How to Give Quiet Contributors a Voice in Loud Meetings


Jan 14, 2017     By Neya Abdi

Meetings elicit different responses from different people. For extroverts, it’s an opportunity to confidently share ideas with colleagues. Conversely, introverts face an uncomfortable environment where they’re forced to shoot out thoughts when they’d rather take a moment to reflect.

Introverts bring just as much to an organization as extroverts do. Without a doubt, extroverts play a vital role as the charmers, the relationship builders, and the lead generators. On the other hand, introverts provide the diligence, focus, and thoughtfulness that enable a company to run smoothly.

Of course, personality exists on a spectrum and people can exhibit extroverted and introverted traits. The key takeaway is that both personality types bring value to the table, but drawing out the unique perspective of introverts in group settings can be a challenging task indeed.

So how can leaders give their quietest employees a voice in loud, bustling meetings?

Distribute an Agenda Ahead of Your Planned Meeting

Meetings have received a bad rap as unproductive, but when organized properly they can be quite effective. And the first step towards a useful meeting is setting an agenda. The problem for introverts is that the agenda is often provided at the very start of the meeting.

Why exactly is this an issue? Introverts tend to be more introspective, thoughtful, and hesitant to share ideas that aren’t fully formed. While extroverts thrive from spur-of-the-moment brainstorming sessions and an opportunity to toss ideas around, introverts would rather reflect and come back with measured suggestions. Providing an outline of what will be discussed in advance gives employees with this personality type time to think about what they want to say and, if necessary, rehearse how they’ll actually say it.

Harness the Power of the Nominal Group Technique

It’s not that quiet people don’t speak up in meetings because they have nothing to say. Usually, it’s because they don’t get an opportunity to say it. Even without a meeting tyrant hogging the proverbial talking stick, quiet voices tend to get drowned out by multiple speakers. Stage time in the workplace is often granted to the people who can interrupt most effectively - something introverts are not usually willing to do. The nominal group technique is a way organizers can work around this and introduce some order to the discussion.

This technique allows meeting organizers to discuss a problem in a way that considers the opinions of all participants when arriving at a decision. One way to do this is by posing a problem or question and asking participants to write their thoughts down and pass it to the person running the meeting. That person can then work through the suggested ideas one by one, so that each idea can be discussed and each person’s thoughts considered.

Provide Periodic Reminders About The Point Of The Meeting

According to author and columnist Dave Barry, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’”.

Barry had a point. People love calling meetings, especially when they want to avoid taking action. Oftentimes, the people who dominate meetings tend to either repeat the same idea over and over again or wander off topic.

Once you’ve determined the exact reason you’ve gathered, make a point of repeating it every ten minutes or so (depending on the length of your meeting) to discourage people from discussing irrelevant topics.

Encourage Post-Meeting Communication

If one of your less outspoken employees has a brainwave after the fact or hesitates to share a business-generating insight during a meeting, you still want to know about it!

Encourage participants to email any thoughts they may have about what’s been discussed in the meeting. And to show them you are serious, repeat this in a follow-up email.

If something occurs to a team member on the way home that day, they may think it’s irrelevant since the meeting has ended or hesitate to waste their supervisor’s time. Opening this post-meeting channel of communication gives you a safety net to ensure great ideas from the quiet people on your payroll don’t slip away.

A meeting shouldn’t come between you and a brilliant idea from a quiet employee. Kutamo makes meetings matter by giving leaders the tools they need to organize group sessions, record outcomes, and distribute minutes. Take your company’s collaborations to the next level with Kutamo.



Meetings / Business