Recently I attended a team meeting at work and my boss and my boss’s boss kept interrupting the presenter. The good news is they were doing it on purpose.
This was a rare occasion when all of us could be in the same place at the same time and we were told that part of our day would be presenting a 5 minute segment of a class we knew to our own team. No one knew why, maybe to discuss best practices or to dazzle each other with our presentation skills. I was fortunate enough to be selected to go first. I got about two minutes into my section and my manager had casually left the room, nothing unusual about that. A minute later, BAM! The door flies open and she exclaims that she needs a trainer to help her with a customer support situation. I was immediately transported back to an actual session where this had happened and I was a bit of deer in headlights. While I can talk quite well, if something catches fire, I’m not so smooth.
I tried to provide the “interrupter” with a few alternatives to banging down the door to the training room and after trying every option I could think of she finally let me off the hook. I had walked unwittingly into a role-play focused on interruptions and technical challenges. Once we got the giggles out of the way from our unexpected role play, my peers had a chance to provide input and alternative solutions. One of my teammates suggested I could’ve taken the conversation outside of the training room and sort out the details. This blew my mind. Of course! Take it outside! Sometimes we need the perspective of others to show us a great alternative we never considered. I’ve maintained that we are our own best resource. We just need to make an effort to talk about shared challenges.
In our meeting we looked at two major settings, live classes and webinars. Some challenges were the same in both scenarios but you have to handle things differently. Disruptive attendees in a webinar may be easily muted but if you’re trying to address objections or concerns you need to ensure it’s done tactfully. It can be difficult to assert authority over the phone when people are not being courteous. In a live setting disrespectful attendees can be even more difficult. Firm but fair doesn’t always gel with a learning environment similar to when some jack-ass hackler won’t shut-up in a comedy club. It gets awkward. I’ve never been great at keeping my cool, or at least appearing to, but that is what we all need to be able to do.
The solution is role-play. Words need to actually come out of your mouth. “I’m sorry but I’ll need you to turn your phone off,” or “If you have other things you need to take care of you can join us at our next session.” If it really harshes the room, take a 5 minute break, and get back on that horse! (Assuming you’re training someone how to ride a horse)
You won’t be able to anticipate every hurdle but by considering a few and then have a round table with your peers, you’ll come up with a few good options that may get you out of a pickle.