By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.
Preferences
Meeting Tips

How to Make Your Meetings Inclusive

Published
April 19, 2024
Read time
5
Min Read
Last updated
April 24, 2024
Anika Jahin
How to Make Your Meetings Inclusive
Table of contents
Share article:

In today's diverse workplace environments, inclusivity isn't just a catchword—it's a fundamental aspect of effective team management and organizational success.

Inclusive meetings ensure that every participant feels valued, heard, and engaged regardless of background or communication style. This boosts morale and drives innovation by utilizing a wide range of perspectives and ideas.

So, let's explore how to make your meetings more inclusive, drawing on best practices to create a space where all voices are equally important.

Why Inclusion Matters in Meetings

Imagine a meeting brimming with ideas, where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts, and decisions are made considering a variety of viewpoints.

Here's why they matter:

Enhanced Creativity and Innovation

Diverse workforce + safe environment = more ideas. 

Inclusive meetings tap into collective intelligence, leading to more creative solutions and innovative approaches.

Improved Decision-Making

By considering differing perspectives, teams can identify potential blind spots and make more informed decisions. Inclusive meetings lead to solutions that are more comprehensive and effective.

Increased Employee Engagement

When a team member feels that he is valued and heard, he tends to be more engaged and committed to the team's success. Inclusive meetings create a feeling of belonging and psychological safety, where individuals can take risks and share their expertise.

Stronger Team Dynamics

Inclusive meetings break down hierarchies and level the playing field. This fosters collaboration, trust, and respect among team members, leading to more robust team dynamics.

Early Preparation (30 Mins)

The groundwork for an inclusive meeting starts well before anyone enters the virtual room or enters the door.

This pre-meeting prep time is useful for setting the stage for a productive discussion where everyone feels welcome and empowered to contribute.

(1) Craft a Clear and Inclusive Agenda (24 Hours in Advance)

  • State the Goal: Clearly outline the desired outcome of the meeting. What do you want participants to think, do, or decide by the end of the discussion?
  • Question-Based Agenda: Frame agenda items as questions instead of generic topics. This approach encourages preparation, keeps the discussion focused, and helps determine when each point has been adequately addressed.
  • Estimated Timing: Allocate a realistic timeframe for each agenda question. This ensures all voices are heard without sacrificing efficiency.
  • Welcome Feedback: Invite participants to comment on the agenda before the meeting. This fosters a sense of ownership and ensures the discussion aligns with everyone's needs.

(2) Be Selective with Invitations

  • Focus on Relevance: Only invite those whose presence directly contributes to the discussion. Large meetings can be intimidating and hinder participation. The agenda should help invitees determine if their attendance is essential.
  • Encourage Declining When Unnecessary: If someone doesn't feel they have something valuable to contribute based on the agenda, they should decline the invite (and potentially suggest someone more suitable).

(3) Prioritize Accessibility

  • Accommodation Requests: Include a statement in the meeting invitation inviting attendees to request accommodations to participate fully.
  • Meeting Materials in Advance: Distribute any materials beforehand, allowing participants additional time to process information and prepare their input.
  • Accessibility Resources: Familiarize yourself with best practices for making meetings accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. This could encompass physical accessibility for in-person meetings (wheelchair ramps, accessible restrooms) or virtual accessibility features (closed captions, screen reader compatibility).

(4) Set the Tone for Respectful Dialogue

Provide resources highlighting etiquette and appropriate language to encourage respectful and inclusive communication.

You could include a video link or an article link to a style guide (from any verified organization that everyone knows) that provides guidance on avoiding gendered language, cultural insensitivity, and other potential biases in communication.

(5) Consider Diversity and Power Dynamics

  • Representation Matters: Proactively assess the attendee list. Are there perspectives missing that could enrich the discussion? Are there individuals directly impacted by the topic who are not included?
  • Meeting Time Sensitivity: Schedule meetings during standard work hours to avoid inconveniencing caregivers and respecting cultural or religious holidays.

(6) Communicate Expectations Clearly

  • Shared Responsibility for Inclusion: Emphasize that creating an inclusive environment is a collective effort.
  • Professional Conduct: Establish clear standards for professional conduct and the use of gender-inclusive language.
  • Meeting Roles: Designate roles like note-taking and discussion facilitation in advance, allowing attendees time to prepare.
  • Virtual Meeting Engagement: Inform attendees about expectations regarding participation, including utilizing video and chat features effectively.

Right Before the Meeting (5 - 10 Mins)

(1) Facilitate Equitably

Appoint a neutral facilitator for each meeting who guides the discussion, ensures agenda adherence, and manages time. Rotate this responsibility to allow everyone to lead, which can help balance power dynamics within the team.

(2) Establish Ground Rules

Begin each meeting with a quick reminder of the ground rules. These guidelines may include refraining from interruptions, respecting speaking times, and encouraging equity in participation.

(3) Use Inclusive Language

Language has power. Use gender-neutral terms and be mindful of cultural sensitivities. This not only respects individual identities but also creates a welcoming environment.

(4) Use Equal Seating to Suggest Equal Value

To ensure a successful meeting, arrange seating for everyone to be seen and heard. Alternatively, the meeting can be conducted remotely to level the playing field and allow participation from anywhere.

During the Meeting (30 - 40 Mins)

(1) Empower Participation

  • Call on Quiet Voices: Proactively invite less dominant participants to share their thoughts. This ensures a diversity of perspectives and prevents a few individuals from dominating the conversation.
  • Remote Participant Inclusion: Regularly check in with remote attendees for virtual meetings to ensure they can follow the conversation and contribute their ideas.

