I accompanied Seth Levine, one of the Mobius guys I’m working with, to a Mobius VC portfolio company board meeting today. I always gobble up any opportunity to spend time with Seth, not just because he’s taught me (by example) everything I know about fashion and style, but mainly because he’s a charming and sharp person.
The board meeting covered familiar topics: How to execute marketing programs, what qualifies as a "lead," what product development projects to embark on, how to find good people, and so forth. There was a lively discussion.
But there was also a constant humming or tapping throughout the whole meeting — the sounds of thumbs tapping BlackBerries and fingers tapping laptop keyboards. I was astonished at how frequently board members in the room pulled out their PDA while other people were talking.
This is a big pet peeve of mine, mostly because BlackBerrying in a meeting while someone else is talking is the ultimate act of self-importance: My time is so valuable. It’s also plain rude: Many times in meetings I’ve turned to look someone in the eye only to find them pecking away on their PDA.
Today I wondered whether the CEO was going to say something. He didn’t. That’s probably appropriate. Groundrules should be set at the beginning. If none are, don’t create tension by calling someone out in the middle of the meeting. Seth told me afterwards that some of his companies have "No BlackBerry" policies, and some don’t.
This is my suggested guide: No BlackBerrying in a board meeting, but schedule a 5 minute break every hour to allow people to send email and check voicemail.