Once you have a group talking, and conversations become lively, conflict and lack of control can eat up valuable group time. Here are five guidelines you can use to maintain control without becoming heavy-handed.
1. Set group rules early on. Let the group know everyone should have a turn to speak, and that no one will be allowed to dominate the conversation.
2. Manage side conversations. Make steady eye contact with those who tend to chat, stand closer to them, or use silence until the room becomes quiet. These “silent” techniques are often all you need.
3. Break a large group down into smaller ones for discussion. Give complete directions first, and then disperse into breakout groups. To signal small groups to return to the large group, dim the lights or sound a timer.
4. Manage conflict. Keep your own cool and allow conflict as long as it is leading to thoughtful discussions. Remind people of ground rules that state no personal attacks.
5. Use courteous language. Words such as “please” and “thank you” foster a climate of respect and cooperation.
Whether you are a trainer, presenter or leader, knowing how to lead and control a discussion is an important skill you can learn and practice, so that your listeners can learn effectively from one another.
I would love to hear from you. How do you maintain control over discussions?
Author Gail Zack Anderson, founder of Applause, Inc. is a Twin Cities-based consultant who provides coaching and workshops for effective presentations, facilitation skills for trainers and subject matter experts, and positive communication skills for everyone. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Web site: www.applauseinc.net