Help! Someone has hijacked your meeting!
You did everything right: A well-crafted agenda … a carefully considered invite list … you started right on time …. And now, one of the meeting participants is off on a wild tangent, repeating his point over and over and over, with no signs of slowing (or stopping for a breath).
As the meeting facilitator, how can you tactfully regain control and get things back on track, before everyone else in the room loses interest or your meeting runs long?
What to say to a meeting monopolizer:
- Address it head-on by saying something like, “Let’s table that for now and move on with our agenda,” or “I’m looking for quick input at this stage, but might come back to you on this down the road,” suggests quickbase.com. (If he or she ignores your comments, do stop the person again.) “Jim, your comments are always helpful, but I want to make sure everyone has a chance to share their ideas. Tammy, how do you feel we should address this change?” If your moderation still doesn’t work, stand up, walk over and stand behind the person, repeating your request.
- Interrupt, when the person does take a breath, ask for clarification of a major point, suggests selfgrowth.com. This might help the person organize his or her thoughts and get to the point.
- Praise the initial remarks of the monopolizing participant. Sometimes simply acknowledging his or her contributions is enough to make the person feel heard and satisfied. “Jim, I really liked your suggestion regarding our vendor list—nice idea. Now, let’s move on to the third item on our agenda.” (Say these two sentences without a breath between them so your monopolizer can’t interject before you move on.)
- If your monopolizer has a history of overtalking, you’ve got a leg up. So, set the tone early. Start your meeting by explaining that you’ll be asking for input by going quickly around the room to each person. (If anyone doesn’t have input, they are free to pass.) Get agreement on a time limit. (Suggest one minute.) Setting these ground rules will also hopefully get those who are less inclined to speak up more involved.
- If the monopolizer cuts in on someone else, stop them. “Hang on a minute, Jim. I’d like to hear the rest of what Max had to say.”
- You could try joking about it, suggests Renee Evenson’s book Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People. “Jim, it’s time to come up for air and let someone else talk. From now on twenty words or less!”
When you facilitate a meeting, you cannot allow one person to take over the discussion. By design, meetings should encourage input from every participant (because if you’re not looking for a participant’s input, you probably shouldn’t have included them). But it’s up to you to hold that line—drawing out hesitant participants, tactfully shutting down meeting monopolizers and respecting everyone’s time.