Five Steps to Better Cell Phone Etiquette

Shelley SmithBlog, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, Predictive Index

Phone theft lock.

Who calls the shots in your life, you or your cell phone? If you’re like the vast majority of business owners and professionals, your phone controls your actions more than you might care to admit. While cell phones may be a sign of the times, business etiquette has remained pretty much the same. Paying more attention to your cell than your surroundings could land you in hot water with your boss or a client, and could even damage your reputation. Here are five tips to help you control your cell, rather than the other way around.



Phone theft lock.

1.) Set up automatic replies. When you attend a workshop or a seminar, use the feature on your phone that automatically responds to texts and messages with a note saying you’re in a meeting. While you’re at it, go ahead and silence your cell phone, too. Yes, the latest Taylor Swift song you have as your ringtone is catchy, but not everyone wants to hear it.

2.) Play a game. It’s tough to break the habit of constantly checking our phones. I know, I’m guilty of it, too. We are expected to be “on” all the time, and it’s tough to set boundaries. Next time you are in a meeting or out with colleagues, try this little game. Have everyone put their phones in the middle of the table. The first one who reaches for his or her phone has to buy lunch for the group. With the lunch tab on the line, suddenly that text or e-mail doesn’t seem so urgent.

3.) Plan ahead. Hey, life happens. I get it. You’re selling your house and anxiously waiting to hear back from the real estate agent. Or maybe your child or spouse is ill. If you are expecting an important call but still have to attend a meeting or a function, make it a point to sit near the door so you can slip out quietly when the call comes in. If you will be meeting with only a handful of team members, let the leader know that you might need to take a call. No need to tell the world your personal business, but a quick heads-up can go a long way.

4.) Set expectations. If you are the speaker or presenter at an event, set some ground rules so people know what to expect. Before every speaking engagement, I let the audience know when we will take breaks, and how long those breaks will be. That way, if they do want or need to check their phones or return a call, they will know exactly when they can do that. As the leader, it’s also important to stick to the schedule you set and respect everyone’s time.

5.) Put Your Phone to Work. If everyone is glued to their phones anyway, make that work to your advantage. I have been to several events where the speaker asked audience members to take a selfie with their phone and share it on social media. What a perfect way to engage the crowd! Rather than making them feel bad about using their cell phones, embrace the trend and have them spread the word about your own brand or business.

Shelley Smith is the owner of Premier Rapport, a business consulting and executive coaching firm in Newport News. She can be reached at or (757) 897-8644. This piece was originally published as an Expert Column in Inside Business.