Guide to inclusive meetings
During National Inclusion Week we are all being encouraged to think about what we can do to be more inclusive, but what does that actually mean in practice and where do we start?
This made me think about meetings and the amount of time we spend in them. For me, the key to ensuring that we hear all voices in the room comes from intentionally making an effort to be inclusive in our language and behaviour.
In the current climate we are all having more virtual meetings; whether that’s chairing a team meeting, attending a project update or facilitating a workshop. So how do we give everyone the opportunity to perform at their very best?
Here’s some of my tips which I hope you find useful and will help you drive inclusivity and make a difference to the people you work with.
Preparation is key
- Review who needs to attend
Take some time to think about the purpose of the meeting and what you want to achieve at the end of it. Are the right people invited? Are you missing people who might have different points of view? Think about what you know about your team members or colleagues and what they bring. At Enginuity we have all completed our ChangeMaker profiles, so we know how we contribute to change and where our strengths lie. We might need the people who can come up with lots of ideas to attend one meeting, but someone whose strength lies in delivery and results to come to another. Don’t invite too many people, the more people present, the harder it can be for everyone to contribute.
- Think about what time you need
Ensure there is enough time to hear from everyone. Often the quieter people will wait until the end to share their views and if you’ve run out of time, they might not get the opportunity and you might miss an amazing idea!
- Think about when to run the meeting
Be respectful of others’ time and the things that might be going on in their lives. If you host a meeting from 12-2pm what message does this send? Could you build in time for a lunch break or move the meeting to a different time? Stick to your planned finish time too, if the meeting is due to finish at 5pm and runs over, this could impact people who have other responsibilities in their life.
- Set a clear agenda
Send an agenda to all attendees at least a day in advance.This helps everyone be clear on expectations and outcomes but more so for introverts who may benefit from the additional time to read and review materials ahead of time and reflect on the points they want to raise.
- Plan your icebreakers
If you plan to use an ice-breaker, plan this carefully and consider what you are asking people to share. Use open-ended questions that aren’t limited to certain family arrangements, holidays or traditions. “What was the best thing you did during your
time off?” is more inclusive than “how was your holiday?”
Getting off to a good start
- Seating or cameras
In a face to face meeting, ask that people spread out evenly so everyone can be seen and heard. In a remote meeting, encourage people to use their camera as this encourages connection between the group and makes it easier to read non-verbal cues about how people are feeling.
- A warm welcome
Greet everyone by name when they arrive. If needed, ask people to introduce themselves.
- Set some ground rules
Setting clear ground rules at the start of the meeting, and sticking to them, can help everyone. This could include a no interrupting rule or the use of the ‘raise hand’ feature for virtual meetings. Include the group in setting these ground rules and be clear how you want people to contribute.
- Who will take the notes?
If someone will be taking notes, think about who does this, or whether it can be rotated? Note-taking is often delegated to women due to our unconscious bias so be mindful of this.
Facilitating the Meeting
- Encourage all to contribute
Often some people get more ‘airtime’ than others, and it’s up to you as the chair or facilitator to manage this. Keep an eye on who you haven’t heard from as you might need to ask directly for their input e.g. ‘What do you think, Rosie?’.
Now we are working more on virtual platforms such as Teams and Zoom, try using the chat boxes for people to share ideas or ask questions or features such as live polls or breakout rooms. This allows people different ways to contribute that suit individual styles.
- The power of the pause
If you ask a question and then pause for 20 or 30 seconds, this gives everyone the chance to think about their answer first. It might be ‘Let’s take a few seconds to think about 2 ways we could address this issue?” Ideas could then be shared either using the chat function or by going round each member individually. Again, ensuring everyone can share their ideas.
- Be aware of interruptions
If you notice someone is being interrupted, make sure this is called out so that everyone has their chance to contribute. If you have a dominant person, often it helps to give them a task to do e.g. to take notes or actions. If someone continues to interrupt, speak to them afterwards and challenge this behaviour. Often people are unaware of the impact they have on others.
- Clarify the next steps
Leave some time to review the agreed actions to make sure everyone understands the way forward. If actions have been allocated, recap on who will be doing what and make sure they haven’t all been given to the same person.
- Thank you
Thank people for their time and the contribution they have made. Give people the opportunity to contact you afterwards if they think of anything else so that natural reflectors still feel the opportunity is there to contribute.
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