Recently I found myself at lunch with two members of a group I belong to. The meeting was pre-arranged by mutual agreement to suit complicated work schedules. The purpose of these appointments is to learn more about each other, how we can be better resources and perhaps make referrals in the future. Business per se is not the topic, yet after enjoying many of these engagements, discussions of business, work challenges and other areas are frequently spoken about. In other words, there are no hard and fast rules; rather it’s left up to the participants.
When your role is as the moderator, it’s clear that you are responsible for posing questions, introducing topics and managing the flow. However, when the meeting’s intention is to engage everyone, it’s another matter. Despite my best efforts to be included I had to step back and assess what was happening.
• Did my dining companions feel more comfortable with each other?
• Have nothing in common?
• Social anxiety?
• Poor manners?
• Totally unaware?
I am not a quitter and try as I might; these very nice professionals were exhausting me to the point where I had to make a break for the restroom and some relief. We have all been in situations where attention might focus too much on one person or topic, so how can you not become TONE DEAF too?
• Remember why you are there
• Is it social or business?
• Be prepared with several possible topics of a general nature
• Notice the flow of conversation
• How can you contribute, share and ask questions?
Unless you are the instructor, it’s not your place to point out to your “companions” how challenging your time together has been. Better to make a graceful and early exit because time spent is one thing we can never get back.