You are presenting in front of your executive team in the board room of your company’s high-rise office. All of a sudden the window washers come by. You see everybody’s attention is momentarily being shifted to the men on the other side of the window.
Most people at this point in time will keep on talking AS IF NOTHING IS HAPPENING. Wrong. The moment the window washers come by you will have lost your audience. And when you have lost them they can’t hear a word you say. The best thing to do:
ACKNOWLEDGE THE INTERRUPTION
This applies to many different situations you may have come across. Coffee being brought into the meeting? Acknowledge the person bringing in the coffee. Mobile phone going off during a talk? Tell the person answering the phone to say hello from you (I guarantee everybody else will now switch off their phone in fear of being next).
Even the world’s greatest speakers get this principle wrong sometimes. When President Obama toasted to Queen Elisabeth during a recent state visit he simply ignored the British national anthem and continued his toast. The moment he says “To the queen” she replies “Set it down”.
The moment Obama heard the music he should have stopped. Similarly, if the window washers come by just say: “Oh, look, the window washers,” allowing for your audience to divert attention for a little while. Then you can follow-up with “… as I was saying …” and continue your talk.
Acknowledge interruptions, every time.