Tuesday Tip: Crowd control
The Problem: The situation is that you are facilitating at a conference or simply coordinating a large meeting in which multiple table discussions are taking place. The problem is trying to regain the group’s attention without speaking over the noise and / or repeatedly tapping on the mic. Anyone who has found themselves in such a situation will immediately know what I am talking about!
I was at a conference in Rome recently with an audience of around 750 people and regaining attention after times of table discussions was a nightmare for whoever it was that was on the stage at the time. I made the suggestion to the MC that I am about to share with you and it worked a treat! It might even be argued that this crown control suggestion of mine was of greater value to the conference than my keynote address!
The Solution: Explain to your audience (right at the outset of the session) that whenever you want them to stop speaking and refocus on the stage you are simply going to raise your one arm in the air. The moment anyone sees your arm (or any arm) raised they are to immediately copy that act and if they are speaking at that moment – to stop speaking. They are to keep their arm raised until the room is silent.
It is that simple and yet it is highly effective! I often joke that “you can try this at home but I’m not sure of its success there!”
Tip: Hold your arm tall and straight and if not at first noticed walk around the room a bit. Don’t resume until the room is completely silent (that sets the standard) and if it does take a few seconds first time round, watch how rapidly the response time lowers in subsequent usage. You can get almost instance silence in room with hundreds of people present. Meg Wheatley (from whom I learnt this technique) adds that it a fine example of ‘self-organising systems’.
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