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Deal With Competing Conversations in Meetings

Tips for Effective Meeting Management and Facilitation


Want to develop effective working relationships with people at work? Effective interaction by people in business meetings can contribute to effective work relationships. Effective group facilitation in meetings manages the interaction of difficult people holding competing conversations.

Off-topic conversations between two or more meeting members waste time, inhibit group progress, and limit the contributions of individuals to the team meeting as a whole. They are distracting for meeting participants who want to participate in all team interactions.

Additionally, competing conversations in several small groups, even when on-topic, deprive team members of the insight or knowledge the members of the team are discussing. Whether you are the meeting leader or a group member, you can use the following ideas to bring the group back together when group members are holding more than one discussion at a time.

Recommendations for Meeting Management of Competing Conversations

  • Use non-verbal communication. Look steadily at the participants for a moment. Raise your eyebrows while looking or wave to the participants. Stop the person who has the floor for a minute while the other participants rejoin the group.

  • Ask a question. Call on one of the group members participating in the competing conversation. With a brief summary of the discussion occuring in the meeting as a whole, ask for his opinion. Ask him to share his ideas with the rest of the people in the meeting. Say, "I believe we'd all be interested in your thoughts on this issue, John."

  • Verbally intervene. Directly ask the group members participating in the competing conversation to rejoin the group discussion, without using sarcasm or anger. Say, "I'm afraid we're missing good ideas when everyone is talking at once. I know I can't keep track of all these thoughts."

  • Establish a group signal. The group signal reminds participants to hold one discussion at a time. One that works effectively is to make a non-verbal time out sign followed by holding up one index finger to indicate, one meeting.

Conclusion About Competing Conversations in Business Meetings

People spend hours of their work week attending business meetings. Effective meeting management preserves their time. Managing competing conversations in meetings builds positive work relationships. Co-workers feel that their time and contributions are valued and respected when interpersonal relationships in meetings are well managed.

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