Getting a Word In When Senior Colleagues Present
Those brilliant, articulate, and outspoken colleagues present a massive challenge for those who present with them. It is amazingly tough to get a word in when they are on a roll. And they are always on a roll. The test is to find a way in.
Getting more experienced and outspoken colleagues to slow down or pause to let you in when they are advocating or presenting with you is unlikely to work. The enthusiasm with which they compel others to yield to their views is like a locomotive. Once they pick up speed, the brakes don’t do much. All in all, this would be a good thing. Except for the pesky matter of your inability to slip in a word. The presentation appears to be going well. Except for your lack of input.
The unevenness of your contribution is noticed most by you at first. Before long, however, everyone in attendance wants to know if you’re really just a potted plant. You need to find a way to get some floor time. But, how?
The best initial way in is to make it clear that you are in agreement with what is being said or presented. This starts with heads nods and emphatic single words, like “absolutely,” “that’s right,” and “yep.”
The next move is to state this agreement in a declarative statement. Even if the colleague doesn’t stop or pause to let you make this point, others will hear you and presume you are simply singing the chorus line. “The evidence to support that is strong.” “That will have a profound impact.” These statements won’t be viewed as anything but support.
Once you’re in, even in a supporting voice, you now have the ability to make a stronger statement or to ask a question. Talking over your colleague now seems less like an interruption. Offering an example, making a unique point, or offering color on a view already on the table is now required. Once this task is completed, start the process of agreement-to-viewpoint all over again.
Realizing after the presentation that you didn’t say much or add any value is an empty feeling, even when the presentation is well received. Finding a way to get in on a more outspoken or experienced colleague requires courage and a strategy. You owe it to everyone to find a way to get heard. Agreement is the path forward. The rest is up to you.