How to empower introverts to contribute in meetings

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
August 31, 2022
An illustration of a video conference call
How to empower introverts to contribute in meetings
Written by 
Bryan Kitch
August 31, 2022

It’s awkward when no one speaks up in a meeting. Open-ended questions are answered with silent pauses, and lapses in discussion take up unnecessary time, making meetings drag on. 

These meetings are unproductive and cost businesses as much as $283 billion dollars a year.

On the other hand, meetings where everyone is encouraged to participate provide you with a diverse array of perspectives. Giving everyone a chance to speak also helps to boost employee morale. 

Make your meetings more productive by fostering an environment that encourages collaboration and inspires even the most introverted team members to speak up. You can do this by leveraging different strategies and platforms to empower your team and implementing a tool to streamline the process.

An illustration showing collaboration in a digital whiteboard

1. Collaborate on the meeting agenda

Employees need to be invested in the meeting and feel like their contributions are important if you want them to speak up and contribute to discussions. 

Only 30% of employees “strongly agree“ that their opinions carry weight at work. This means that a majority of your workforce likely doesn’t speak up because they don’t believe that management cares about what they have to say. Address this before the meeting even starts by collaborating on the agenda ahead of the scheduled meeting.

Start by building a meeting agenda that outlines the type of meeting it will be and the core topics you’ll be presenting and discussing. Then share the agenda with everyone who will attend the meeting and ask for feedback. An agenda provides clear expectations for what you’ll discuss so that all attendees can prepare. Gathering feedback shows your team you care about their opinions and provides an opportunity for them to help shape the meeting by suggesting topics for discussion. Your employees will be more likely to participate in the group discussion if they see their priorities are getting attention from the team in the meeting.

Empower introverts to contribute by using a virtual medium like the problem prioritization template. This tool helps meeting facilitators pull from the employee experience of the meeting attendees to identify and prioritize problems. The template does this by providing a framework for discovering and categorizing problems so teams can identify which issue is the highest priority.

2. Check in as the meeting starts

Big or small, emotions impact how people work. If one member of your team is having a bad day, that emotion can spread to the rest of the team and make meetings miserable. On the other hand, ensuring everyone on the team is in a good mood and is focused on the task at hand sets you up for success by encouraging participation and teamwork. The best way to foster a collaborative environment is by conducting regular check-ins at the start of each meeting.

Check-ins provide an opportunity for everyone in the meeting to express how they’re feeling, clear their mind of distractions, and focus their attention on the present. The most common and easiest type to conduct is to simply ask your team, “How are you feeling?” Unfortunately, this barely scratches the surface of creating a safe space for employees to take risks with their ideas. Instead, you should look for check-in formats that are fun and engaging for your team.

Facilitate engaging check-ins with a tool like Mural, which provides a robust template library with check-ins your team will actually enjoy.

3. Use ice breakers

Sure, icebreakers can be awkward—but they’re effective. They help team members feel more comfortable by providing everyone an opportunity to speak without the pressure of needing to provide a valuable contribution. Ice breakers set the tone for the rest of the meeting and give team members a clear idea of what to expect. They provide everyone with an opportunity to see how each member of the team communicates in a group setting.

For example, you might ask everyone in the group to answer a simple question like “What is your favorite ice cream flavor?” This kind of basic icebreaker encourages everyone in the meeting to learn a bit about each other. It also provides an easy way to get over the initial hurdle of speaking in front of the group for the first time.

To get the most out of your team, you need to go beyond basic ice breakers. Engage your team with warm-ups and energizers that make the team feel at ease and invigorate them for enhanced collaboration. For example, sketch your neighbor is an ice breaker that invites all attendees to overcome any fears of artistic failure to sketch a rendering of their meeting neighbor. This allows everyone in the meeting to be vulnerable by displaying their artwork and helps to foster a sense of community among your team.

4. Make introductions

It’s scary for employees to speak up in meetings, especially if they don’t know everyone in the meeting. 

Help employees overcome this hurdle by making it a standard practice to make sure everyone knows each other at the start of the meeting.

Make introductions at the outset of the meeting and be sure to include not only each attendee’s name but also their role within the organization. If anyone else will be presenting, it’s a good idea to highlight their qualifications as well as what they’ll be talking about and why so that attendees know what to expect.

In some meetings, introductions may not always be necessary. For example, regular team meetings with employees who work closely together will likely not need introductions at every meeting. However, if a new employee joins the team, then you will want to do introductions for a short period of time until the new team member has become acquainted with everyone and feels comfortable on the team. Determine whether introductions are necessary by evaluating how closely the attendees work together, how new to the organization they are, and how likely the attendees are to know each other.

5. Allow attendees to participate with anonymity

According to Forbes, employees are more likely to give feedback if they’re allowed to remain anonymous. Anonymity allows employees to contribute opinions honestly without fear of how their statements will be received or of repercussions if they have negative feedback.

One option for garnering employee feedback is to implement an online suggestion box and allow employees to submit responses anonymously. You can also implement Mural and leverage Private Mode, which restricts attendee visibility to see only their screen. This provides privacy for everyone in the meeting, allowing individuals to focus on their own processes and opinions without worrying about how the rest of the team will perceive them.

6. Ask everyone for input

At the end of the meeting, the best way to ensure everyone has had a chance to speak is to simply ask every individual for their input. Make it a general practice to reserve time at the end of the meeting for everyone to talk — and build trust with your team by fostering an environment of psychological safety. Be sure to ask everyone if there is anything else they’d like to discuss before you officially wrap up the meeting.

Getting input ensures everyone is on the same page and is happy with the plan for taking next steps. This is particularly important when discussing the next steps for implementing a new process or beginning a new project.

Mural helps you to do this through the team charter template, which acts as a framework for implementing a plan and guides how your team can work best collaboratively. It involves every member of the team by asking meeting attendees to list their strengths. It also helps teams determine roles for individual team members and identify metrics for success, so everyone stays on the same page.

Related: Learn how to create effective team charters in our guide.

Improve team collaboration with engaging meetings

There will always be introverted team members that would rather remain muted and observe what everyone else has to say in the meeting. 

Unfortunately, this means the contributions of these introverted employees often get overlooked. 

As a leader and facilitator, it’s your job to empower introverts to contribute by creating a safe space for every member of the team to take risks.

Mural helps you engage your team in meetings by providing templates to facilitate collaboration through collaborative planning, ice breakers, check-ins, and more. If you’re looking for ways to reinvigorate your teams, try Mural's templates for free.

About the authors

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.