How to Stop Big Talkers from Hijacking Your Meetings

BY Kathy Crosett
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Has it happened again? You called the team together for a meeting. Your team members assembled and the same person did all of the talking. Even worse, in the end, it feels like nothing was resolved. Here’s what you can do about these meeting problems.

Prepare the Agenda

When you call a meeting, it’s up to you to decide the agenda. It’s also up to you to prepare for the meeting. If you don’t come into the meeting ready to lead, you only have yourself to blame when it doesn’t go well.

Manage the Big Talkers

One of the biggest problems meeting organizers encounter is the tendency of people to complain. This behavior can be especially prevalent if you’re running a meeting that involves a difficult project and multiple departments. To keep everyone on track, follow Melody Wilding’s advice and ‘unify the room.’ Open the meeting by explaining why everyone is present and what you plan to accomplish. When the big talkers start to hijack the conversation, remind them that you need to stay on topic.

And, while we’re on the subject of big talkers, remember that they pose a problem. Some team members love to talk. They might not realize that their constant delivery of opinions, data and thoughts keeps other team members from participating. If you’ve invited the right people to your meeting, each individual should have some of value to contribute. Don’t let the chatty types keep the quiet folks from speaking up. 

That can be easier said than done while you’re occupied with showing slides, keeping an eye on the clock and making sure you’re getting through the agenda. Your talkative team members don’t mean to take over a meeting. They just don’t realize just how often they are participating. Consider a couple of solutions to this issue. 

Let folks know at the beginning of the meeting that you expect everyone to participate. And have a neutral third party use a visual tool, like a whiteboard, to track how long each person talks. When your team members see that visual representation of what’s happening in the meeting, behavior will likely change. Your quiet people may speak up more and the talkers may speak less frequently. You can also use an app for this purpose.

Review Action Items

Allow for enough time near the end of the meeting to confirm action items. And be careful about how you verify that a team member will take responsibility for getting something done. Show that you’re willing to help by asking them if they need specific resources or other assistance to complete the task. Then ask about how they will let you know when they’re finished. 

Actively managing your meeting and its goals from beginning to end will help you achieve better outcomes.