By Lyn Turknett
Co-founder and Co-chair, TLG
This article is adapted from a prior LinkedIn post.
I’m an introvert, and I’ve found virtual meetings a bit harder for me – especially in times of free discussion. Most introverts have had this experience in face to face meetings: just when you’ve finally figured out the right comment, and gathered the courage to speak, the discussion has moved on. That experience seems exaggerated in virtual meetings.
I have also facilitated meetings for years, and, perhaps because of my own experience, I’ve figured out ways to get the quieter people into the conversation. Sticky notes are a godsend – if we’re doing a brainstorming exercise I always get participants to write ideas on sticky notes individually first. Meeting pre-work also helps – getting answers to a few questions beforehand and sharing the responses gets more voices into the discussion.
Tips for Virtual Meetings
In leading meetings during the pandemic, I’ve tried to replicate those techniques. I particularly like:
- Having individuals reflect individually for a few minutes, then doing a round robin discussion where everyone speaks.
- Using meeting technologies that allow virtual white boards and sticky notes for brainstorming.
- Using pre work prior to the meeting, often compiling results before the meeting.
- Giving a few minutes for individual reflection on specific questions before moving to the breakout – and then making it clear to the designated group leader or recorder that everyone responds.
For decades our organization has used a set of meeting rules borrowed from Xerox. The idea behind the guidelines is that while there is always a leader or facilitator, every participant has a role as a secondary facilitator. The rule that has helped the most is “Balance Your Own Participation.” We add:
- If you are quieter, say what needs to be said – take risk.
- If you tend to talk a lot, don’t dominate.
Better Communication in a Virtual World
I also remember a great tip from a pre-pandemic article on virtual meetings, How to Run a Great Virtual Meeting. It’s an idea that works well for any intact team meeting – virtual, in-person, or hybrid. Have each person bring an issue they are struggling with to the meeting. Each person has five minutes on the agenda, and after explaining the issue each person responds by saying, “I might suggest…”
Bottom line? Meeting leaders need to be intentional about seeking balanced participation and input from all. And research shows that not only makes participants happier, it also leads to better decisions!