I attended a keynote presentation last week at an international conference of 3,000 or so executives. I arrived at the ballroom early to get a good seat for the kickoff event because I wanted to gather a lot of new ideas from the speaker who was a nationally known expert in his field. I was the ideal audience member: my interest and expectations were high, I had pen and paper in hand, and a look of anticipation on my face.

Imagine my disappointment when ten minutes in, the speaker’s Skype alert pops onto the 20 x 30-foot screen. In case you don’t have a Skype alert, see the image above, except in real life, the name of the person trying to contact you is not redacted. The speaker didn’t notice it because to his credit, his attention was focused on the audience.

Luckily, there was nothing too personal or potentially damaging during the 1-hour presentation, but it was very distracting. I kept hoping someone really famous would pop up, like Hillary Clinton or Bill Gates. I could hear several audience members commenting on how unfortunate it was that the speaker forgot to turn off his alerts and how clueless he seemed to be about the whole thing. Needless to say, it was harder to stay focused on the content of the presentation because we all just had to read every alert. After all, inquiring minds want to know.

What did I learn from this experience?  Two things. First, this person had 4 times as many people in his network than I do, and before my next big presentation, I would be sure that all my alerts, sounds, beeps, and any other potentially damaging or distracting intrusions were turned off. And speaking from experience, this goes for the choice of desktop wallpaper. Need I say more?

– Barbara