Designing Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend
Updated: May. 8, 2019 | Categories: Meetings/Events
Are your meetings ones everyone wants to attend, both introverts and extroverts? Your first answer is “of course!”. And then you stop. Are you really doing everything you can to make members and guests comfortable with attending and engaging?
Researchers estimate that introverts make up 16 to 50 percent of the population. According to Psychology Today, introverts “enjoy spending time alone or in small groups of people but may get overwhelmed in new situations or in large groups...They prefer to focus on one task at a time and observe a situation before jumping in.” So, unless you know for certain that your members and guests are all extroverts, your events need to be as comfortable as they can be emotionally for both groups.
There’s a good chance the following happens to some of your members and guests at your meetings…
They sign in at the registration table, get a name badge, and walk through the door. Alone. And, they’re hit with a wave of nausea or a twinge of discomfort, when they realize they don’t know a single person. Or, maybe walking in doesn’t bother them. Maybe it’s your agenda. You’ve packed it full without breaks or chances for participants to regroup alone or interact with each other, other than when guests and new members stand and give their elevator pitches to a roomful of strangers.
Hopefully you’ve done some planning so guests and new members don’t walk in alone. Someone on your team already knows they’ll be there and is walking in with them or walking up to them as they walk through the door. Don’t stop there. Structure your event to increase the comfort level of your introverts and make everyone want to participate, both at the event and with your chapter.
Let them know there will be time to breathe
To be the most effective and engaging, introverts need quiet time and space to recharge. Schedule breaks and give them time to get up and walk out of the room, to stretch their legs and be alone with their thoughts for a few minutes. Share this at the beginning of the meeting, even if you’ve already shared it electronically. And, if you haven’t scheduled breaks, tell the participants it’s ok to get up whenever they need to.
Let them know it’s ok to talk…when they’re ready
Most likely, one goal of your meeting is information sharing, so it should be as easy as possible for attendees to share. Introverts do better in smaller groups, so consider intimate small conversations and activities that give them a chance to warm up. Your extroverts will appreciate this as well, as they’ll get more chances to get to know other attendees more intimately than they might have otherwise.
Consider assigning everyone to a group or to a task
When introverts are given a task, or assigned to a group, rather than left to find something to do on their own, there’s no pressure for them to make small talk. It’s up to them to talk and ask questions when, and if, they want to.
Don’t call it an ice breaker!
Ice breakers, though they can be fun, don’t always mirror the real world. You’re often asking people to answer weird questions – what’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten? – and give strangers what they could consider private information. When an exercise makes a participant uncomfortable, you’ve failed. And you risk any potential benefits, including losing the person as a member.
When you plan activities that gives members and guests a chance to get to know each other, keep these things in mind:
- Relevant: It should have a purpose that’s tied to the meeting goals. It could be as simple as putting different colored stickers or ribbons on name tags and asking all those with the same color to meet and discuss something related to the event.
- Relaxed: Introverts learn best in low stress situations and when they feel supported. Since introverts aren’t always ready to talk when they first get to an event, it can be better to hold an exercise later in a meeting.
- Reviewable: Be sure to ask participants, either at the event or in a survey, what they thought. Was the exercise useful? Would they do again? Did they see how it was tied to the goals of the event, which (hopefully) you shared with them?
Sometimes, unintentionally, chapters hold events without knowing who exactly will be there. It’s important to understand your audience before you begin planning. If you forget the needs of a certain segment, like introverts, you could lose them completely.