Corporate Dopers: How do I get a word in edgewise at meetings?

In 1on1 conversations I can speak ok, but in meetings at work with multiple people it seems someone has something to say at all times and everyone hasa big ego and wants to run their mouth off. I of course only say things of great intelligence and profundity. How can I get a word in? How does this social game work? Help the poor souls who have something to say from being drowned out by the motormouths and jerkballs

“That’s a great idea! Have we also tried…”


Before the meeting, tell the person in charge that you want to say something when X comes up on the agenda.

During the meeting, if you have an idea, put your hand up.

After the meeting, tell the person in charge that you had this great idea when X came up, but there didn’t seem to be a way to make your contribution.

(And if you can’t communicate 1-on-1 with the guy in charge of the meeting, e.g., in person, by phone or by email, then just forget it: you’re so low down the hierarchy that they don’t want to hear from you.)

If this is true, then it won’t matter what you say. In my experience these types of people only want to hear their own bullshit. Not intelligent profundity.

Yeah, raise your hand like in school. Always works for me.

So in other words, I’m outta luck (and all dopers as well). Profundity is all I have.

Yes, as a matter of fact. Do you think what you have to say will change anything? Especially if they are truly big-ego motormouths and jerkballs.

Since this is IMHO and I have seen plenty of meetings where people get drowned out, I usually keep my opinions to myself and then talk one-on-one to the person I feel will make the most of what I have to say (usually my boss or the owner).

My opinion is that group meetings rarely accomplish anything, especially loosely moderated meetings. But that could be just me.

I’d take Giles suggestions, but it also depends on what type of meeting it is.
If you have data - as in actual procedures being used today or numbers of calls or cost of items - then focus on being the guy who provides that. You do that enough over time and you’ll start to be recognized for it.
If it’s one of those let’s just talk about stuff meetings than forget it cause nothing ever happens there except people hear themselves talk.

Stand up. Yell “THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!!!” and slam your fist on the table.

This usually works for me, but my current boss seems to have some strange kind of blindness. During one of our first team meetings, a coworker kept trying to speak, but the boss would cut him off (again) or ask a question of someone else (again) - eventually, the coworker started waving his hand up and down in front of the boss’s face.

Boss: “uh? uh, what? what’s this?”
Someone else, deadpan: “I have a deep suspicion K may have something to say, he’s only been trying for the last five minutes.”
Boss: “really?”
The whole team: “cross my heart.”

Perhaps because it’s “for someone else”, perhaps because it’s shorter, I’ve found it easier to interject “I think K has something to say” than to insert whatever it is I’m trying to say. So, if I see one of my coworkers trying to speak and starting a good simulation of a cod/semaphore hybrid, I say “I think K has something to say”. This reminds them to do the same for me.

And then there are extreme situations: yesterday we were in a meeting I was supposed to head, but he’s unable to let some of us do our own directing - at one point, I told him to “please let me speak” in the kind of tone which makes it clear “please” is just a filler (his boss chuckled, having had his own problems getting the man to shut up - nice guy but if listening ability was wings, he’d be a submarine).

Just start talking. If you keep talking, eventually everyone else will stop and listen to you. And if they didn’t hear what you said at the beginning, someone will likely ask you to start over or repeat what you said.

Over time, as people get used to you providing input in meetings, assuming your input has value, other people will stop and listen to what you say, more quickly.

Be more of a motormouth, and talk louder. Interrupt and yell if you have to. This is business, not a grade school tea party where you’re being graded on your manners. Your future salary may depend on whether management perceives that you have input to contribute to the team. Don’t let some jerkball take money out of your pocket.

Was this a serious suggestion? Doesn’t work so well if everyone in a meeting takes this approach.

We have a few people like that in my office (and despite the fact that I run at the keyboard, I tend not to run at the mouth). What I do is wait for a break, however, infinitessimal it may seem and, before the topic switches say, “Let me toss this out there,” or “If I may interrupt briefly,” then say what I need to, keeping it brief and to the point, then let people mull it over.

Usually interrupting someone is enough to make them shut up for a minute and listen. It’s mildly rude, but seems to be more acceptable if you acknowledge you’re doing it.

If you don’t want to do that, go the raised hand route. I’m not a huge fan of that myself because it makes me feel like I’m in first grade, but it’s not like you’d raise your hand over your head - if you just put it up with your elbow on the table, it looks less…scholastic.

It works even worse if everyone at the meeting takes that approach except the OP. If enough people interrupt and yell, management will bring order to the meeting and let everybody say their piece in turn, which is what the OP wants.

I’m totally stealing this.

Most of the meetings around here consist of people blowing smoke up each other’s asses. I have to attend, but getting a word in edgewise isn’t a issue for me. I try to avoid shaking my head or rolling my eyes too much.

Dammit! I was going to say that!

Should have raised my hand first. ::goes off muttering::

::dashes back into the thread with something to contribute::

Try body language – lean forward, fix your eyes on the person running his mouth, one hand half raised with the elbow on the table (hand half closed so as not to be too first-gradey). Your body is loudly stating that you have something to say the moment the speaker pauses.

Good thing to learn to do, since if you say nothing people will assume you have nothing to say.
Giles suggestion of getting an agenda item is fine for a presentation, but not for a comment about an existing agenda item. Many meetings I go to end with the chair going around the table and letting everyone speak about progress.
Who is running the meeting? If there is a strong chair, a hand up will work, and, if not, addressing your comment to the chair might make him or her get control back and recognize more people than just the usual talkers.
If the chair is not doing his or her job, you need to recognize the short gap when someone finishes a thought and push your way into the conversation when it occurs, possibly saying “can I get a shot?” to the other person who will try to talk also. Most people will be fair and let you go if you haven’t spoken yet.

BTW, I’ve never seen a correlation between quality of speech and volume. While some may present nonsense forcefully, when the quiet are given a chance to speak they sometimes don’t have much intelligent to say.