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Meetings are intimidating events for introverts. The need to respond to questions on the fly, and speak in front of a group, can rack up a whole host of anxieties.
Many incorrectly believe introverts to be shy. But like anyone else, introverts want to get across their point of view, too. Only, they want to process the information first, and think through an idea before giving it.

With introverts making up 50% of the population, anyone running a meeting should forget attempting to turn introverts in to extroverts. Instead, they should make it as comfortable as possible for introverts to offer their contribution.

So if you or any of your colleagues are introverts who struggle with workplace meetings, this article will help. Adopting a few of these ideas, and introducing some to your manager, will help you tackle meetings with more confidence, assertiveness, and authority. And naturally, meetings will become far more efficient Fed Up Of Inefficient Meetings? Send These 8 Rules To Your Boss Fed Up Of Inefficient Meetings? Send These 8 Rules To Your Boss If a meeting is well organised, there's no reason it can't enhance productivity, sense of purpose, and morale. Here are some rules to follow for effective meetings. Read More , too.

Get Hold of the Agenda

Many introverts suffer from this commonplace meeting problem. You are handed an agenda at the start of a meeting, and find something you desperately want to talk about. But you have no time to prepare.

Meeting Agendas

To solve this, brief agendas should be sent to all attendees at least a few hours ahead of the meeting. The same goes for any direct questions that will be asked. Extroverts may be fine not even glancing at these agendas. But introverts will find them invaluable. To make this as painless as possible, point your manager to these free meeting agenda templates for Word 15 Best Meeting Agenda Templates for Word 15 Best Meeting Agenda Templates for Word When it is time to plan a meeting, you should not have to waste time creating an agenda from scratch. Many meeting agenda templates for Microsoft Word can get you off to a great start. Read More . Or if your team uses Evernote, it’s very easy to set up a meeting agenda template How To Use Evernote To Manage Your Meetings How To Use Evernote To Manage Your Meetings Did you know that the latest tools and features in Evernote make it a very useful application for managing meetings? Read More over there, too.

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Meeting apps like Amazemeet help you design intelligent meetings around questions and people who really matter. These pre-meeting apps are just the thing introverts need to contribute positively before the meeting starts officially.

Because advanced preparation allows introverts to fully contribute when the time comes, sharing meeting agendas is in everyone’s best interest. To get the most out of this, be sure to write down your thoughts prior to the meeting so you can refer to them when the relevant topic crops up.

Commit to Speaking

If you have something you want to say in a meeting, say it at the first opportunity. Ideally, this will be in the first 5–10 minutes, when energy levels are usually pretty low.

Meeting

Getting your ideas heard early on is far easier than trying to squeeze in your two cents later when conversations are likely to be more animated, with extroverts taking the lead.

If you can’t get across your ideas in the first few minutes, commit to at least getting them across before the end of the meeting. You should see this as a challenge, and develop a micro-habit How to Use Micro Habits and Spark Massive Personal Change How to Use Micro Habits and Spark Massive Personal Change Creating new habits is hard. Habits are usually built over weeks or months of repetition, and motivation is the challenge. When the going gets tough, micro-habits can be a huge help. Read More that ensures you are an active contributor to each meeting you attend.

Share Ideas Anonymously

If there’s something you want to contribute to a meeting that may ruffle some feathers, or you simply don’t want to risk confrontation, try contributing anonymously.

Attentiv

Attentiv (free for teams of up to 10) is one solution that makes this possible, where anonymous discussions (see above) can be started to help companies make important decisions. This allows team members to express what they really feel without fear of backlash. This could be especially valuable to gather thoughts from introverts.

Alternatively, you could send ideas (and suggestions for improving meetings) through a free anonymous email sending service like AnonymousEmail.me.

Be a Facilitator

A meeting facilitator is essentially the person who guides the discussion. This is usually an impartial role, with the main aim being to keep discussion on track, and to help everyone come to mutual decisions where possible. There are plenty of resources and methods you can use to help with facilitation. These include mind-mapping tools 8 Free Mind Map Tools & How to Best Use Them 8 Free Mind Map Tools & How to Best Use Them For an office worker, a mind map can be a solo brainstorming tool or a collaborative idea collection. In the right hands, a simple mind map can help make better decisions. Read More  such as Coggle, and decision making apps Indecisive? Make The Right Choices With These Apps Indecisive? Make The Right Choices With These Apps Have you heard of the paradox of choice? If you're like me and suffer from analysis paralysis, these apps will change your life. Read More like ChoiceMap (iOS), or Decision Buddy (Android).

