I just sat through a kickoff meeting with a consulting colleague and was uncomfortable with how much he talked in the session, probably about 80% of the time. This was certainly a place for us to demonstrate our expertise but how much is too much?
This is something against which consultants need to constantly guard. Because you are being asked to be the "expert" and provide advice to the client, one might assume that the bulk of conversation would flow from consultant to client. However, this would only be true if the consultant team already knew everything possible about the client's organization. This is rarely the case, especially in the beginning of the engagement. At this point (especially at this point), a consultant risks shutting off the desire or willingness of a client to open up with information and opinions if he or she does all the talking.
Take the "talker test." If your answer to any of these four questions is yes then you may need to consciously work on moderating your domination of client conversations. First, do you feel you have to explain your point in complete detail because each element is important for the client to understand every nuance? Second, do your explanations or comments usually last more than 45-60 seconds? Third, does at least one of the people listening to you talk show signs of distraction or not listening? Finally, do others seem to have a hard time breaking in to the conversation (assuming you even notice this)? These are all indicators that you are monopolizing the conversation.Tip:
If it is OK with your client, record an intake or project update session and count how much time you take versus your client or staff. If you are talking for more than 30 seconds at a time or more than 25% overall, then you need to look for ways of listening more and talking less.© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA