Avoid the interpretation trap
The participants are talking, doing other things... and we
think, "what a lack of politeness and respect!" This interpretation of
their behavior works to our disadvantage because it puts us
into a stance of judgement and accusation. Of course, lack of
attention can be seen as incivility; however, it is also simply the
expression of other preoccupations, of the need to "take a
breather", and does not target either the group or the leader.
This does not mean that it must be accepted but that it does not deserve
to be treated as an attack.
Express your request clearly
What do we want when leading a meeting? The attention and
focused participation of each person, to reach the goals and respect the
agenda presented at the outset.
This is what must be brought back into view with clarity, precision, and calm. It is a legitimate request.
"You're not listening" or "if you please" are not necessary. It
is better to go straight to the point, with a constructive angle and
your own personal engagement: "I really need your
attention in order to..."
Once the request has been formulated, you can ask the
participants to take a position: are they ready to follow you? If so,
then they commit to "playing along" according to the rules and a
simple look or head movement will suffice to remind them, if
necessary, during the meeting. Otherwise, they would rather leave, and
will do so without needless friction.