What struck me in many of the meetings I did end up attending though was the number of people who brought their laptops to there meetings and then had them open right through. This wasn't just "keeping it open to take minutes/notes" open. This was "doing work, answering email" open. They'd drift in and out of the meeting as required (someone else would typically keep the agenda/main conversation going.)
There's the obvious etiquette dilemma. My default for the last few years has been to shut the laptop down once someone started talking. It seemed like the polite thing to do, and I tend to get more out of meeting that way. However, nothing annoys me more than people (particularly back in b-school) who insisted on this. :)
How would you feel if you were saying stuff that you thought was important (or at least necessary) and it looked like some people weren't paying attention? My guess is that most people will feel at least a little slighted; at the very least annoyed! I thought about it for a bit, and despite some reasons to be very concerned if too many people in your meeting seem distracted by their laptops, it may not necessarily be a bad thing
Here's why it should give you some cause for concern
- are you so boring or is the meeting so unnecessary that most people think its better to get "real work" done instead?
- are the wrong people (or too many people) in the meeting?
- are people so over-worked/stressed that they can't focus on the meeting?
- People are busy...tough; maybe they don't need to be attentive right through the meeting, but having them right there when you need them for certain information or to make a decision is worth it; and its better that they be productive when they aren't needed.