What If Two People Begin Talking at Once in Virtual Meetings?

Last week during a customized session of The No-Panic Plan for Virtual Presenters webinar, a participant shared this question in the chatbox. We discussed solutions during the call for this commonplace occurrence.

Question: Are there any tips for how to handle two people speaking at once in a virtual meeting? It seems as if they inevitably both say, “No, you go ahead,” and then both start talking at the same time again and/or no one speaks up and it’s a complete awkward silence. Is there any way to avoid this?

Answer: This invariably happens, but presenters proactively can take steps to prevent meeting attendees from stepping on each other and talking at the same time:

  • If you are the presenter, ask another person to serve as a moderator. Those are two separate roles. The moderator will open the floor for comments and questions at regular intervals. I recently used this approach for a meeting during which I presented the information and a moderator named Ken funneled the questions to me. People commented later how fluidly that approach worked.
  • Encourage participants to use the chat function. Again, it’s a good idea to have a chat moderator. Sometimes it’s a challenge to be the one running the meeting AND monitoring the questions and comments in the chatbox.
  • Use the old-school hand wave. When you see someone raising their hand (assuming people use the video component for virtual meetings), call them by name to speak. This works if you see several people raising their hands simultaneously. Acknowledge you see them and will get to them.
  • If you are not using the video component, please ask everyone to say their name before commenting: for example, “This is Mandi, and I wanted to bring up another edit” or “This is George. I have a question about the new deadline.”
  • When you are not using the video component and two people chime in at once, if you know their names, you must step in as the leader to avoid that awkward silence. Say, “Benita, you go first, and then Cory, you may speak next.”

To customize a keynote or professional development session that will have your audience laughing and learning, contact Mandi Stanley.

Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley works with business leaders who want to boost their professional image by becoming better speakers and writers through interactive high-content keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, technical writing seminars, and fun proofreading classes. 

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