Too much talking

What to do to take control of a meeting with an incessant talker

Regular staff meetings for businesses and organizations are a critical component to ongoing information sharing and communication. Two individuals were having a conversation I was part of recently. Person one said; “Our monthly staff meetings go on for two hours, our previous director completed our meetings in an hour and we have fifteen staff members.” Person two said; “Wow we have four staff members and ours take two hours as well.” Both agreed that the meetings seem to drag on when it gets to staff updates and folks seem to tune out. One of the drawbacks of staff meetings is that they can become meetings for the sake of meeting, resulting in unengaged participants and time wasted. Each meeting should be an opportunity to focus on enhancing the work of the organization.

Sometimes the communication based, intangible objectives seem to make meeting attendees frustrated because there is just “too much talking” or one person who tends to monopolize the conversation. Most likely, in the above scenario each employees’ meeting organizer placed the importance of the intangible objectives high. If socializing is necessary, time can be set aside before or after the meeting for those that wish to partake. Expectations of the meeting should be clear to those in attendance with an organized agenda detailing how long each subject should take and any information that participants need to be prepared in advance. Staff updates may be done in writing. Each individual meeting should have a specific focus or topic that is relevant, planned, communicated to staff. Specific focus and planning is crucial to maintaining energy, interest and progress during meetings.

Additional suggested solutions to this problem can be found at the VitalSmarts Volume 15 Issue 36 newsletter. In part, author David Maxfield explains:

Tips on stopping soapboxing:

  • Take notes on a white board or flip chart. Document the person’s point, and then stop them from repeating him or herself. Paraphrasing can serve this same purpose, but isn’t as effective as writing down what the person has said.
  • Give everyone two-minutes of silence to think about, and write down, their ideas on a topic.
  • Use a two-minute speaking rule to force people to be concise.
  • After the person has spoken, have several others give their input before allowing the first person to speak again.
  • Ask the person to provide further input after the meeting, perhaps in writing.
  • You may try a standing meeting, literally. This “scrum” or “huddle” meeting is usually of a short duration for updates and is popular with product developers and keeps people focused and contributions concise.

The Michigan State University Extension Leadership and Community Engagement team offers professional development training, including volunteer board development, communicating through conflict, meeting management and facilitation skills development, and organizational strategic visioning and planning. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu/ or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464) 

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