How to Lead Inclusive Meetings in a Virtual World

In the current remote-work reality, almost every one of us is trying to adapt to maintain a sense of normalcy. Like it or not, this giant global experiment is challenging business leaders around the world to keep their teams connected while also staying far apart. However, amidst all this, leaders need to ensure inclusion doesn’t take a backseat to execution.

I’ve pulled together three tips that will help you take a more inclusive approach to virtual meetings and make sure every voice has an equal chance to be heard.

  • Keep everyone informed about agendas and meeting objectives

It’s difficult to create a level playing field if only the senior-level employees or the most experienced people are equipped with background knowledge. Many team members are likely to go off on a tangent if they don’t know what the topic of the meeting would be in the first place.

A good tip is to envisage what success will look like at the end of the meeting, then work backwards. Think about the decisions that you want to have made, the topics that need to be discussed, and the information people need to have coming into the meeting. It’s best that you send out a short email or share bullet points ahead of time to give everyone a fair start.

  • Amplify voices to ensure equity

Power dynamics is quite discernible in virtual meetings; organisational hierarchy, individual personalities and their communication styles all may have a powerful influence on how people show up in meetings unless there are intentional efforts to make space for all voices to be heard.

Allowing your quieter employees to succumb to their louder counterparts can dent their confidence and overshadow their contributions. Make sure there are check and balances to rein in voices that dominate meetings. When someone gets cut-off while trying to say something, make way for them in the conversation. When someone gets interrupted, give the floor back to them. If someone hasn’t spoken yet, ask them what they think.

Don’t forget that this has to be done in an inclusive way. Since speaking up can be daunting for some people, communicate in a manner that they don’t feel called out. You may let an introvert individual know ahead of time that they will be asked to share their thoughts, so they can mentally prepare. Learn about your team members and make adjustments to maximise participation.

  • Encourage everyone to co-create

Introduce hands-on activities that encourage everyone to co-create. With only one person jotting down points or putting forward ideas, chances of integrating diverse perspectives become slim. You could share a set of editable Google Slides, so team members can provide their input. Similarly, instead of having one person take notes for the group, suggest everyone to take notes on a shared document.

In the same vein, it’s your responsibility as a host to prevent conformity bias from creeping in. Clearly state that alternate perspectives are valued. Create a space where all members feel comfortable sharing opposing standpoints.

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Author: Paul Keijzer

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