I’ll need to spend some time keying them in.

Is this a common phenomenon? And how do you feel when you’re presenting to people while they are actively using laptops?

2 thoughts on “Please Close Your Laptop

  1. Eh, I would have kept taking notes. I might have said, “Is the clicking of the keyboard distracting you? if so, I can move to the back of the room.”

    I’ve never been asked to close a laptop during a presentation. I’ve also rarely had any “laptoppers” actively clicking while I was presenting anything.

    A good presenter can keep people engaged regardless of what medium a person is using to make their own record the presentation. Conversely, a bad presenter won’t be able to keep people’s attention even if she takes away laptops, paper, pens, pencils, and tape recorders. Yes, there’s a risk that someone on a laptop may be surfing the Internet instead of paying attention to the presentation, but this isn’t grade school – a presenter shouldn’t be trying to control adult attendees, he/she should be stepping up his/her presentation content and methodology to keep people so engaged they wouldn’t *dream* of checking their email.

  2. I’m really more than a little surprised by that reaction. At the library conferences that I attend, there are always attendees taking notes, blogging, tweeting, etc. during sessions. I can’t imagine a presenter asking someone to close their laptop. It would be akin to asking someone to put their pencil down.

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