An inclusive meeting is when each person in your team feels like they have the chance and confidence to take part.
When you run an inclusive meeting, you’ll get more diverse opinions, which may lead to better outcomes.
Here are some ideas you can try out to make your meetings more inclusive.
Ask people what they need
When you send out your meeting invite, put a line in there like this:
“If you need any support to take part in this meeting, let me know.”
This gives people a chance to let you know if they need any adjustments or have specific needs.
Have an agenda and send it early
Write an agenda for all your meetings.
Don’t just list generic topics. Be descriptive about what you want to discuss and hope to achieve for each agenda item.
Send your agenda to your participants as early as you can. This shows respect and gives people time to reflect on what you want to discuss.
Keep the size small
Only invite people if they’re needed as per your agenda.
If a meeting has a lot of people in it, this makes it harder for everyone to contribute.
Some people may feel nervous speaking in front of large groups, but not in small groups.
Be realistic with time
Check you’ve scheduled enough time to get through all the things on your agenda.
If there’s not enough time, you won’t get the feedback you need from everyone in the meeting and make decisions.
Tell each person why they’re here
When you start your meeting, make each person feel welcome.
Go around the meeting and explain why you invited each person.
Lay some ground rules
Set some basic meetings rules at the start, such as:
- put your mobile phones away
- no speaking over other people
- stick to the agenda
- there are no silly ideas
Check everyone’s tech works
If there are people on the phone or videoconferencing in your meeting:
- check they can hear what everyone is saying
- check they can see what everyone is showing
- put any microphones in the middle of the room
- pass the phone around, if someone is on speakerphone
Call out behaviour against your team’s values
If you see any behaviours that break your ground rules, politely call these out.
For example, if you see someone talking over the top of someone else, reiterate your ground rules again.
If the person keeps doing it, have an informal chat with them after the meeting. They may not be aware of how their behaviour impacts others.
Don’t let one person dominate
A lot of teams have a mix of people with different communication styles.
If you’ve got someone who dominates a conversation, try asking them to take notes or scribe.
This will refocus their attention from talking to listening.
You can also use the concept of a ‘talking stick’, which you hand from person to person. Only the person with the ‘stick’ can speak.
Ask people what they think
If someone isn’t taking part in the meeting, you can:
- ask the group to write down a response to a question and each share their written answer with the group
- directly ask the person not taking part what they think, but be careful this doesn’t make them uncomfortable
Review decisions and actions
At the end of your meeting, repeat key points and decisions back to the group.
Check everyone has a shared understanding of what you went through with your agenda.
Review actions and next steps.
Thank everyone for taking part and adding value to the discussion.
Send out minutes or a summary
After the meeting, send out minutes or list of key decisions with:
- actions and who is assigned to do them
- request for anyone who wants to discuss any of the items to get in touch