Let’s Meet Inclusively: 3 Tips for Hosting Inclusive Meetings

November 19, 2018

Inclusion is what happens when all of our differences are welcomed, supported, and celebrated. There are so many benefits that come with fostering an inclusive work environment. They include better decisions, higher employee engagement, relating to your clients, producing more innovative ideas, and making more money. 

But inclusion doesn’t just happen.

It takes mindfulness to make sure everyone’s voices are heard and taken seriously. One thing you can do as a leader is host and enforce inclusive meetings. [Note: This post was last updated October 2022]

An inclusive meeting encourages participation and debate from all parties and ultimately produces a stronger, more creative output. They allow everyone, regardless of their visible and invisible diversity, to join and be heard.

Here are three tips for hosting inclusive meetings: 

1. Consider personality types

Research indicates that in a six-person meeting, two people do more than 60 percent of the talking.

The extroverts on your team may jump up and shout their responses while others stay quiet. It’s a common misperception to think the quiet folks don’t have an opinion. They may just be…well, quiet. Or thinking.

Give everyone a chance to share their opinion after the meeting via email or a one-on-one conversation. Better yet, share an agenda with background materials before the meeting to allow everyone time to review, prepare and arrive ready to discuss.

Don’t leave your most important decisions to the loudest people. 

2. Consider logistics

If your meetings are regularly held at 6 p.m., you may be excluding some employees like parents or caregivers. If your meetings are always in person, you may be excluding teammates in a remote office. If your conference call system is spotty, you could be excluding those who are on the road or in other offices.

Instead, hold meetings during business hours and use video conferencing when available. If people aren’t speaking up on the phone, explicitly ask for their opinions and give them time to respond. Send a recap via email and ask for any additional feedback async – but be strategic!

3. Consider ground rules

Did you know that according to a study from George Washington University, men interrupted 33% more often when they spoke with women than when they spoke with other men?

Set ground rules before you kick off your meeting that no one gets talked over or ignored. You might also consider establishing a rule that everyone will be asked for their opinion to which they can respond in person or later via email.  

Inclusion starts with "I"

At the end of the day, it's up to each and everyone of us to foster more inclusive cultures. If you can pause the rush from meeting to meeting and really consider the personality types and logistics of those in attendance – and set appropriate ground rules, you'll be on your way to a more inclusive meeting.

But don't stop there! Here are some additional resources to take it further:

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Patty Rivas

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