One of the goals of CloseQuartersSales.com is to help sales professionals maximize the use of tablet computers in smaller intimate venues such as coffeehouses throughout the sales pipeline. We hope that this site becomes your go-to resource for best practices and advice related to the art of tablet-assisted salesmanship.
Today we will be discussing a concept that I refer to as the Dominant Working Surface Theory. It explains why you should always keep pen/paper handy when using your iPad or other tablet in sales presentations or meetings.
The Dominant Working Surface Theory states that in a meeting, the largest writable surface or computer screen exists to benefit all meeting participants, and that implied privacy varies inversely with the relative size of the surface. I use the word "surface" rather than "screen" because the same principles apply whether your tablet is of the Apple iPad or the Tops canary yellow paper variety.
To explain this theory, let's first take a step back and look at the fixtures and technology in place in your typical conference room setting:
- LCD Projectors: The projector screen is viewable by all in the room, and there is no expectation of privacy for the content projected on the screen
- Whiteboards: These are viewable by all in the room, and writing on the board is generally considered fair game for both vendor and customer personnel
- Laptops and smartphones: These have smaller screens and are personal in nature. Their screens are also usually oriented away from most meeting participants, further increasing the implied expectation of privacy. Sneaking an uninvited peek at someone's laptop or smartphone screen is an ill-mannered invasion of their personal space.
This same phenomena holds true if you are in a client's office and you start sketching out a diagram on a legal pad. It is not uncommon for the other party to ask for the pen and annotate your drawing. Even though it may be your legal pad, it became the dominant working surface when you laid it out on the client's desk and started drawing on it.
Likewise, if you are meeting a client over drinks at a bar and start scribbling on a cocktail napkin, your napkin becomes the dominant working surface of the meeting, and your client may ask to annotate your Scotch-powered masterpiece, since it is now a shared fixture of your meeting space.
All meeting places have shared fixtures to facilitate communications and collaboration, but they vary greatly in scale and nature. Large formal meeting spaces have permanent fixtures bolted to the walls and/or ceilings such as whiteboards and projectors. In contrast, close-quarters meeting spaces rely on portable fixtures such as tablet computers and legal pads (not to mention ad-hoc props such as sugar packets, paper napkins, and the like).
Which brings us to tablets and coffeshop meetings. If you show up for a meeting with your iPad and use it to walk through your slide deck, your iPad has become the dominant working surface of the meeting, and is a shared fixture in the meeting space.
(A quick aside: I would like to note that shared fixtures do not imply shared custody. In a civil society, we are expected to keep our hands to ourselves. In other words, thou shalt not comandeer or otherwise grope thy neighbor's iPad without first asking permission.)
Therefore, if your slide deck is being shown on your tablet, the tablet is a shared fixture of the meeting space, and you should not use the tablet for personal note-taking in that meeting. This is where the pen and paper come in.
Once your tablet has become the dominant working surface in a meeting, using it to write confidentlal notes outside the view of your customer is conceptually akin to ripping a whiteboard off the wall and removing it from public view, or asking meeting attendees to turn away from a projection screen because you want to use the 6ft screen to write up some confidential notes about pricing your deal. In all of these cases, reclaiming the dominant working surface for private use during a meeting is generally a bad idea.