Monthly Archives: December 2014

How to stop people using their mobile phones during workshops


This is the bane of my life. They’ve taken all this time and effort and take place part in a workshop, yet people prefer to play with their phones rather than listen or join in. It’s incredibly rude, yet people persist are addicted to mobile technology and persist in using them. So how do you avoid it? Here’s a few approaches you can consider.

1 Tell People Not To

Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but if you forget, people will assume that it’s OK to pick up their phones when they feel like it. It helps if you have a BIG sign on the wall with a visual of a mobile phone crossed out to remind people. If people do need to make an urgent call, ask then to do it outside the meeting.

Maybe you could get the most senior person in the room to announce the ‘no mobiles during working sessions’ rule. If they see the boss is imposing it, they’re more likely to be compliant. More importantly, make sure the boss is compliant too.

2 Have a Zero Tolerance Policy

If people use their phone once and get away with it, they’ll continue. If other people spot that the perpetrator has got away with it, then they’ll do the same. So, as you soon as you spot someone on their phone, call it out, just so they know that you’re serious about the ‘no mobiles’ rule.

3 Schedule ‘Mobile Phone Time’ During the Meeting

Some people decide to touch their phones because of anxiety that they may have missed out on something important. However, if you tell people when and for how the breaks will be, then this will help reassure them that they won’t be out of contact for too long. Make sure you schedule several during the day. You could even call them phone breaks, rather than coffee breaks.

4 Confiscate Them

With badly behaved groups, I’ve known facilitators who will ask everyone to ‘hand in’ their mobile phones during the working sessions. It may seem a bit harsh, but if you do it playfully then you can get away with it. At the minimum, ask people ‘to put away’ their phones rather than simply turn them off and leave them on the desks. It will help them resist the temptation.

5 Use Forfeits

Set up a rule at the beginning. If people decide to use their phone – or else if it rings – during the meeting, impose a forfeit. I find that making a charitable donation of say £5 works well. Other people like to make people do press-ups or some other form of public humiliation, like singing a song. Ask the team to ‘self police’. If they spot their colleagues on the phone, ask them to shout it out.

6 Make Sure YOU Obey the Rules

And finally, make sure that you don’t fall guilty of playing with your phone during the working sessions. However, discrete you think you are, you’ll be spotted and you’ll lose all credibility and pretty soon, everyone will be at it.

It’s a problem that seems to be getting worse and hampers the effectiveness of workshops, so if anyone’s got other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.


My Favourite Christmas Ads 2014

The Christmas ads are in full flow now as all the big retailers encourage us to part with our hard earned cash. Here are the ones that have stood out for me.


Although it’s the John Lewis Christmas ad that gets all the publicity, I much prefer the one from Waitrose which picks up on our obsession with baking. (I was a bit disappointed by Monty the Penguin). I like it because it hones it on the key point of difference for the brand – the fact that the staff own the business and deliver outstanding customer service.



Sainsburys’ recreation of the Christmas Eve World War 1 ceasefire football match is probably the most talked about Christmas ad this year and has divided opinion. I can understand why some commentators criticise the attempt to make commercial gain from such a poignant event. Plus the connection with Sainsburys is fairly tenuous. However, I think the Christmas football match was such a remarkable event that it’s worthy of being re-told, particularly as it’s the 100th anniversary. Last weekend it was celebrated at football grounds all over the UK. Plus, the fact that it was supported by the British Legion gives it credibility and it was beautifully shot. So, on balance, a thumbs up from me.



As a kid, a bike was the ultimate Christmas present. I never did get my Mercian, but I still dream of owning one. I love this Halfords ad. It really speaks to me.I love the way it’s shot in the Christmas sunlight with a gang of happy kids cycling their new bikes, with the jealous kids watching. Do kids still dream of getting a bike for Christmas? Probably not, but it’s nice to think they do.



Overall though, Boots wins my vote for the best ad of the year, which tells the story of a family recreating Christmas day for their mum who has to work on Christmas day. I always feel sorry for people whose work separates them from their families at Christmas and its great that Boot’s have recognised this.

My Review of Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘David and Goliath’


I love reading Malcolm Gladwell’s books. They’re always really engaging and full of interesting anecdotes. 2 of my favourites are ‘Outliers’ – which contains the famous pearl of wisdom that it takes 10 000 hours of practice to become a genius and of course ‘The Tipping Point’ which helped kick start the whole discussion around viral marketing

His latest book – David and Goliath – plays to his strengths. There’s lots of great stories drawn from all corners of the world and through different periods of history, built around an overarching theme of how underdogs and misfits defy the odds in order to succeed

I like it because

  • The stories are uplifting. It’s great hearing stories of how people have fought through adversity to achieve success
  • They’re drawn from all aspects of life – sportsmen, teachers, doctors, lawyers and from all periods of history for example, the Blitz, the Civil Rights Movement and of course it’s all based on the original David and Goliath story

It’s not strictly speaking a marketing book. It’s scope is much broader than that. However, there’s lots the marketing community can learn from it:

  • the importance of perseverance in trying to achieve success
  • how it’s always possible to turn your perceived disadvantages into an advantage
  • how to not take your strengths for granted

And of course, he teaches us the importance of telling powerful stories