A quick guide to awkward silences and how to avoid them
Very few people really enjoy total silence. It's particularly awkward when you're meeting people for the first time... a job interview, a meeting with the lawyers, a pitch to a potential customer in a foreign language... or, ironically, even sometimes a room full of people who work together every day. In stunned silence. Or stuck in the very smallest of small talk. What can you do about it?
Break the ice. It takes one, brave person to step across the line. Make this you! Go beyond your comfort zone and emerge from your natural tendency to be frightfully politely British. I'm not about to list 20 suggestions on what types of icebreaker exercises to use with what types of audiences. But it's worth having a few up your sleeve. One I particularly love is putting people in pairs, giving each pair 3 random words written on a flash card and 120 seconds. In their two minutes, they need to invent a new product that's made up of those three words. Then, each pair has 30 seconds to pitch their business idea to everyone in the room. Bring a stopwatch.
It can be really important to have confidence that your venue will be quiet. If you're running a training session or even a workshop or creative brainstorm, it's likely you'll want the participants to have some individual thinking or working time. They can only do this in peace and quiet to keep the concentration high.
The last thing you want is walls so thin that your participants can hear the meeting in the room next door or, a space next to the bar, restaurant or lift lobby. Be sure to do your research and if you're not sure, just ask the venue host by submitting an enquiry. We've put together a list of quiet meeting rooms in London for you to peruse. Shhhh though, don't share the secret.