We are all guilty of checking our phones when we shouldn’t. Whether you’re at an event or you’re out with friends for happy hour, there is a constant need to check our phones for texts, emails, Facebook/Twitter notifications, etc. A study from 2011 in the Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous

Computing shows people check their phones an average of 34 times a day, not because they actually need to check them, but more out of habit.

Why the constant need to look at our phones? Maybe we are avoiding interacting with people or feeling awkward in a particular situation (think a networking event where everyone seems to know each other but you). There are certain instances, of course, where we’re waiting for an important call or text, but for the most part, that text from your friend or your turn in “Words with Friends” can wait. Ignoring people for your phone sends the clear message that you are interested in what’s on your phone rather than interacting with them.

Recently, Airfoil Public Relations held our annual agency meeting where we were fortunate to have PR industry guru Darryl Salerno deliver a keynote. During his speech, Darryl shared his impressive background and knowledge from working in PR for decades, but what stuck out to me was his advice to “be present and be pleasant.” He acknowledged that while checking your phone is common and sometimes unconscious behavior, it’s important (and pleasant) to pay attention to those around you.

Darryl noted that the people you meet and network with in life may not directly or immediately help you or your company, but if they know and respect you, they will recommend you to others and your web of contacts will continue to grow. This applies beyond meeting new people; it can impact your relationships with clients and colleagues. When you are present and clearly involved, your attention is more focused and without the distraction of your phone, you can get higher quality and more strategic work accomplished.

This may seem like a no brainer, but we’ve all done it. Your Twitter and Facebook feeds aren’t going anywhere, so next time you’re in a social situation, try to resist checking your phone. You’ll come across as more inviting and approachable, and you’ll be giving people you’re talking to the respect and attention they deserve. You never know the networking opportunity or new friend that could be right in front of you.

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— Laura Cumbow is an account executive at Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agency with offices in Detroit and Silicon Valley.