What is a 'Topless Meeting'

A topless meeting is one in which participants are not allowed to use laptops. The purpose of this type of meeting is to create an environment free from distraction, to foster enhanced focus and to generate more discussions.

BREAKING DOWN 'Topless Meeting'

When a manager calls for a topless meeting, participants are not allowed to bring laptops. A manager may also ban the use of smartphones, cellphones and other electronic devices that may provide distractions.

The term was originated by web designer Dan Saffer, who found that people in meetings in Silicon Valley were constantly on their laptops. 

The Motivation Behind Topless Meetings 

Topless meetings were originally popularized at high tech companies, especially in Silicon Valley, where personal computers and smartphones first began creeping into company meetings. As electronics became lighter and much more smarter, they started becoming more pervasive, causing diversions and distractions during crucial discussion times. And with the distraction, participants began to make more eye contact with their screens instead of with one another, taking away from the efficiency of group meetings. 

Do Managers Really Need to Go Topless?

There is a lot of debate as to whether managers should call for topless meetings. Is it a good idea or just not worth the effort? That all depends on a manager's strategy and what her end goal may be. 

Some managers believe that going topless can help efficiency during a meeting because there are no distractions and participants can fully devote their attention to the contents of the discussion. However, there is no doubt that we have all become very dependent on our electronics, whether that is a smartphone or a laptop. And even though we may not have these devices with us, our attention spans are not what they used to be. 

That is why some managers suggest changing the makeup of the meeting rather than banning the use of electronics. First, managers should be punctual, that is, meetings should always start and end on time. Another suggestion is to have a different venue or format for a meeting, so instead of having it in the conference room, managers may want to have it in a more informal location or ask that participants stand instead of sit. They may even opt to have shorter weekly meetings rather than longer monthly meetings. Setting out an agenda ahead of time for employees is also a great way to encourage participation and lessen any distractions so everyone knows exactly what to expect before the meeting starts. It is also important to focus on the meeting and not change the direction of the discussion in the middle of it. And finally, leaders should give employees a great ending to any meeting, so it closes out by emphasizing what was outlined during the discussion and what the group can expect the next time it meets. 

Who Is Going Topless?

Many big name companies, especially high tech ones, are encouraging their employees to go topless and to engage more with their colleagues. Some of the names include Google, Yahoo and Apple. But the trend has gone beyond tech to include people in other industries. Laptops have been banned in some classrooms, including those at USC's law school. 

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