How to make online meetings introvert-friendly?

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General population studies show a 50,7% chance that a person reading this article is an introvert. Event organizers already excel at taking demographic information (i.e., age, gender, job title, location) into consideration when preparing for conferences. However, our personality traits are still not a part of the equation. 

This made us wonder if events are inherently targeted toward extroverted people and ultimately what we can do to make events inclusive for everyone. 

Moving online was difficult for all of us

Let us say this first: moving into a virtual world was challenging for all of us. While extroverts are notorious for enjoying a lot of face-to-face communication, introverts rely on meaningful 1-on-1 interactions. Transitioning to the online world has brought difficulties for all individuals regardless of their personality type.

What challenges in virtual meetings do extroverts experience?

Most extroverts are team players. In usual real-life work experiences, they tend to collaborate with others and thrive when discussions or group activities are in action. Also, face-to-face communication is one of the key elements that makes extroverts want to interact more. 

Below are some of the main challenges that this personality type faces in virtual meetings:

  1. Virtual participants usually have their cameras off. It makes it challenging for extroverts to communicate this way because seeing facial expressions is really important to them. 
  2. Lack of engagement tools. Whiteboards aren’t the only solution (even though you should definitely use them!), so if you have a lot of extroverts in your team - consider trying out new gamification tools. Don’t forget to encourage extroverts to participate in ice-breakers and energizers - they will always take a chance to get to know new people.
  3. Virtual work is individualistic by its nature. That is why you need to expand the scope of your techniques while running a virtual meeting. Try to pair extroverts up and let them work together. 

What challenges in virtual meetings do introverts experience?

While introverts might find some of the challenges above very comforting, they have different needs. That is why we always have to offer additional communication options for introverts. 

Some of the challenges for introverts include:

  1. Big team meetings. Introverts might feel pressured if they have to speak up in front of a big audience. That is why organizing more 1-on-1 meetings with managers or colleagues might be a better solution to express their opinion. Introverts are amazing communicators when it comes to 1-on-1 discussions!
  2. The need to be present all the time. Whether it is chats, breakout rooms, or calls - a lot is happening during virtual meetings. After a long day of work, introverts feel zoomed-out and might resemble stress and anxiety symptoms. After all, this personality type might enjoy a session of meditation or a short break with music to relax.
  3. Lack of structure. Since introverts like to be prepared before any meeting, having a structure, pre-made links to different sessions, and all required information would definitely help them feel better. We will discuss more about that in just a few moments!

Can introverts and extroverts equally participate in discussions?

Short answer, yes! This is probably the main question each event organizer should ask if they want to make their events accessible to everyone

An important note here is remembering that we can’t use the same methods to engage people with different personalities. On average, extroverts tend to voice their insights relatively quickly during a group discussion, and introverts require time to think and process the information, frequently staying silent for the rest of the meeting. 

One way to enable equal participation in online meetings is through different tools, like collaboration applications by Google - Docs and whiteboards. Instead of urging people to voice their opinions in front of a group, you can ease the pressure by inviting participants to express their opinion and ideas on a virtual paper. 

This way, you don’t lose the spontaneity of extroverts as they can immediately put their thoughts down and give introverts enough time to process and write down their ideas on the whiteboard. 

Offer your online audience more flexibility

Not being flexible can deteriorate the quality of your online meetings. That is why providing as many communications options as possible is so important to include introverts in online activities. 

For example, one way of increasing engagement during remote meetings is introducing energizers and ice-breakers. While this technique can go a long way with extroverts, introverts might feel pressured and uncomfortable to participate. Here, the tip is to balance the communication targeted to the entire audience VS 1-on-1 discussions. 

Remember, you can increase participation through many channels: when extroverts socialize, introverts can play virtual trivia using survey or poll tools on your meeting platform. If some are using voice chat, moderators can also spark up a discussion in a text chat. 

There is no single perfect channel, so being flexible and combining different tools is the ultimate goal!

Prepare an agenda beforehand

As simple as it sounds, up to 63% of meetings in the corporate United States of America have no agendas. Even if there are some schedules or notes prior to the meetings, they are usually very vague and only available to moderators.

Now, you might wonder if an agenda could be the critical player in a successful meeting. 

Generally, agendas can highly contribute to the meeting’s success. The Association of American Medical Colleges claims that agendas increase the effectiveness of meetings, prevent confusion, and help participants prepare for the discussion better. 

Nevertheless, many teams report that they are working flawlessly without agendas. Before we analyze all the external factors, there is a high chance that most participants in their meetings are extroverts. 

Since extroverts tend to kick off a discussion quickly, they also come up with many additional ideas during the semi-structured meetings where there is a lot of freedom to discuss new topics. 

However, in mixed teams (which is often the case), introverts might feel left out during a meeting without an agenda. Having no agenda prior to a meeting leaves introverts with no space to prepare. While extroverts might not use the preparation time that much, introverts will have much more to say when a meeting comes if they spend half an hour thinking about their responses. 

Set up the boundaries together with your audience

To help introverts make the most out of the online meeting, set rules with your participants. If you plan on making your event full of activities and engaging tasks, rules will eliminate a lot of possible confusion.

First of all, ask your audience to use the raise-a-hand function if they want to talk. If there is a lot of buzz during a discussion, it might easily get out of control. Introverts are less likely to interrupt the conversation, even if they have something meaningful to add. But they would wait until their time comes up with a raise-a-hand function!

A tip for moderators: if many people use this function, write down the names of people who activated it first and make a virtual queue for yourself. This way, you won’t accidentally forget anyone!

Also, we recommend you set boundaries on how a user should leave a meeting. Introverts tend to get really anxious if they have to take off before others. As an event organizer, you can start off a meeting by announcing that this is not a problem if anyone has to leave early. Just ask your participants to write a message in the chatbox.

After all, we all have our differences and similarities. Even if it seems that virtual events are more manageable for some people, it can be challenging for all of us! 

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Published on

Nov 8, 2021

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