When the stay at home orders started, I forwarded my father this meme:

A little dark humor that we both got a laugh out of since my dad is an introverted engineer from central casting. He’s married to an extreme extrovert and I seem to be trying to prove that the introversion/extroversion trait is genetic, as I scored an exact middle score when I took the Myers-Briggs type indicator. Sitting at this midpoint between my parents, left me with a fascination for the introversion-extroversion spectrum.

When I became a professional meeting designer and facilitator, I observed that most meetings are set up by default for extroverts.

Now that we are having all of our meetings through virtual video conferencing, like Zoom calls, this meeting design default setting is magnified.

Introverts may have spent their whole life preparing to stay home and avoid physical contact and may be in their element working from home (if they have the luxury of a quiet space to work). Then that beautiful new reality is punctured by the ping of a new meeting request with a link to a Zoom video call.

Video calls in which everyone is on camera and is expected to participate in the discussion are a chaotic nightmare. Honestly for all of us, not just the introverted amongst us.

Luckily, with a bit of planning and consideration, you can have a less painful meeting for everyone and get more accomplished (and not send the introverts into a panic).

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Have a clear agenda and send it in advance –
    • Many introverts find it intimidating or unpleasant to just jump into a conversation or answer a spontaneous question on the spot. They prefer to prepare their thoughts ahead of time or have the opportunity to think things over after the call and respond in more detail later. If a decision is going to be made during a call, make sure that the group knows that and has the chance to go over any data or necessary background information beforehand. If you want to brainstorm ideas during the call, consider sending out a prompt ahead of time so that those who want to can start their brains percolating on the topic. During the meeting, I also like to encourage everyone to use the chatbox to share ideas. Sometimes it is easier for one person to type an idea out in chat rather than sharing verbally on video. This also allows for more rapid communication as multiple people can be contributing at once and building off of each other.
  2. Balancing full group calls with pair or small group calls – 
    • Introverts are often misunderstood as not liking people or wanting to be alone all the time. Introvert does not equal hermit. Having a chance to process the ideas or problem-solving in pairs or trios (dyad/triad in facilitation jargon), is a great option for introverts. This has the added benefit of ensuring that you can get through more in less time. Bonus tip: mix up the dyads/triads so that people have a chance to interact with different people and so that no one gets stuck with someone they don’t enjoy for very long.
    • I recommend having a few questions or tasks that are assigned to dyads/triads at the beginning of the week and then have an all group check in once a week where each group can report out.
  3. Allow people to have uninterrupted blocks of time for project work – 
    • In general, we spend too much time in meetings. I love meetings and I still believe this. In general, introverts recharge their energy when they are alone whereas extroverts recharge their energy when they interact with people. So introverts, in particular, need to have some alone time in order to gather their thoughts, make progress on a project, and recharge their internal batteries. So either proactively block out periods of time during the week in which you won’t book meetings or contact colleagues, or just allow each person the space to do that for themselves and trust them to still be working even if you can’t see them logged in or responding to chat within the hour.
    • Related to this, in order to have uninterrupted blocks of time, limit (and help your colleagues limit) the total number of video calls that they have on a given day. Personally I find that 3 hours of video calls is my maximum.

For more information about introversion, I highly recommend Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet” or her site, Quiet Revolution.

For more ideas on meeting facilitation, check out my past posts on the topic here: Meeting Facilitation Archive