Inclusivity in Virtual Meetings: How Everyone Can Feel Like They Belong

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Since work-from-home orders have been in place, many employees have to work virtually. Meetings are also now done online using video conferencing platforms.

Online meetings are not always comfortable for everyone. One problem that may arise is the lack of virtual inclusivity. Perhaps someone dominates a meeting and doesn’t give others the chance to speak. Technical problems and might also make someone feel outcast during an online meeting.

But inclusivity in online meetings is essential. When everyone in an online meeting feels like they belong, they can become more participative, more productive in their other tasks, and more confident in themselves.

Here are some strategies to make virtual meetings inclusive:

Limit the Number of Participants

The saying “the more, the merrier” doesn’t always apply to online meetings. When there are too many people, not everyone gets a chance to speak. This situation can make some participants feel alienated.

Thus, it’s best to keep the number of participants as small as possible, like 10 members or less. If a meeting involves more people, consider breaking into groups to make the meeting more manageable.

Assign a Facilitator

As mentioned earlier, it’s common for a few people to dominate a meeting. When this happens, other participants may not feel comfortable sharing ideas and become passive listeners during the meeting.

The best way to address this is by having a meeting facilitator. They will keep the conversation going and ensure that everyone gets a chance to talk. A facilitator will note those who have not spoken yet and actively ask them to share insights.

Keep Presentations Minimal

Data overload during a presentation is a common problem, more so in virtual meetings. Sometimes, a presentation may include too much information, so the meeting participants cannot follow or retain any information.

To avoid this problem, presenters must make their presentations concise. They will only present important information and avoid unnecessary anecdotes.

When using presentation slides, the presenter should include lots of white space to avoid blocks of text that can overwhelm others. If there are other details that members of the meeting must know but are not as urgent, a separate file can be sent via email instead. This “extended version” of the presentation can be sent before the meeting. This way, participants can peruse the file, be more familiar with the content, and follow the presentation more easily.

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Allow Enough Time for Someone to Respond

When someone asks a question, they must give others enough time to answer. One study found that some people who responded with some delay, even for a few seconds, were perceived as inattentive.

But that’s rarely the case. Someone may respond late because of internet or personal device problems. Thus, a person should be given more than a few seconds to respond. When a facilitator asks Participant A a question, the facilitator should give A ample time to answer before repeating the question or moving on to a different person.

Send Other Important Files After

Not everyone can keep up during an online meeting. Participants may get distracted, especially in a home environment, experience technical problems, or experience information overload. For instance, an accounting services team meeting might involve many numbers and figures, which can be overwhelming to process.

This issue can be addressed by sending important files after the meeting. These files may include presentations, minutes of the meeting, links to resources, and so on. One option is to submit all the files to the facilitator for collation, and then they’ll send the files to everyone else.

Virtual inclusivity benefits all parties involved. Thus, all participants, especially leaders, must take the necessary steps to keep their meetings as inclusive as possible.

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