Sunday, 21 August 2011

Should laptops be banned from conference sessions?

Conference rooms are set up either as 'theatre (cinema) style' or 'classroom style'. The latter, which gives delegates the luxury of a table or desk, has become accepted without question as the better option, as it allows easy use of a laptop for making notes, viewing Proceedings papers etc.

MEI Conferences has always strived to go for the classroom option, but I am beginning to have doubts as to whether this is the better option. When I do sit in on a conference paper (rarely), I usually sit at the back and I have noticed that many of the delegates using laptops are more likely to be checking emails and browsing the web than concentrating their attention on the contents of the presentation.

Which leads me to ask, should laptops be banned, rather than encouraged, from conference sessions, and would theatre style then be the optimal setup?

Your comments on this will be very valuable.


  1. It might by annoying, but you cannot ban them. Nor can you ban smart telephones or tablets. What we need to ask the audience is to not communicate in a way that disturb the conference. After all, they may follow your presentation on the device they are currently using, or they are simply taking notes.

    Bertil Pålsson, Lulea University of Technology, Sweden

  2. Clicking keyboards in the audience at a presentation should be a capital offense. If the perpetrator is able to work noiselessly, as on a tablet, perhaps, that's OK.

    Mike Dry Arithmetek Inc., Canada

  3. It's one of these questions of respect. How do you legislate to make people respectful? As a presenter, I don't mind if people have laptops etc open, but they should at least feign some interest every now and then, and certainly should avoid tapping away; that's really frustrating.

    By far the most disrespectful behaviour I've had is three senior people asleep in the front row. OK, I was presenting a molecular biology-based report to a room full of engineers, but still... (And I do appreciate that you must know and understand your audience, and present accordingly.)

    Chris Bryan, Curtin University, Australia


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