9 Tips for Running More Inclusive Meetings

9 Tips For More Inclusive Meetings

An inclusive workplace culture - one that welcomes, values, and supports people with all kinds of differences - is important for employers and employees alike. From an employer's perspective, one study by Deloitte found that feeling included in the workplace translates to a 17% increase in perceived team performance, a 20% increase in decision-making quality, and a 29% increase in collaboration.

From an employee's point of view, another Deloitte survey identified that inclusion is important to 80% of people when choosing an employer and 39% would leave their current organization for a more inclusive one.

Inclusive meetings are an important part of creating an inclusive workplace culture. They provide a safe space where every single person feels like they have the chance, confidence, and support to take part and contribute.

Here are nine steps you can take to make your meetings more inclusive.

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1. Create a safe environment

First things first, create a safe environment where attendees feel comfortable speaking out, sharing their ideas, and voicing their concerns. After all, nobody is going to want to contribute if there's fear of ridicule.

There are several steps you can take to create this environment, like practicing active listening, promoting respect (especially in times of disagreement), and asking for honest feedback. Make people feel welcome and safe, and employees are more likely to speak confidently and truthfully.

2. Set ground rules and expectations

A big part of creating a safe environment is setting ground rules - and sticking to them. Certain ground rules might seem obvious to you and therefore not worth setting, but other people might have different assumptions, so it's best to be as clear as possible about what's expected of everyone attending.

Ground rules for inclusive meetings revolve around things like interruptions, respectful disagreements, focus, and tardiness. For example, you might implement a hand-raising method in Zoom meetings, so that people can raise their hand to signify they'd like to speak next. This prevents interruptions, which can make many people feel uncomfortable.

You might also set some expectations regarding typing and being visibly distracted while others are speaking, as this can be off-putting and make the speaker feel as though their thoughts and ideas aren't valued.

3. Share a meeting agenda in advance

Inclusive meeting practices include what happens before the meeting too. Send out the meeting agenda in advance, ideally at least 24 hours before the meeting is due to start, and ask participants if they have any points they'd like to add.

Not only does this give everybody a say in what's to be discussed, it also gives everyone plenty of time to prepare for the meeting so that they're better able to contribute, rather than feeling on the spot.

4. Ensure every voice is heard

It's easy for the most extroverted meeting participants to dominate conversation. So an important tip for inclusive meetings is to actively and consciously give everyone the opportunity to contribute. You might ask if anyone has an opinion that hasn't been expressed yet, or you might directly ask anyone you haven't heard from yet if they have anything they'd like to share.

It's a fine line though, as you don't want to make anyone feel pressured to speak when they really don't want to. Certain personality types might prefer to comment via the chat function on virtual meetings instead, or share their thoughts once the meeting has ended. More on this later.

Read more: Top tips for a successful hybrid meeting

5. Use clear language

Using clear language is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's helpful for participants who are hard of hearing or whose native language is different to the one being spoken in the meeting.

Secondly, it's useful for junior members of the team or those unfamiliar with the subject matter. For this reason, you should avoid using acronyms and jargon without explaining what the terms mean.

6. Manage interruptions

You've set out your inclusive meeting ground rules, but there may still be instances where one participant interrupts another. When this happens, it's important to enforce the rules you've laid out.

If you notice someone jumping in while someone else is speaking, be prepared to jump in and politely ask them to wait until the other person has finished. If you notice the rule being disregarded repeatedly, take a moment to remind the group about behaving respectfully and giving everyone time to share their thoughts.

7. Encourage people to ask questions

Asking questions can feel really nerve-wracking, but this all comes back to creating a safe, judgment-free environment. Explain how people can ask questions, and actively encourage participants to ask for clarity on things they don't understand.

It's a good idea to allow people to ask questions anonymously, too, as for those who are new or very shy, this provides the safest possible space for them.

8. Provide different ways for people to contribute

As well as making it safe and comfortable for people to speak out in meetings, it's also important to offer alternative ways for people to contribute. After all, running inclusive meetings means respecting the fact that people have different communication styles and levels of confidence.

If you're running a remote meeting, invite attendees to share their ideas via the chat function. If the meeting is in-person, encourage people to anonymously add Post-its to a collaboration board.

As part of your collaborative meeting agenda, you could give people the opportunity to add thoughts or comments in advance. And you could also allow people to add comments to the meeting minutes once the meeting has ended and you've sent the notes around.

9. Send a follow up for clarity

Inclusive meetings don't end once everyone has left the room. After the meeting has finished, take the time to send around meeting minutes, action items, and a meeting transcript for everyone to refer back to.

This isn't just useful for those in attendance, but those who couldn't make the meeting too. That way, everyone knows the next steps and what needs to be actioned ahead of the next meeting.

As part of the follow up, you could also ask for feedback on how the meeting was run, to help you make meetings even more inclusive going forward.

Final thoughts

I hope these inclusive meeting tips and best practices have left you feeling empowered to make your meetings more inclusive. With some care and attention, you can foster a more inclusive environment - and likely better ideas, discussions, and outcomes too.

If you'd like to see how Transcribe can help with meeting transcripts and meeting minutes, download the Transcribe app or launch the online editor to get started.

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