Lead meetings with these 3 effective verbal behaviors

Lead meeting with these three verbal behavior strategies.

Research in the field of behavior analysis suggests that the most effective leaders draw upon a range of verbal ‘behaviours’ depending on the context. There are basic behaviors that are useful in almost all business interactions. These are overlaid by other verbal behaviors for specific situations. Here we look at three verbal behaviors to lead meetings.

1. Summarizing

If you listen to commanding public speakers, you may notice that they tend to summarize what they’ve covered during their speech. You can help the entire meeting by summarizing key points at regular intervals. In studies on skillful behaviors across a range of work situations, summarizing regularly shows up as a helpful, yet still relatively underused behavior.

Why is it underused? Researchers say that people rarely use this strategy because to summarize accurately you have to be a good listener and pay attention to the contributions of others rather than your own agenda.

2. Bringing in

Another effective verbal strategy is called ‘bringing in’, which is when leaders actively seek a contribution from someone who has been out of the discussion for a while.

A smart chairperson will notice who is ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the discussion at a meeting.

If you’re managing a meeting, like the conductor of the beatboxing orchestra, you need to invite the different sections to participate. ‘Bringing in’ is one way you can distribute airtime evenly across the group and, like the beatboxer, ensure that each of the diverse contributions is heard.

3. Shutting out

The other side of the same coin is a strategy called ‘shutting out’. This stops more aggressive team members from dominating the discussion. As the chair of the meeting, you can use this method to interrupt the speaker politely and bring the conversation back on track.

If you’re not the chairperson, sometimes you will have to shut out another person just to be heard. If you’re reluctant to speak out in meetings, your attempts at using this strategy could backfire.


A basic formula for reclaiming meeting airtime is A + B + C = SO.

‘A’ is a non-verbal indication that you want to get into the discussion.  You can lean forward, indicate with your hand, nod with your head and/or make eye contact with the speaker or the chairperson in a way that communicates ‘I have something to say’.

‘B’ is a behavior label. Use a label to prepare the audience that you want their attention.

‘C’ is the category of behavior you use next, such as asking a question, suggesting an idea, or sharing information. Combining these three elements significantly increase your chances of ‘SO’; shutting out successfully.

Have you tried any of these verbal behavior strategies in a meeting? Share some of your best methods for commanding a room in the comments below.

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