Stop the Conversation Hogs at your Next Meeting by Using Brainwriting

checklistAt some meetings it seems like a minority of the participants do a majority of the talking. But urging the chatterboxes to shut up or coaxing the wallflowers to speak up is unlikely to solve the problem.

Leigh Thompson, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management and a team consultant offers three techniques to ensure broader participation by meeting attendees. One approach caught our attention–instead of brainstorming, try brainwriting. We’re partial to the description Debra Kaye put together over at the Build Network:

Step 1: Write just one sentence each. For the first five or 10 minutes of your next idea-generation meeting, every team member writes down one good idea or one proposed solution on, say, each of a small stack of index cards.

Step 2: Consider the idea, not the source. When the timer goes off, all cards are submitted anonymously and taped or thumbtacked to a wall for the whole team’s consideration.

Step 3: Put it to a blind vote. Team members signal their interest in an idea by marking it with a sticker or a Post-it note. Everyone gets a limited number of stickers and, if done right, the best ideas emerge quickly

What about you—what has been an effective tactic to ensure that everyone in a meeting is heard? Leave your answers in the comments


  • I like this idea and I think it would work well in our office. I have an agenda made up by the office manager before the meeting so we can all be on the same page. Because you can get off topic and not resolve the issues at hand and once we are done then we can talk about other issues that are going on in the office.

  • This is a great article as team meetings are always a challenge especially when you have a staff our size. Our office has over 50 people in it and getting a productive meeting can be difficult especially with those who do try and hog the floor. Thanks for the ideas. We are always looking for new ideas for building better teams.

  • Usually we ask the staff to come in with at one or two ideas and each person has a few minutes to speak on it and then we ask questions. No more than 10-15 minutes on each one. It works well, but if you have big staff I can see where it could be time consuming.

  • Well if you know you have staff members that like to hold the conversation then maybe as leader you need to grab the reins and make sure you follow the agenda you have made so nobody goes off the agenda. Keep it simple!

  • Every meeting needs an agenda unless it’s a last minute meeting, but there should be nobody being conversational hog.

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