We all know that there has been a huge shift to virtual meetings lately.
As a participant, I’ve observed so many virtual meetings where one person just takes over the whole stage.
The… entire… time.
Or, at least, for much longer than anyone else truly cares to listen.
There’s an agenda and someone facilitating. And yet somehow, the meeting monopolizer still manages to take main stage in your virtual meetings for way longer than needed.
Have you ever experienced this before? Where you find yourself half-listening, half praying that the person will wrap it up?
Virtual meetings in particular require a lot of interaction to keep people engaged.
When one person drones on and on, others quickly disengage. We become bored quickly. And if there’s one thing we know these days, it’s that our brains are not habituated to being bored.
Without even realizing it, the switch has turned to off.
One of the keys to ensuring your virtual meetings are a success is to learn how to manage the meeting monopolizer. These can be helpful for in-person meetings also, but are particularly crucial for virtual meetings.
Tips to stop letting people monopolize your virtual meetings.
1. Be clear and consistent with time expectations regarding speaking turns.
In virtual meetings, it’s so much harder to balance and navigate speaking time and turns than it is during in-person meetings. We don’t always notice the non-verbal cues the same way we would in person. These are the cues we pick up from people’s facial expressions or body language that tell us “Hey, you’ve been talking too long,” or, “I’m trying to interrupt you because you’re going on too long.”
These cues are harder to pick up on while looking at a screen with little thumbnails, or when we’re looking at the camera instead of the screen, to give those watching eye contact.
When leading virtual meetings in a group setting, setting more explicit expectations around the length of speaking turns and how they will be navigated can be helpful.
For instance instead of asking everyone to catch you up on what they’ve been working on for the week, you might say “I’d like everybody to take two minutes to share what they’ve been working on over the past week.”
Outlining a time frame of how long each person is given to speak at the beginning will help rein people in, as they’ll know what to aim for. This doesn’t need to be moderated down to the very last second, but setting clear expectations from the start will help.
2. Assign someone to moderate speaking time.
Even in small group virtual meetings, I always suggest assigning someone to moderate speaking time. This is a different person than the one running the meeting. In my experience, moderating the agenda and keeping discussions on-topic while also moderating speaking time can be a recipe for disaster.
Assigning somebody different to be your official timekeeper will help bring structure to these virtual meetings. Give them the authority to jump in and gently cut people off and redirect the conversations as needed.
Introduce this at the beginning of the meeting so people are not surprised. “Sarah’s going to be watching speaking time so we can make sure we stay on-agenda and everyone gets a chance to share. If you’re going over, she’ll raise a red card, or she may just jump in and ask you to wrap up really quickly.”
When expectations regarding speaking turns and moderation have been made clear from the outset and the moderation is done kindly and respectfully, people will likely be able to adapt to it without too many hard feelings. By ensuring that one person doesn’t take over your entire meeting, you’ll find people end up more actively engaged in the conversation, rather than zoned-out passive listeners.
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