How to Run Inclusive Meetings (And Why It Matters)

Think about a recent meeting you attended, whether in person or through video. Whose voices were heard most frequently? Whose voices were missing?

It’s easy to assume that some people choose not to speak up simply because they don’t have anything to say. But that’s not always true.

In some cases, people feel uncomfortable speaking out in front of their peers, which is understandable. In other cases, though, people might not feel that their voices are welcome.

This is one area where the concept of inclusion gets real. In the meetings you attend, do people make a conscious effort to create space for everyone to speak up? Or, as often happens, are the meetings dominated by those who are used to holding the floor?

Here’s the thing: When some people sit quietly, everyone else misses out. They miss out on different perspectives, insights and ideas. It’s like entering a basketball tournament but only letting three players on the court. You’ll always be playing from behind.

With that in mind, here’s a great resource from the diversity, equity and inclusion team at the Brewers Association. This post suggests steps you can take to make meetings more inclusive, both ahead of time, during a meeting and afterward.

For example, before a meeting, establish some ground rules. Such rules can go beyond not interrupting. For example, you might encourage people who are remarking on a colleague’s idea to begin by reflecting on what they understood from there before offering their own input.

During a meeting, be vigilant about managing interruptions and noticing who is being interrupted. “Research suggests that women are much more likely to be interrupted, and comments from people of marginalized communities are much more likely to be disregarded than those of their white male counterparts,” the DEI team notes. And after a meeting, provide opportunities for reflection and collect feedback. The DEI team suggests asking the following questions:

  • What went well?
  • What could be better next time?
  • What could the meeting facilitator practice or model at the next meeting?
  • What does the meeting facilitator need to learn more about?

That’s just a sampling of the insights offered by the blog post. Be sure to check out the full post.

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