How to handle secondary conversations




Chances are if you call a meeting then you have something important to say, but in all offices or businesses there is going to be outside conversation that leaks into the meeting room. During computer and projector meetings it is exceedingly important to have the full attention of your audience. Off-topic subjects can range from office gossip, to relationship talk, and even children. Regardless, talk between meeting participants that does not have to do with the subject matter of the meeting can distract from what is important and ruin the professional atmosphere you are trying to project. Below I’m going to go over a few tips to keep all eyes and ears on you, and ensure whatever you are trying to convey in the meetings is heard and absorbed by all.

Be non-verbal and non-threatening

There is no reason to embarrass someone for a first offense, so when two or more meeting participants are chatting on the side, make eye contact with each of them to let them know their conversation has drawn attention. Let your cues be non-verbal so that the speaker is not interrupted. Signal the offenders to quiet down with a clear hand signal and leave it at that. Speaking up or calling someone out has the negative outcome of making the offenders only dwell on getting in trouble, and not the subject of the meeting.

If chatter continues, call the talkers out in a non-threatening manner

On the off chance that the people holding the sideline conversation do not stop after a non-verbal cue is given, it is appropriate to call the talkers out in a manner that does not put them in a negative light with their peers but forces them to pay attention. One method is to ask the opinion of one of the people holding the secondary conversation. Ask things like, “Do you feel that this is a good idea, Margaret?” or “Do you have anything to add, Joe?”. By grabbing attention in a non-threatening manner the participant in the secondary conversation is made to pay attention or risk the embarrassment of being ignorant on the subject matter. Another tactic is to ask to borrow the notes of someone involved in the talking. Say that you missed the last part, and ask if they could give you a quick rundown of what was just said.

Keep control without getting angry

Sometimes things can just get out of hand, especially if the person who has the floor has a meek personality or does not know how to handle a large crowd of his or her peers. If competing conversations continue to the point where multiple conversations are being held, it may be necessary to bring the conversations to a halt by addressing the room. Avoid sarcasm or anger so that no one feels intimidated or embarrassed. Comment on your own inability to hear whoever has the floor and calmly guide attention back to the presentation. With the whole group’s attention it is very unlikely anyone’s thoughts will stray to other conversations again.

Keep the presentation entertaining

When running a computer and projector presentation, the biggest key to keeping other conversations from springing up is to hold everyone’s interest. Make sure the projector screen is large enough that everyone can see and that everything on the computer is running smoothly. Keep the presentation engaging and fast paced while still being informative. Incorporate humor and ask lots of questions of the audience. If you do not have the floor, make sure to be engaged in the presentation being given. Laugh at the jokes and ask questions. Hopefully everyone will follow your lead and enjoy the presentation instead of viewing it as a chore.

Using these tips it should be easy to control the crowd and keep everyone focused. Low stress, highly interactive meetings are good for business and good for employees. Successful meetings help reestablish a feeling of group pride and motivation in offices and it is important to have a firm handle on these meetings to keep your work environment a happy one.

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