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Smooth Sailing Through Executive Side Talk

Posted by Schwartz, Melissa at Tuesday, 04/03/2012 6:23 pm
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2.5 from 30 votes
PowerSpeaking, Inc. Presents... Smooth Sailing Through Executive Side Talk
by Rachel Rodriguez, Senior Trainer

A common frustration for presenters is the two executives who have a sidebar conversation during their presentation. We all know what not to do: Act like the 2nd grade teacher ("Billy, Sarah, do you two have something you'd like to share with the rest of the class?") or blame the execs with a gem like, "Hey, I spent two months preparing for this you mind?"

Low Risk Strategies
What should you do, then, when the executives engage in sidebars amongst themselves? A few strategies are quick and easy to try:
1. Pause for a few moments. The silence can help jar people out of their conversation.
2. Reference people's names periodically during the talk to keep them turned in.
3. Physically move closer to the area of the room where side-talking occurs.

Often, the above quick strategies work. But if not...
Back-up Plan
Get your sponsor lined up!
You do not get into a high-level meeting without a sponsor. One of the sponsor's roles during the meeting is to run interference for the presenter. If nothing else works, appeal to your sponsor. They can intervene where you can't.

In "Side Talk," a segment of our Speaking Up: Presenting to Executives® suite of products, we see Andy Billings, a VP at Electronic Arts, lose his composure with two executives and do a direct verbal attack on them. Dripping with sarcasm he says, "What is SO important that the two of you can't pay attention to this presentation and make a decision?" Clearly a career-limiting comment. The executive shoots back, "I think we've heard more than enough." Andy then gets advice on a more "politically correct" way to handle the problem by trying to re-engage the executives. Failing that, he then gets the CEO to intervene on his behalf.

Click on the "Side Talk" link below and watch these strategies come to life:

Additional Information:
For more in-depth strategies and opportunities to practice how to present effectively to C-Level executives or key decision makers, learn more about our Speaking Up: Presenting to Executives® suite of products, which includes instructor-led, virtual, and on-demand training programs. For more information, call 800.828.1909 or go to