While it is appropriate to turn off our phone during an academic presentation, it is impractical to demand people also shut down their laptop and tablets at conferences. Many of us use these to take notes, as we attempt to live paperless lives or we simply can type faster than we can write.
However, you must realize that how you use your laptop or tablet is crucial, for not only you and what you get out of the presentation, but also for how people perceive you.
It would be difficult to list all the things you should avoid when using one of these devices, but here are a few of the more obnoxious things I have seen at academic conferences:
- Checking email
- Browsing the Internet
- Playing video games
The problem with these activities is people can see what you are doing. You distract others from the presenter, which is selfish and rude. This reflects poorly on you as an attendee to the presentation and conference. Worse, if people discover what group or school you represent, you now reflect poorly on them as well.
General tacky things also include looking up a presenter on the Internet or reading about the current discussed subject on Wikipedia. I even saw one student ask a question to a presenter after scouring Wikipedia. Folks, we are going to conferences to learn from the presenters, not to stump them with Internet searches.
If you are going to use a laptop or tablet at a conference, then only use it for taking notes and nothing else. In addition, be obvious about the fact that you are taking notes. Put it on the table in front of you proudly and in a position where others can see that you are not doing something else. Once people see that all you are doing is taking notes, they will forget you are there.
Online Learning Tips, Student Contributor