(2) Interrupt Interruptions

  1. Don't hesitate to politely interrupt someone who talks over others.
  2. Lead by example and call out instances where someone is being inadvertently silenced.
  3. Use phrases like, "Hang on a sec, Jenna – I want to make sure I understand Jasmi's point before we add on to it."

(3) Acknowledge Contributions

When someone makes a valuable point, acknowledge their contribution and publicly attribute the idea to them. This reinforces positive participation and discourages idea hijacking.

(4) Utilize Active Listening Techniques

If a participant dominates the discussion, consider asking them to take notes. This shift in focus subtly encourages active listening and creates space for others to contribute.

(5) Written Participation

Allocate time for individual reflection. Allow participants to process the discussion question, jot down their thoughts, and share their ideas with the group. This strategy accommodates less vocal team members and ensures their voices are heard.

(6) Clear Action Items and Ownership

  • Solidify Next Steps: Before moving on from each agenda topic, pause to collectively agree on the next steps and establish clear, action-oriented commitments with specific deadlines.
  • Directly Responsible Individuals (DRI): Assign a "DRI" (Directly Responsible Individual) to each action item. Rotate the DRI role throughout the meeting to prevent the most vocal attendees from taking on all the responsibilities.

Post-meeting Actions (10 Mins)

(1) Disseminate Key Information (Within 24 Hours)

Distribute a clear and concise summary or meeting notes to all attendees as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours. This reinforces key decisions, next steps, and action items.

Consider utilizing AI notetaking assistants like Wudpecker during the sales meetings. It automatically transcribes meetings and generates summaries.

Wudpecker automates notetaking but also gives you access to the full audio recording and transcription for any fact-checking. It reduces the chance of information loss.

(2) Action Item Check-In

Reach out to attendees individually to check in on their assigned tasks. Offer support and clarify any questions or concerns they may have regarding their action items.

(3) Gather Feedback

Solicit feedback from attendees on their experience in the meeting. This could be through a brief survey, email request, or anonymous feedback form. Ask for suggestions on improving future meetings and ensuring an inclusive environment for all.

(4) Personal Reflection

Take time to reflect on the meeting from your perspective as the facilitator.

Consider the following questions:

  • What aspects of the meeting went well?
  • What areas could be improved for next time?
  • What facilitation techniques could you practice or model more effectively?
  • Are there any additional resources you need to learn more about to enhance future meetings?

(5) Meeting Wrap-Up

  • Recap and Clarification: Before ending the meeting, spend a few minutes recapping key points and decisions. Ensure everyone is on the same page regarding next steps and action items (DRIs).
  • Acknowledge Contributions: Express gratitude to all attendees for their contributions and highlight the value created by the meeting. For example, you could say, "The decisions we made today will set us up to move much faster throughout the rest of the project."

Conclusion

Creating inclusive meetings is an ongoing effort that requires commitment, awareness, and deliberate action from everyone involved, especially leaders.

By implementing these strategies, you can ensure that your meetings not only achieve their objectives but also contribute to a more inclusive, engaging, and productive workplace culture.

Embrace these practices not just because they enhance business outcomes, but because fostering an inclusive environment is the right thing to do.

FAQs

How Do You Ensure Meetings Are Inclusive?

Sure, here's a shorter version of the inclusion tips for meetings:

Before:

  • Clear, inclusive agenda (24 hrs in advance)
  • Targeted invitations, consider accessibility
  • Set the tone for respectful dialogue

During:

  • Encourage participation from all (quiet voices too!)
  • Acknowledge contributions, interrupt interrupted conversations
  • Use active listening techniques (written participation)
  • Clear next steps with ownership (DRIs)

After:

  • Share meeting summary within 24 hours
  • Check-in on action items (DRIs)
  • Gather feedback and reflect on how to improve

What Is an Example of an Inclusive Meeting?

Imagine a meeting about a new marketing campaign.

Here's how it could be inclusive:

Before the Meeting:

  • The agenda is clear and phrased as questions, like "What target audience should we focus on?" This invites everyone to come prepared with ideas.
  • The invitation is limited to those directly involved, but it mentions anyone can suggest someone else who might offer a valuable perspective.
  • Remote participants are given a heads-up about any tools or software needed and the agenda is sent beforehand.

During the Meeting:

  • The facilitator welcomes everyone and encourages participation, calling on quieter team members for their input.
  • The facilitator ensures everyone has a chance to speak and acknowledges contributions by attributing ideas to the speaker.
  • If someone dominates the conversation, the facilitator politely redirects the focus, like "Thanks for that point, Sarah. Let's hear what Anika has to say too."
  • For complex topics, the facilitator allows time for written reflection, letting everyone jot down thoughts before sharing them.

After the Meeting:

  • A clear summary with action items and assigned owners (DRIs) is sent to everyone within 24 hours.
  • The facilitator checks in with DRI's to see if they need any support.
  • An anonymous feedback form is circulated among employees to gather suggestions for future meetings.

This is just one example, but it highlights the key aspects of inclusive meetings: ensuring everyone feels welcome to participate, actively soliciting diverse perspectives, and valuing all contributions. 

How Do You Incorporate DEI Into Meetings?

Integrate DEI into more inclusive meetings by:

  • Pre-meeting: Ensure diverse perspectives are invited, plan the meeting structure for accessibility, and set inclusive ground rules.
  • During: Actively include meeting attendees, interrupt bias, and value all contributions. Use techniques that promote equity in participation.
  • After: Ensure the meeting facilitator gathers diverse criticism and reflects on improving DEI in future meetings.
Automatic quality online meeting notes
Try Wudpecker for free
Dashboard
How to Make Your Meetings Inclusive
Min Read
How to Make Your Meetings Inclusive
Min Read
How to Make Your Meetings Inclusive
Min Read
arrow
arrow

Read more