What's the professionally appropriate response to rude behaviors in a presentation? Cell phones going off, blackberry prayers, etc. I can ignore it and just keep going, because I already know the data and don't get anything out of it, that's why I'm presenting it. However, the people I'm presenting to don't- that's why they're there.

Feedback after the gathering is definitely going to occur. The question is, should people be called on this behavior [b]during[/b] the meeting or presentation to make sure everyone is getting the most they can out of their time? Would stopping the meeting to address the issue just exacerbate the problem by prolonging the interruption even longer? Will a stern glare do? Perhaps Nerf weaponry could be used as an effective feedback mechanism? Peer pressure sure isn't making a difference.

jprlopez's picture


Is the presentation part of a regular meeting, conference, etc?

One thing useful for me is to set up ground rules for certain events beforehand, even set up penalties like buying lunch for the group.

For team meetings, I can usually get away without the penalties clause... Clarifying the ground rules is enough.

Hope this helps some

ashdenver's picture

I just did a presentation today through Live Meeting with a Global Crossing conference call.

My thoughts (and training) are along the same lines as JP's.

Before beginning the presentation, please take a few minutes to do your houskeeping. This includes how you would like people to conduct themselves during the presentation and pre-emptively addressing common situations (phones, etc.).

In my presentation today, the screen greeted attendees with the housekeeping rules. (The vast majority of my presentations lately are teleconferences because our team is spread out over six states.)

[u]For my tele-conferences, I usually say something like[/u]:
"Please do not place the conference call on hold as the rest of us will hear the Muzak or company spiel and none of us will be able to hear each other or the presentation. If you need to drop off the call, please feel free to dial back in when you're available."

[u]For live conferences, I would tweak that to[/u]:
"Please be courteous to your fellow attendees and turn off or silence your telephones, PDA's, etc. If you need to handle an emergency situation, please feel free to leave the room for as long as you need to."

(I usually include something 'fluffy' about how important the learning environment is and common courtesy is appreciated.)

If the housekeeping spiel doesn't do the trick and there are still those who insist on disturbing the peace, I will and have offered to reschedule the person:

"It seems as though you have a lot going on right now. Would you like to reschedule this training for a time when you're better able to focus on the material we're covering today?"

If your presentation allows you to walk and talk while the overhead or whatnot is on the screen, I've found it's pretty effective to go stand by that person so they feel your presence. It also allows you to lean over and whisper to them ("Perhaps you should take that outside" or "Please silence your phone so it's not a distraction to the rest of the group") if/when it happens again.

Believe it or not, most of your attendees are [i]waiting [/i]on you to take control and create the peaceful learning environment that will allow them to get the most out of the training. By saying and doing nothing, you're effectively undermining your own presentation and leadership.

Mark's picture
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If this is just a presentation during a regular meeting, where your firm doesn't subscribe to groundrules - or more precisely, allow the groundrules (as all meetings have them) to be anarchic - there is nothing to be done but ignore the behavior.

After such a meeting, do NOTHING.

In a meeting you run, set groundrules, and ask someone ELSE to help with pointing out, politely, quietly, when folks stray.


zzstatus's picture

One tool that may help is

You can see the status of team members, whether they are doing a presentation, on the phone, etc.  It won't stop people in the group from becoming an interruption, but it may help others in the company realize a presentation is in progress.