I’m not a huge fan of people checking their email during meetings, but I have to admit to doing it or worse. However, there are two sides to the smartphone inattention problem during meetings: people’s OCD or lack of etiquette and the lack of value or engagement of the meeting presentation.
I propose two solutions:
For small/serial meetings, the smartphone should never be responded to inside the meeting room. Ask those who use their phone in the meeting room to leave the meeting for 5 minutes on the first offense and expel the person from the meeting on the second offense. The lack of engagement of the distracted person wastes everyone’s time, including that of the person who is absorbed in the phone. This also serves to remove non-contributors from meetings and gets the attention of those who actually need to contribute.
For larger meetings, the minute more than 1/3rd of the audience pulls out their smartphones, that should be a two minute warning to end the presentation. If that many people aren’t paying attention, what’s the point of continuing the presentation to that audience? Either the audience is a bad fit or the presentation is.