I was day chairman at a regional conference sometime ago, having to deal with a very rowdy crowd of toastmasters. After the morning tea break, the 500 or so people ambled into the hall, talking animately and generally taking their time about sitting for the next part of the program.
I used the gavel to not very good effect. The more I banged on the lectern the noisier the crowd became, raising their voices over the banging. They eventually settled down and I had to work extra hard at clawing back lost time to get everyone to the sit down lunch on time.
As I removed the lapel mic a very senior toastmaster in terms of tenure came up to me and said this:
“Regina, when people return to their seats after lunch, just stand in the centre of the stage and say nothing. This gets people’s attention faster than trying to shout over the voices and telling them what to do. You will show assertiveness by taking control of room in a quiet manner.”
After lunch I did just that – and as if by magic, the chattering died down quickly and people took their seats, looking at me in anticipation of the next part of the programme.