The 4 Pillars of Mobile Device Etiquette
used with permission from the HP Small & Medium Business Center

We've all experienced it: You're on the train, in a restaurant, or in a meeting, when someone's mobile phone starts ringing. They pick it up and start loudly chatting away, oblivious to the disruption they're causing.

Annoying, isn't it?

The problem with modern technology is that it's becoming increasingly disruptive to our regular lives. Public transport in many large cities is now divided into "cell phone" / "no cell phone" areas, and many companies have begun banning notebooks and PDAs in meetings. The problem is — how do we keep from crossing that fine line where the convenience of electronic communications becomes a barrier to our non-electronic interactions?

While good manners are always somewhat subjective — and, like technology itself, ever evolving — here are a few basic rules you can follow.

1. Keep personal conversations restricted to private areas.
The pending breakup with your girlfriend, your stomach problems, that big fight with your evil boss and other such topics, may be of great interest to you, but the people next to you in the employee dining room or in the elevator may not be so keen on being forced to overhear. And besides, while you're busy telling your best friend about that annoying person at work, the person's wife could be standing right behind you — so be careful. You never know who could be listening.

2. Never interrupt a presentation or lecture.
Speaking in public is difficult and nerve wracking — and even more so when you're dealing with distractions like ringing phones and people in the audience texting and carrying on conversations. So if you simply must take a call while you're attending a presentation, put your mobile phone on vibrate and excuse yourself from the room to answer the call.

3. Control the volume of your voice.
Even the typically soft spoken among us sometimes have a tendency to shout when using the phone - it's an unexplained phenomenon. Particularly if it's noisy on either end of the call, it's easy to want to raise your voice in order to be heard — but then you're shouting at the person at the end of the line, or shouting in public and disturbing those around you. So remember your mouth is right next to the phone's receiver — trust that your phone's technology will be able to adequately amplify your voice. If not, maybe just wait until you can conduct the call at a less noisy time.

4. Don't check your phone in dark presentation rooms.
If you're in a darkened room, for example when someone is giving a presentation or showing a film, make sure that your phone is completely turned off. While most of us have learned to set our phones on silent, many people still check their mobile devices — which emit a bright beam of light and can easily detract from others' viewing experience. Wait to check your calls and texts until after the lights come on or you leave the room.

Mobile devices provide many business benefits. To ensure that the benefits far outweigh any annoying disruptions to yourself, your colleagues and even to strangers, do use your mobile phone discreetly in work environments and when you are in public.