Recently, Forbes writer Emmy Lucas interviewed me about how to interrupt people on a video call. 

It’s a tricky subject. As a professional keynote speaker, in virtual meetings, I can often jump in with enthusiasm only to inadvertently shut down someone else.

How can I keep my enthusiasm in check and give space to others? 

And for those who dislike interrupting but operate in environments where that’s the only way to be heard, how do they do it effectively without ruining relationships?

It requires a nuanced understanding of the personalities on the call, the purpose of the call, and the strategy behind speaking up. 

Here are five strategies Emmy and I discussed — paired with recommendations from her interview with consultant and behavioral scientist Dr. Carey Yazeed — to make sure it doesn’t backfire.



1. Insert Yourself in the Beginning

Bring talking points and questions to the meeting, and jump in early on, when you are more likely to be heard. Emmy says, “The longer you sit and wait to speak up, the more likely it is you’ll refrain from speaking.”

2. Wait for a Pause

The best time to interrupt is right before the meeting’s leader moves on to the next topic. Wait for the speaker to take a breath or when they pause to ask if anyone has questions.

3. Use Emojis to “Raise Your Hand”

As I learned from personal experience, don’t forget to use the “raise hand” feature. You can also send a message in the chat or unmute your microphone. And if you notice someone’s hand raised but the facilitator has not, you can serve as an ally by bringing your attention to them.

4. Use a Filler Word

A well-placed filler word such as “so” or “actually” can be a strategic way to break into a conversation, as I share in my Harvard Business Review article, Stop Talking Over Each Other in Virtual Meetings.

I created a technique called “Compliment and Build” – wait for the speaker to take a breath, use a filler word, compliment what they’re saying, then say your piece. Try something like, “Actually Steve, that’s a great point and I’d like to build on that.” This way, you show respect for the person you’re interrupting.

5. Use a Facilitator

I always recommend that meetings with five or more people have a moderator or facilitator who can keep the conversation on track. If your meeting doesn’t have one, offering to serve as the moderator is a great way to gain more visibility.

“Whether you’re the silent type, an extrovert, an intern or an executive, there are passable ways to interrupt on Zoom.” Thank you, Emmy, for bringing attention to a delicate situation that we continue to face as virtual meetings and presentations will be with us for the foreseeable future. Rather than let them throw you off, learn to strategically adjust the conversation and keep relationships intact.