According to sites like TheMuse.com, you can, as a management-level professional spend 35% to 50% of their time in meetings, depending on where you fall on the management tier. Ughh! And what’s worse is how unproductive these meetings can be due to ‘meeting disrupters.’
As a Founder of a multimedia, marketing/marketplace platform called Adiree Company , a product and program management Executive, I’ve hosted a number of standup meetings, steering meetings, kick-off meetings, follow-up meetings, and well…just plain all types of meetings across industries like retail, technology, not-for-profit, media, marketing, and advertising.
THE ‘OH-SO-COLORFUL’ SCENARIO
Were you ever that Project Manager (or any manager for that matter), waiting not-so-patiently, to get a word in during a meeting, while another person at the meeting dominated the discussion? You sit there, with a half-bitten bottom lip, trying to restrain the aggravation boiling inside of you. Quick! You need to gain control of the meeting, be assertive, and interrupt them.
Irrespective of the meeting agenda set before each person (which you took the initiative to create, send digital copies, and print out for everyone by the way), the person dominating the discussion is off topic, and even worse, is going on and on about nothing to do with the meeting agenda.
The question is, how do you stop this from happening, in the most graceful and witty way? Remember, it’s not really about control. It’s about meeting objectives and goals. It’s also about respecting everyone’s time because quite frankly there is a time and a place for everything.
I have a few suggestions, ways you can interrupt ( oh, how dare you) “meeting disrupters” without damaging stakeholder relationships or seeming obnoxious:
1. Wait for a lull
No matter how much one can talk there will always be a lull; a temporary quiet before their next thought or marathon of words. A moment of breath taken in to further expel more disruptive (no matter how valuable) words. At that moment, immediately ask a question to redirect the conversation.
2. Ask questions
An example of a question is:
I’m probably missing the big picture here. Do you mind explaining how it relates back to the [ insert meeting scope here]
Please ask this or other questions with deep sincerity, or you’ll seem like a total jerk. Most people will get the point.
3. Agree with the person and pivot
Make statements that acknowledge what the “disrupter” is saying, but then insert how to discuss such details any further will interfere with timelines and/or deliverables.
An example of a statement is:
I totally agree with your point, but if we discuss further, I’ won’t have [ insert deliverable that is of value to stakeholder ] ready at [ insert due date] . Would you mind if we focused on the current agenda and set up a time to discuss all other details at a later date?
4. Acknowledge what you heard
Many times people go on and on, simply because they feel that they’re misunderstood or aren’t understood at all. Take the charge by interrupting them and immediately repeating them.
“So John, really quickly I believe this is what you said…..”
Following up after a statement has been made, provides you the opportunity to redirect the meeting back to the agenda.
5. Practice your nice (but) firm voice and use it
In all of those mentioned above, it’s important that we keep delivery (the way we speak) to other in mind. I use free conference call for my meetings. And I’m always reviewing how I sound. Perhaps I’m a sicko when it comes to the art of communications. But I do believe that intonations, pauses, and types of words we use all impact our delivery. Although we can’t control how information is being received, we can control the way it is packaged and delivered. Try practicing and recording yourself saying key phrases. Do it when you’re happy, excited, annoyed, hungry, etc. Review and compare the way you sound. Not only will allow you to improve the way you speak, but you’ll start to learn more about your triggers.
6. Suggest a break-away meeting or ideation storming session
Hey! It happens. In the heat and excitement of the moment, when amazing minds come together ideas start flowing. Quite, frankly…that’s okay. Encourage everyone on the team to keep that same energy– just, at a more appropriate time.
Hey there! I’m Sade Disu and founded an award-winning 15-year-old digital media and marketing agency And Brand Culture where I provide culture-focused advisory, storytelling, and content solutions for Executives and startup founders looking to increase engagement with multi-cultural audiences and media platforms organically.
My content strategies and proprietary live event platforms (like AfricaFashionWeek.com) are deemed unmatched for their convening power of global content, culture, and empowerment according to Forbes, LA Times, Essence, and Black Enterprise. And even more, was given a proclamation, by former Mayor of New York (now Presidential candidate) Michael Bloomberg in 2010.
Africa Fashion Week results increased brand awareness 8.5 million views; $300+ K in revenue generated per event, and 6 K+ newsletter subscribers per event. Media giants such as Hearst Magazines caught wind of my work and influence — the ability to connect to and with consumers through cultural content and experiential solutions. HEARST immediately hired my consultancy to advise, produce content, and launch its international spin-off of COSMOPOLITAN Nigeria.
My press-ordained and award-winning event platforms and digital content work have been leveraged by Shea Moisture, Kimora Lee Simons, Iman Cosmetics, Pikolinos, Zara, Roommate Hotels, and USAID. ( 4-page press feature in Black Enterprise and 2-page press feature in Forbes French Edition.)
Clients have used my four-tier prong approach “culture + content” = “community + commerce” when looking to connect with audiences with nuisance cultures and attitudes.