I went to a professional networking event a couple of weeks ago. While everyone was mingling and snacks were being served, I joined a table that ended up with four other people at it. Two of them had been working privately (as consultants) for many years, one was a university student, and the other woman worked full-time. I had worked for a couple of years as a consultant but not being an enterpreneurial type, prefer a salaried position.
Shortly after introducing ourselves, the two who were working as consultants began to dominate the conversation and speak about their work in a way that sounded as though they were bragging of their success. For example, one individual talked about how much she could get for presenting at a conference, how much she was able to charge per hour, about a job she was doing where she was charging a lot of money for very easy work, etc. etc. She mentioned the tax advantages of being self-employed and at one point I commented, "when I did that work, I just took my accountant my stack of receipts and invoices, and let him sort it out." This just set her off afresh and she spent the next 10 minutes explaining why that was all wrong and why one should have a bookkeeper on a monthly basis and not an accountant, and so on. I was actually just commenting to be part of the conversation, as it was the first word I'd been able to get in edgewise in the 30 minutes I had been there, and certainly not asking for her advice although she clearly styled herself an expert.
The student and other non-consultant looked polite but disinterested, and eventually the male consultant said something to the effect of "I'm sorry, we've been dominating the conversation." His assessment was accurate, as they certainly had, but I was too shy to it knowledge this out right and instead said "oh, that's all right."
what I would have liked to been be able to do would be to redirect the conversation earlier on to be inclusive of the student that was there and of interest to everyone, and to try to create a sense of collegiality where we were all there to learn from each other. this certainly would have been different from the tone of the conversation where this woman was setting herself up as the all-time expert on consulting work in our field.
So: how could I have done so gracefully, and what would have been an acceptable way to use the male consultant's apology to bean dip the conversation in a more positive direction?