How to Overcome Meeting Distractions

Anything can happen when you have a meeting in the workplace. Distractions abound and if you aren’t prepared for them, you can find yourself losing composure and your meeting could lose its effectiveness. Being prepared is the key to successfully navigating any distraction. If you are confident in your objective and you know your material, you can make it through almost any distraction. Here are some common distractions that can happen during a work meeting and ways you can overcome.

1) Your Computer Crashes. If your audience recognizes what has happened, you can play along with humor and attempt to go through the material without your computer. If they don’t realize what has happened, you might consider playing it cool and carry on as if you never intended to use your computer. Your ability to adapt on the fly has a great deal to do with how prepared you are. If you are really prepared, you may have already saved your presentation in the cloud, or on a thumb drive, and you probably arrived to the meeting room a little early so you could work through any such distractions before the meeting starts.

2) Connectivity Issues. What should you do if you can’t find the right connector for your projector? Again, be prepared – make sure to do several test runs before your presentation. There’s no need for carrying multiple adapters when the meeting room provides wireless presentation. This ensures professionalism, reliability and predictability to all presentations.

3) Disturbing Background Noise. Maybe there is construction work going on outside the conference room, or maybe there is a thunderstorm going on outside. Watch your audience for their reaction to the distraction. If they are ignoring the distraction, so should you. If your audience is visibly distracted, you can briefly acknowledge the distraction and move on. If the distraction is bad enough, you might consider switching locations, or attempting to stop the distraction until the meeting is over.

4) Somebody’s Cell Phone Rings. Our society puts a lot of pressure on us to obey certain cell phone rules of etiquette. Unfortunately, not all adhere to this etiquette. If a phone rings during your meeting and the offender does not silence it immediately, you have a couple of options for handling it. You can acknowledge what happened with humor and hope that the offender got the message, or you can stop the presentation and wait for the offender to silence the phone or leave the room. The best solution would be to ask all meeting participants to silence their phones before the meeting starts, thus setting the tone and expectation that such disruptions won’t be tolerated.

5) Meeting Participants Pay more Attention to their Phones than to the Presenter. It is common in our society for people to be constantly looking at their smartphones. Smartphones are great and definitely can increase productivity. However, if facebook and twitter are distracting your meeting attendees from active participation in the meeting, you might be tempted to ban cell phones at all meetings. As this is not realistic, you are better off setting the expectation that phones be used ONLY for matters pertaining to the meeting. If you discover offenders during the meeting, consider drawing attention to them in a light-hearted manner. Nobody likes to be pointed out as inattentive.

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