What is a Topless Meeting?

Malcolm Tatum

Topless meetings are a relatively new trend in meeting management. In an effort to increase productivity during departmental or managerial meetings, many companies are choosing to ban the use of all electronic communication devices for the duration of the meeting time. This means no laptops, no cell phones, and no Blackberry handheld devices. Some companies are also choosing to ban the use of pagers during meeting times as well.

Topless meetings ban the use of laptops, phones, or other electronic communication devices.
Topless meetings ban the use of laptops, phones, or other electronic communication devices.

One of the major reasons for the development of a topless meeting format has to do with a lack of direct communication among those attending the meeting. Rather than actively participating in the meeting discussions, many attendees divide their time between listening to whomever is speaking while also sending text messages, checking email, planning upcoming appointments, or even drafting the text for letters. This has created a situation where people interact more via some type of electronic device than face to face discussions in a board or conference room.

Topless meetings are a relatively new corporate trend.
Topless meetings are a relatively new corporate trend.

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Unfortunately, some of the tasks performed with these personal devices are not even work related. Attendees may be texting family or friends, or even playing games that are loaded onto the device. As technology has made it easier to make contact with just about anyone at any place in the world, people often feel free to make those connections in any environment, including a meeting held during working hours.

The idea of the topless meeting is to reverse this trend. By banning the use of all personal communication devices from the meeting area, there is much less opportunity for attendees to focus attention on action items or amusements that are not related to the subject matter of the meeting. With no outside distractions to draw attention away, there is a greater chance of actually accomplishing something during the course of the meeting.

The idea of a topless meeting is not limited to use in the corporate world. Along with the office setting, a number of universities are also banning the use of these same devices in the classroom. By not allowing students to constantly text messages, browse the Internet, and play games during lectures, there is less of a chance of disrupting the class and more of an opportunity for the student to actually take notes and learn something from the instructor’s presentation.

Even some houses of worship have gone with a topless meeting format in order to speed up planning sessions and committee meetings. In some faiths where the sound of a ringing cell phone or a beeping instant messaging software program has become commonplace during periods of worship, leaders are urging all attendees to shut off the cell phones and leave the other devices at home. As with the office environment, the idea is to return the focus to what is happening at the live gathering and encouraging people to actively participate in the proceedings.

In a world where everyone seems to view the use of electronic communications in any setting as an inherent right, the topless meeting may seem to be an extreme measure. However, it must be understood that the topless meeting is not a restricting situation, but one that is actually freeing. By being able to put aside all the electronic devices for a short period of time, it becomes possible to do something that far too many people have forgotten how to do: talk to one another face to face.

Topless meeting aim to avoid the distraction of incoming text or email messages on a mobile device.
Topless meeting aim to avoid the distraction of incoming text or email messages on a mobile device.

Discussion Comments


Does anyone know where you can find a list of some companies actually doing this? I mentioned it recently and was heavily challenged as crazy. Thank you!

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