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What do I do when someone monopolizes the meeting?

As part of our coalition work, we are constantly leading meetings. During our meetings, we have some people who have joined us for years and others who may be joining us for the first time. Although we may try to get an accurate registration or RSVP, we often never know who is actually going to attend. One of the most challenging aspects of facilitating a meeting is navigating someone who monopolizes the meeting! Sometimes, you may feel like you have tried everything and just don’t know what to do. Don’t give up! Join me for three actions you can take to proactively prevent someone from monopolizing a meeting.

Set expectations prior to the meeting.

One of the most important things you can do to prevent an attendee from taking over the meeting is to set clear expectations ahead of time. Let attendees know the purpose of the meeting and how you would like them to participate. If this meeting is discussion-oriented, then let them know you want them to actively participate and you want to hear from many different people during the meeting. You can ask them to plan to answer specific questions and to provide brief responses or you can propose a specific topic for conversation. Since we often host virtual meetings, we have a lot of assumptions about how we want people to show up to our meeting, but we don’t always let them know. By setting expectations prior to the meeting and reminding them at the beginning of the meeting, this provides an opportunity for all attendees to know what to expect, how to show up and minimize the monopolizing!

Host a new attendee pre-meeting.

When new people join the meeting without context, they may not know how to participate in the meeting.  If there are just a few new attendees, you may spend the first fifteen minutes of the meeting orienting them to the group rather than focusing on the meeting content and purpose. When this happens, your other attendees may become disengaged and struggle with coming back once the meeting content begins. One of the ways to prevent this from happening is to host a new attendee pre-meeting (30 minutes). You can do this immediately before your scheduled meeting or can set up a separate time. During this conversation, you can provide the context, the purpose, the expectations and provide an opportunity for questions. By hosting this focused meeting, you provide an opportunity to orient the new attendees and welcome them into the group. This can also be a time when you can learn from them about what is most important to them and why they are interested in participating in this group. This can help you understand their perspective, engage them well in the pre-meeting and set the expectations for engagement in the overall meeting.

Direct people to the chat.

Even if you have set expectations for participation and hosted a pre-meeting for new attendees, you will still may have enthusiastic participants who will want to continue to contribute to the conversation during the meeting. If someone is monopolizing the conversation, you can let them know that you are thankful for their active participation and encourage them to continue to put their thoughts and ideas in the chat. You can let the entire group know that you look forward to hearing from multiple people and if they have already shared their thoughts or perspectives to add additional comments in the chat.

So what about you? What is one way that you have found successful at keeping people from monopolizing your meetings?

If you would like more support in leading your next online meeting, check out my free resource, How to Lead Your Best Online Meeting!

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

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