Command the room by being an exceptional facilitator
How to intervene when things go wrong
Let’s assume you’ve done all the preventative tools:
Sent agenda in advance
Spoke to the ramblers upfront about the goals of the meeting
Set norms, outcomes, and scope of the meeting with all participants
Limited the size of the audience to keep it manageable
Assigned a colleague to help you manage a known disrupter
Consolidated the known objections or hot buttons into concise orderly buckets for you to represent to the room upfront vs. allowing those most upset to share
Yet, someone is still going off-topic, negative, or taking too much airtime.
You can either guide them with questions or give them clear instructions. Decide how direct you need to be at this point.
The first time a person speaks for more than 2 minutes, interrupt them with a question. Help establish a cadence and tempo that we want to hear many voices and keep responses and ideas to ~90 seconds.
1. I am hearing a lot about alignment on this topic. Before we move on to <next topic>,
is there anything further we need to discuss on x? pause and then move on
2. There have been obstacles. Wouldn’t you agree that we have made some progress?
3. Betsy thinks this idea won’t fly. What do the rest of you think?
4. Mike, you’re absolutely right. Is it ok if we hold that topic for after lunch?
5. We will go into any level of detail on that topic when we get to Q&A. Is that ok?
6. Let’s pause for a moment here and acknowledge the time. We have 30 minutes left
and three more topics. (Look at the decision maker or a person you want to talk)
Should we stay on this topic or move on to <insert topic>?
7. Caution the group. The goal of this part of the meeting is to hear all the options,
and we are starting to grab onto a position. Let’s move off of this point for a moment
Neil and we can return after we feel we have grabbed all the options.
8. Carol is very passionate about this topic. Thank you for being so open and candid.
Let’s hear from a few others and then work on synthesizing some options to ponder.
How about you, Mike? What thoughts do you have?
9. We’ve just had two strong ideas emerge. Let’s pause and acknowledge the great
thing that just happened. This is a safe place to share different viewpoints and it is
encouraged. Does anyone see a third idea? Let’s grab another idea or two before we
dig into these.
10. Mike, thank you for sharing that. As I was listening, I couldn’t help worrying that people
in this room may feel bad about the project. Is it fair to say that you know everyone was
doing their best with the resources and knowledge available at that time, and that
there is no group to be blamed in this?
Great facilitation tools:
1. Use Your Eyes: Look at a person you want to talk to. Don’t look at the ramblers.
2. Use People’s Names: Call on the quiet people. Steer discussion with names. Help the
rambler(s) feel heard by using their names.
3. Match & Lead: Agree with a portion of what the negative person says before shifting
to a question or ask for other opinions
4. Give equal weight to positive and negative views. If people are only being positive,
others will be afraid to share concerns. If people are only being negative, the meeting
can turn into complaints, and everyone feeling defeated. Look for ways to keep the
5. Be open: Remind people that we value all ideas in the room and have a learning
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