No one is exempt from the technical frustrations of virtual meetings, but they can seem like a special version of hell for people who are on the introversion spectrum. But if only the extroverts are heard, we risk losing valuable insights, perspectives, and curiosity from our more introverted colleagues. If you find yourself feeling introverted in meetings, or have a team member who does, here are some things to help improve participation in your next virtual meeting—
1. Prepare in advance
If the meeting invitation includes an agenda, make sure you familiarize yourself with it a day or two in advance. Draft some questions that fit in with the topics outlined in the agenda. Try to be specific and ask questions that will help advance your understanding of the discussion. Check out our suggestions for different types of questions, here
2. Designate a wing-person
Ask your team leader or your more extroverted colleague to hand the reins over to you after they speak or ask a question. They’ll already have the floor, and if they know in advance you wish to speak, they can set you up with an easy transition like, “I know Stacy has some thoughts or questions on that topic, too—Stacy?”
3. Be the first one to speak up
There’s often a lull or few moments of silence between “any questions?” and the questions. Get in there—don’t wait for others to start asking questions.While it may take more courage initially, it turns out to be easier to be the first to ask. Once people get over the awkward “who will speak up first” chasm of silence, questions can start rolling in at a quickening pace. It becomes harder for an introvert to get heard.
4. Use a digital tool to manage the chaos of questions—like Just Ask
At Softway, our all-hands meetings were full of information and news, but when it came time for Q&A, the room would fall silent. Only one or two people (often, the same one or two) would speak up. Many people would think of questions later, but the time to ask had passed.
Softway takes pride in being a diverse and inclusive group of people with great ideas. So, we created a tool to help everyone get heard in our all-hands meetings. Just Ask is a simple, easy-to-use digital platform that gives all participants a voice. You can even choose to submit questions anonymously, which can be a gift for more introverted people.
5. If questions aren’t your thing—contribute in other ways
If you struggle with formulating questions in the moment, you can still contribute. Are you the person who sees the gaps? Call those out. Or, are you good at getting to the point or summarizing? Believe it or not, that is a valuable contribution to meetings, especially virtual meetings where attention spans may be divided or even challenged by technical difficulties.
6. Be reflective—then follow up
Introverts often need time to absorb and fully process information before they are comfortable offering thoughts or opinions. If that sounds like you, just make sure you’re not forfeiting your opportunity to be heard and contribute your good ideas. Take notes, gather your ideas and questions, and then reach out to your manager or the meeting leader within a day. Just because the meeting has ended doesn’t mean you can’t still add value.