5 Rx: Phone Fixation Syndrome

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Five Strategies For Fighting Phone Fixation Syndrome on Monday, July 31, 2017.

You’ve done it all. You’ve prepared your presentation like a NASA team planning a moon shot. You’ve rehearsed it like a play about to open on Broadway. You’ve developed a powerful introduction and when you deliver it, you see heads nodding at you from among the 20-person audience in the Executive Briefing Center of a major prospective customer…except for the heads of the three senior managers: theirs are looking down at their mobile devices while their fingers are busily tapping away at their virtual keyboards.

These people are exhibiting the extreme—and all too familiar—symptoms of PFS or Phone Fixation Syndrome, a malignant condition sweeping through our society in epidemic proportions. An Atlantic article on this addiction cites a study that found “smartphone owners…consult their device 150 times a day.” A Connecticut organization called The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction has become a clearinghouse for the subject, and its founder, Dr. David Greenfield, who has become the go-to authority, recently observed, “At the extreme there are people spending 60-70% of their waking life on the Internet.”

It’s a tide of hurricane proportions.

So what’s the poor inundated presenter do?

This is one the most frequently-asked questions I get as a presentation coach. In response, I offer 5 potential strategies:

  1. I start every session by holding up my own mobile device and making a visible but nonverbal display of shutting it down.
  2. A senior manager at a Silicon Valley software company—emulating a sheriff at a saloon in a Western movie—requires his staff to deposit their mobile devices at the door before the start of every meeting or presentation.
  3. At a popular hotel in London, every table in the dining room has a tent card which—with typical British understatement—discreetly asks guests to respect the privacy of other guests by refraining from the use of mobile devices.
  4. As a schoolteacher calls out inattentive students in a classroom, call out the device addicts in the audience.
  5. Ignore the addicts and, with the same ingenuous belief that there really is a Santa Claus, hope that they will eventually finish their message and pay attention.


I’ve tried every one of these strategies…with only varying results and, mind you, I am an experienced presenter. So please take them with a pound of salt and absolutely no guarantee of success.

But, hey, any port in a storm.

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Five Strategies For Fighting Phone Fixation Syndrome on Monday, July 31, 2017.