Skip to main content

Why Are Millennials So Distracted in Your Meetings?

Phones aren’t to blame for distracted employees in meetings.
Stagnant and poor communication is the problem.

Millennials continue to get razzed for having their heads always buried in their phones. If you’re managing a Millennial, you can probably understand how frustrating it can be during the middle of a meeting. Those finger flicks and swipes can make the blood boil of even the most patient and zen-like manager.

If your answer is to disable the wireless signal or create a no-phone zone, then you’re asking the wrong question. Instead, ask yourself this: “How can I create a more engaging environment?”

You can’t control the attention of Millennials. Even if you somehow manage to convince them to power down their devices, you won’t win their attention. Instead, you’ll earn their resentment and you’ll likely gain a reputation as an irrelevant and outdated has-been.

However, you can control the message and the delivery of that message. The secret to engaging Millennials in meetings is crafting captivating content.

Think about it: You’re basically competing with hundreds of Slack conversations, emails, endless status updates, the 24/7 news cycle, and the prospect of beating their high score in the latest online game … all in the palms of their hands.

Your content needs to be more gripping than the latest trending hashtag or Instagram Story. It has to be more interesting than a Sports Center replay or Internet meme.

And guess what? It’s not just a Millennial thing. There’s more competing for our attention than ever before. It takes very intentional communication to cut through the noise. It’s a battle for people’s attention, and the battle starts in the preparation and extends through the delivery. Having an audience turn off their phones is the lazy way out.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that attention can no longer be expected, you’re right. It has to be earned and as their manager, you have to take responsibility for getting and keeping the attention of your Millennial workers. So prepare meticulously and deliver with passion and brevity.

Here’s a few more ways you can engage your mobile-dependent Millennial workforce:

  1. Tell a story. Stories remain timeless as a way to captivate any audience.
  2. Ask questions. What’s 12 minus 5? I bet you just answered that question in your head before continuing to read. Questions are inherently engaging.
  3. Use images. Humans think in images. Take note from the success of Instagram and supplement your message with imagery that supports your message.
  4. Be shocking. Don’t be afraid to be unexpected and surprising. It will attract the attention of even the most mobile phone-addicted. Just be prepared to be tweeted about later.
  5. Simplify. Strip down your message to just the barest essentials and simplify the logistics by cutting the time of every meeting you have moving forward in half. Save questions for the end.
  6. Co-create. Prior to the meeting, ask attendees to help create or shape the content for a more productive meeting.
  7. Draw in digitally. Pull engagement through mobile devices. A poll can easily be created in many online forums and can offer anonymity, which also increases engagement incertain cases.

And when there’s no other choice or you’ve simply run out of options and you decide that phones must be shut off, then you owe a clear and compelling explanation as to why they cannot be used.

The Millennial generation worker of today demands transformative communications. Relying on what has worked in the past just doesn’t cut it anymore. Make today’s tech your motivation to become a better leader and a better communicator. You’ll be glad you did.

Ryan Jenkins

Ryan Jenkins is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker and author on the topics of leadership, generational differences, and the future of work. He is the co-founder of SyncLX, which creates lasting learning experiences for companies’ #1 asset, their people.