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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Mind Your Cell Phone Manners, Part I

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Ever notice how many people walking down busy city streets are on their cell phones? Everywhere we go, from banks to airports, elevators to shopping malls, conference rooms to restaurants, cell phone addicts are blurting out steady streams of shocking and confidential revelations. Who needs to know the personal and (and sometimes creepy) things we’re now forced to overhear?

In the United States alone, over 303 million people used cell phones as of December 2010, compared with approximately 4.3 million in 1990, according to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. As I write this article seated in a caf?, 28 of the 40 customers are on their cell phones — and I received 3 calls.

I know, I know. Being a busy financial advisor, you need to be on your phone, well, pretty much always. Not to worry. Here are some tips and friendly reminders to help you mind your manners the next time you’re making or taking that cell phone call in public.

1. You don’t have to take every call.

I’ve been accused of never (or rarely) answering my cell phone. There’s some truth to this. OK, a lot of truth to this. I’ll rarely stop a face-to-face conversation to answer my cell. And yes, I screen my calls — don’t judge me, you do it too! I feel if I miss a call or don’t pick up; it’s no big deal (I’m sorry if it was you). Besides, isn’t that what voicemail is for? Emergencies are always the exception, especially if the call is coming from an unlikely source or at an unusual time.

2. Don’t answer during one-on-one (or small) meetings.

These include business meetings in an office, conference room, over a meal, or over a venti – whatever. Answering your phone in the middle of a meeting is rude. It means the person on the phone is more important than the one you’re looking at. If you’re expecting an important call client, prospect, boss, pregnant wife let the person you’re meeting with know ahead of time while putting your cell phone on vibrate (sometimes called manner mode). Guaranteed those you meet will appreciate it. Also, watch as they follow your lead.

3. NEVER pick up in a group meeting.

As a professional speaker, I’m always amazed how many times someone’s cell phone rings during the course of a workshop, seminar, or keynote speech (this is after the whole cell phone etiquette spiel). I remember seeing comedian Howie Mandel perform in a club years ago. A cell phone rang from an audience member and Howie quickly ran down the aisle and took the phone. He spoke to the caller while back on stage. Funny stuff! In a business meeting? Not so funny. In a recent workshop of about 15 people, someone in the group answered their cell and carried on a conversation in the meeting. I just stopped speaking as everyone looked over at the rude guy on the phone. After a few moments, I asked if he wanted us to step outside so he could have some privacy. OK, I’m no Howie Mandel but he got the point.

4. Be considerate in public spaces.

Trains, planes, buses, airports, malls, stores, banks, elevators, restaurants and other confined areas. Keep it short, sweet, to the point and quiet — especially within ten feet of someone else. Incidentally, I learned this one the hard way.

Let’s be clear. Cell phones aren’t the issue, people are. As we get more and more wrapped up with our cell phones, iPods, PDAs, GPSs and other wireless do-dads, the more we forget there are other people out there. It just comes down to having more common courtesy as technology allows us to do more things today that we couldn’t do yesterday. Work some of these practices into your day-to-day and you’ll make a great impression with clients, prospects and all business (and personal) contacts.

I have to run — need to take this call!

Michael Goldberg is a speaker, consultant, author, and the founder of Building Blocks Consulting. His book, “Knock-Out Networking! More Prospects, More Referrals, More Business!” was published in March. For more information or to subscribe to Michael’s free blog, The Building Blocks to Success, please visit or


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