Effective meetings F2F and virtually

How to activate the introverts in meetings?

Think of a traditional meeting: 8 people are discussing of a topic, maybe drafting a plan, or producing ideas, of making a decision based on a discussion. Now, remembering that 4 of them (statistically) are introverts (who prefer to finalize their thoughts before saying them out loud), what will happen? Maybe 2–3 of the most extraverted (who actually formulate their thoughts out loud) dominate the discussion (and the outcome of the meeting) – regardless of the actual value of their input. Some of the group maybe didn’t say a word. It may even be so that the quiet ones start their own discussions after the meeting, challenging the decision made “together” just a moment ago – which naturally astonishes the more talkative members of the meeting which was just held. 

Sound Familiar? 

Photo: Tuomas Linna

A simple way to involve all 

What if you can hold the horses of the most extraverted a little, and help the more introverted to contribute?

Try the following on your next meeting (making plans, making decisions, or producing ideas):

  1. Give 5 minutes to everyone to write down their own thought and suggestions on the topic at hand (interrupt friendly but firmly all the arising discussions at this stage. This should be done in absolute silence – yes, the extraverted do have a tremendous urge to share their thoughts and discuss; just ask them to hold their horses just for a few minutes;)
  2. Next, give the group 15 minutes to pair up with their neighbour, and share their thoughts and ideas to their pair. Based on their discussion, ask the pairs to produce 4–5 common suggestions they both agree on. As the pairs to prepare one flipchart containing these 4–5 suggestions as a numbered list. 
  3. Then, bring all the flipcharts in the front of the room, and ask the pairs to give very short presentations (2 minutes for each flipchart). Really, just a couple of words of each suggestion – to give a general idea of the suggestions for the group. Here, it’s important NOT to allow general discussion of the features of the individual suggestions (pros/cons discussion of each suggestion – again, dominated by the extraverted – would take forever, and it is actually not adding value to the topic). Ask, however, the participants to make their own notes of the suggestions that participants find interesting personally.
  4. Next, ask the pairs that worked together before, have a short chat of which 5 suggestions (or, 25% of the total amount of the proposals) they would like to vote on. Here, it’s important to allow only ONE vote on each pair’s own flipchart, regardless how brilliant they all are . Ask the group to have this discussion having seated – not coming up to the flipcharts to have this chat, allowing all to see them. When the group has made their selections, ask them all at the same time to come up to the front of the room to mark their votes on the flipcharts with a different colour marker (for example, a red +).
  5. Now, as the votes have been made, the final stage of the process is arranging the suggestions in groups or categories: For example, take 4–5 empty flipcharts, and title them according to the most voted suggestions (or if your group can see other categories that the suggestions can be grouped into). Now, allow your group to make suggestions, which individual proposals would go under which titles. Copy these suggestions under these topics.

As an end result, you will now have a categorized groups of topics that form a basis for future actions on your original challenge. An hour is a suitable timeframe for all this.

Photo: Tuomas Linna

As a end result of this process, you have involved everyone in to a common decision making or planning. From personal ideation, you have proceed into formulating topics for actions. These actions are easy to find volunteers to proceed with, since the outcome is produced commonly – not just the 2–3 most extraverted.

A "light" version of the process

If you do not want to go through the all of the steps described above, you can try to do the most essential steps in 15 minutes. Now: Instead of asking a "round of comments" from your team on a topic (which will – again be dominated by the same 2–3 extraverts), do the following:

  1. Upon your suggestion, upcoming decision, a plan, ask your group to do the 5-minute own notes moments in silence.
  2. Then, ask your group to turn to their neighbor, and ask them to discuss their thoughts, and to formulate a common view with maybe 3–4 separate points.
  3. Now: Take a few rounds around the table, and allow the pairs to present their comments very briefly (no general discussion allowed just yet). Here, it may be a good idea to allow only one comment per pair at a time, and make several rounds around the table (we may not want to dry the well of ideas by the first few pairs). Make notes of the comments on your notes or on the flipchart.

Here you just got a multitude of comments and additions to the topic, and most importantly, from all. Not just the 2–3 who always dominate the discussion.

Please look at the OPERA process described above at this link. Download here and try an application allowing you to do the above in online environment.

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