We've all been there. You're leading a meeting and someone talks, and talks, and talks - and no one else can get a word in edgewise.
How much time should everyone really get? While the answer depends on the topic, if some people consistently speak more often or longer than others, colleagues will resent them for not being concise and taking up valuable meeting time. With limited time, you can’t expect that everyone will contribute, especially if there are a few people who seem to steal the show.
Here are some ways suggested by Paul Axtell to broaden participation:
WHEN YOU OPEN THE MEETING
- Let the group know that you want broad participation and that everyone has a chance to contribute on each topic.
- Call on people when you want to get more views into the conversation.
- Tell people that you will not leave a topic if anyone still has something to say or ask.
- Ask people to set aside technology and any other work and to focus on each person when they are speaking.
DURING THE MEETING
- Pay full attention and allow each person to complete his or her thoughts. If you and everyone else in the meeting do this, people who tend to dominate will likely start to limit themselves. It’s easier to go on and on when no one is listening!
- When you have the sense that someone is speaking too often, ask them to hold back their thoughts for a moment. You might say, “Andre, let me get some others into this conversation and then I’ll come back to you, OK?”
- Whenever someone gets cut off or interrupted, always double back and ask them to finish their thoughts: “Sarah, was there something else you wanted to add?”
- If you’re the person interrupted, speak up. You can say, “Jacques, I wasn’t quite finished. I’d like to complete my comment, and then I’d love to hear your thoughts.”
AFTER THE MEETING
- If you have concerns about some people speaking more often or longer than they should, let them know: “Troy, I would like the participation to be a bit more balanced in our meetings. It would be helpful if you waited until other people have entered the conversation before you add your thoughts. Also, I’d appreciate it if you’d look out to see who hasn’t participated yet and invite them share their thoughts.”
When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know.
But if you listen, you may learn something new.
Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.