Diversity and inclusion are hot topics today, and they play an important part in your meetings too.
Diversity isn’t about gender, age or race. In meetings, diversity is about tapping into the thoughts, experience and backgrounds of all your participants.
When it comes to inclusion in meetings, people should be able to express their opinions and ideas without fear or judgement, or the possibility of being ignored or unheard.
It’s hard to be honest when your opinion differs from those higher up in the pecking order. And what about those introverts who have great ideas, but are reluctant to speak? If they aren’t feeling included in a meeting, they might not even say anything.
Here are five tips for embracing diversity and inclusion in your meetings and workplace for real participant engagement, whether they are in a physical or virtual conference room.
1. Use Chatham House Rules
Not familiar with the term? By claiming Chatham House Rules at the beginning of your meeting, you allow people to speak as individuals, and to express views that may not be those of their boss or company.
It’s a system for running discussions and panels on contentious issues, named after the headquarters of the UK Royal Institute of International Affairs, where the rule was created in 1927.
It uses anonymity to encourage free discussion amongst all participants. We tend to feel more calm if we don’t have to think about our reputation or the consequences.
When you start your meeting, explain that Chatham House Rules apply and get everyone involved and relaxed.
2. Don’t put people on the spot.
Struggling to get participation from introverts and remote participants? Don’t put them on the spot (especially if you’ve ignored tip 1). It makes people uncomfortable and stops them from being honest. Instead, let them formulate their own ideas in their heads.
You can do this by having moments of silence, like Amazon does when they have team meetings. It’s a smart way to let everyone collect their thoughts, while also giving your remote and introvert participants the opportunity to decide if they will speak their mind or not.
3. Be more French.
The motto of the French? Translated is liberty, equality, and fraternity. Make everyone equal in your meetings, give them liberty to express their opinions, and you’ll create a great environment.
Whether your participants are millennials or baby-boomers, women or men, new comers or seasoned pros – they all have unique and valuable thoughts and experience to bring to the party. In short? Leave job titles, gender, employment time, and age bias at the door.
4. Stay tuned in to ‘Hepeating’.
Women around the world have been in meetings where they share an idea only to have it ignored. According to the Harvard Business Review in 2017, tt may be because studies have shown that women are deemed less competent if they speak up during meetings, or the fact that even when women only chime in a time or two, people “believe” they’ve spoken more.
For example, in a meeting a woman may chime in with an idea, only to be largely ignored. Several minutes later, a man repeats the same idea and everyone thinks it’s brilliant. What do you get? One disgruntled participant who has switched off because people weren’t listening.
‘Hepeating’ (or as we call it ‘G-peating’), also known to some as mansplaining, also applies to Millennials who have their ideas ignored and then repeated by a Gen X or Gen Z colleague.
5. Use helpful tools.
You may want to explore the latest meeting technology in your work to give people more of a voice during meetings. Voicera allows business owners to record meetings and parse conversations using AI. It lets employers preserve the meetings so they can see how employees contributed. Not only is it completely secure, it also gives everyone a chance to be heard, in their own voice.
GoWall is a meeting technology tool that is best described as “sticky notes meet social media.” It gives introverts and remote participants an equal voice (so no more ‘Hepeating’ or ‘G-peating’). Participants can like or comment different notes submitted by attendees over the course of the meetings. It helps people feel more included, as they can participate without having to attract attention to themselves.
Blue Jeans Network offers video and audio capabilities that let you feel as if you’re in the meeting room, even if you’re working remotely. Plus it offers one-click scheduling and user-friendly workflows, which means that even your less tech-savvy workers can find it easy to use.
If you follow these five tips, your meetings will be more inclusive, engaging, productive and rewarding. You’ll tap into the diversity of your participants and benefit from their unique thoughts, experience and backgrounds. It’ll shed insight into what works best so workers can get their job done more effectively. Stop wasting time in meetings and instead use them for what they’re supposed to be for, building your company and the people in it.