Keep In Control Of Your Meetings

Having served as chairman of a few boards and member of others, I have always found interesting the types of participants in meetings. On occasion, of course, almost everyone will exhibit a tendency to be inattentive, argumentative, disinterested or hostile. Usually, however, the chairman and members can work around such occurrences without much problem. I have also found this to be true in dealing with various groups as a speaker and facilitator. But there are two types of people in particular who pose a threat to meetings and have to be dealt with in special ways.
The first is the person who never opens his or her mouth. You may be aware the person has insight and information about a topic. You may also know if someone could get this individual to open up it would benefit everyone in the group. Yet, he or she never says a word. The second person is just the opposite. This is the individual who wants to express opinions and ideas on everything at the expense of shutting out everyone else. It often takes this person forever to say anything. Then when it is finally expressed, he or she keeps repeating it over and over again. It is up to the leader to get a handle on such people and exhibit control over the meeting.
In dealing with the quiet one, I have said things such as, “Because of your study and experience in this area, Ted, I am sure you have some great insight into the matter. Share your thoughts with us.” At other times, I have contacted the quiet one in advance of the meeting. After establishing a good rapport, I have informed him or her of a certain item on the agenda and it will be helpful to everyone if he or she shares some views. If the person is insecure or shy, this will allow some time to muster courage and prepare.
Another way to help open up the quiet one is to pose a specific question that merits more than a yes or no. Such a question may be something like, “Ted, I know you ran into a situation last year similar to the one we are discussing now. How did you handle it and what was the outcome?” But don’t begin discussion of a topic by calling on the quiet one. It is best to bring him or her into the conversation after the ice has been broken. Also, it is not a good idea to slant the conversation just in order to draw in the quiet one. This may turn off the more articulate members of the group.
The excessive talker may have positive input on a matter. But it is up to you as the leader to filter the good from the overload. For example, if the monopolizer does make a point and then begins to repeat it or enlarge on it too much, or starts to jump into something else, you should interrupt the person with a thank-you and move on. You may want to summarize what has been said up to this point and then ask for input on the matter from others. If it becomes evident the monopolizer is sharing disorganized thoughts, then ask for clarification or maybe just nod your head, say something like, “Okay,” and then call on someone else.
The members of one group of which I was chairman knew I was always going to call on everyone during meetings. Therefore, they knew I was not going to allow any one person to dominate a discussion and I was going to seek input from everyone. This encouraged them to clarify things in their minds beforehand and be prepared for input on the published agenda topics. There was one person in the group who would dominate if allowed and one who would never say anything if allowed. It ended up being a great group simply because they realized what was expected.
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at 865-436-7478 or His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on and


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