While smartphones provide convenient access to your email and text messages, it’s important to be conscious of the way you use these devices in the presence of clients, prospects and colleagues.

Giving priority and full attention to the person in front of you — and not your phone — is a matter of respect, says Joanne Blake, business etiquette expert with Style for Success in Edmonton. It also reflects how you choose to project your brand and your professionalism.

Blake describes three key situations, how they present opportunities to make mistakes in smartphone etiquette, and how to avoid those gaffs:

> Welcoming a visitor to your office
Checking your smartphone for email or texting while on the way to greet someone is inconsiderate and awkward. Your head will be down as you approach your visitor and you will be likely to be fumbling to finish your task prior to shaking that person’s hand.

“The first impression [your visitor] has of you,” Blake says, “is that you’re preoccupied and not at your best.”

Leave the phone in your pocket or in your office and give the visitor your full attention from the very beginning.

> A meeting with a client or prospect
Your smartphone should not even be visible during a meeting, Blake says.

The mere fact that the phone is nearby can be a distracting, both to you and to your client. While you are talking to your client, you may be itching to see if you have any new notices, while your client is probably wondering if you are going to interrupt the discussion to check your phone.

Instead, make it a point to say, “I’m going to turn off my phone so I can give you my undivided attention.”

This statement makes it clear you are completely focused on the client or prospect. It is also a subtle hint that the other person should deactivate his or her device. If your meeting partner is looking at his or her own device, simply be patient.

> Team meetings
If you prefer that your team members refrain from checking their smartphones during a meeting, lead by example and keep your own device tucked away.

If you are expecting an important call or message, let your staff know. By stating that this is a special circumstance, Blake says, everyone will understand that such a disruption is not to be typical behaviour.

There may be a few team members who do not get the message, so use a light-hearted reminder at the beginning of a meeting to make it clear that phones are not to be accessed. For example, you can tell your team that the first person to check his or her phone has to buy lunch for the entire office.

If a team member still keeps checking his or her phone, have a private discussion with that person. Don’t focus on your feelings regarding that behaviour, Blake says. Instead, focus on the way that habit is affecting that person’s professionalism.

Try saying: “Would you mind not checking your phone at meetings? I want you to be successful and that habit doesn’t reflect very well on you.”