With the introvert’s skill of being able to see the bigger picture, and to grasp the nuances of complex topics, this is a great position to claim. And knowing what it’s like to be uncomfortable in meetings, there’s no better person to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, than an introvert.

If you have the confidence, you can assume responsibility for this within a meeting. Otherwise, mention to your manager that you would like to be a facilitator for the next couple of meetings. This will allow you to contribute without being put on the spot. It can often help if the facilitator also organizes meetings and agendas so they can structure the meeting in the best way possible.

Address the Elephant in the Room

Introverts are generally clear, strategic thinkers who can see the important questions and issues that need to be resolved before moving forward.

Meeting Room

Therefore, it sometimes takes an introvert to grasp the mantle and ask the important questions, or address the elephant in the room. This doesn’t mean you have to give a monologue on an issue. It could mean simply steering the conversation in the right direction with a well-aimed question.

I think we really need to talk about the changes in compensation. What’s actually happening with that?

A statement like the above can quickly change the topic from an unproductive one, to a productive one, with the question passing the responsibility to speak to someone else. If there are a bunch of questions that you want to ask, writing these as a list How to Format and Manage Lists in Microsoft Word How to Format and Manage Lists in Microsoft Word No matter how many bulleted or numbered lists you have created with Microsoft Word in your life so far, I bet you will learn something new from this guide! Or did we miss something? Read More before the meeting will remind you of these, and help you to word the question tactfully.

This technique allows you to make an impression, and be assertive, without needing to be the main speaker in the room.

Ask for Time

Often in a meeting you’ll find yourself in the spotlight, feeling pressured to come up with an answer there and then. Sometimes this leads to a verbal mess tumbling out of your mouth, or you’ll beat yourself up for not getting across your response as clearly as you wanted.

Clock

In these situations, the answer is simple. Ask for time to think. You could either address the group later in the meeting, or send an email to the relevant people later on. Simply say something like:

I’m not sure what the best option is right now, but I’ll get some ideas to you in the next few hours.

This will almost always buy you time to properly process the relevant information and offer a quality response.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you find yourself getting in a tizzy about speaking in front of a group, one option is to practice. First, think about what it is that puts you off contributing in front of a crowd.

public-speaking-stage-fright-644x250

Maybe you’re self-conscious about speaking before knowing what you’re going to say. Maybe you feel like you don’t have anything of value to contribute. Maybe you struggle to squeeze into a group conversation mid-flow.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to eradicate these struggles, but practicing is your best option. This could be in private, but that could be a little awkward. Instead, learn how to overcome your public speaking demons Slay These 8 Public Speaking Demons to Conquer Your Fear Slay These 8 Public Speaking Demons to Conquer Your Fear It's often said that people fear public speaking more than death. But it's something that many have to do regularly. Here are eight public speaking demons and how to kill them. Read More , and then force yourself to regularly have conversations with more than one person. Practice jumping in when you get the urge to say something. Experiment with pacing (study TED talks Become a Better Public Speaker by Imitating These TED Talks Become a Better Public Speaker by Imitating These TED Talks Imitation can be the best form of learning if the source is right. If you want to become a good presenter, the best TED Talks can show you the finer points of public speaking. Read More  like this one from Benjamin Zander, to help with this). Get comfortable being the center of attention.

Only by consistently pushing yourself out of your public speaking comfort-zone will you be able to expand that comfort zone How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone & Crush Your Fears How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone & Crush Your Fears Staying in the comfort zone feels safe, but for the sake of personal development we need to get out of our comfort zones. Can technology show us how to stretch outside our comfort zones? Read More . As that comfort-zone expands, you’ll start to feel less intimidated by prospect of addressing a meeting room full of people.

What Else Works for You?

Not sure if you are an introvert? Maybe, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator test will help you find out.

These strategies should help you — as an introvert — be able to better prepare for meetings, and better handle them when they come around. Experiment with them, and see how well they work for you.

If you know any other introverts who could benefit from reading this article, please do share it with them.

And if you have any other suggestions that have made it easier for you to handle meetings at work, let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Workers At Meeting by Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock, business people working by Andrei Rahalski via Shutterstock, Woodleywonderworks, team meeting, via Flickr, Meeting by UBC Commons via Flickr, Clock by Dineshraj Goomany via Flickr, Rear view of businessman standing in lights of stage (edited), Shutterstock.

  1. Rob Nightingale
    July 13, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    "The issue some of them have is responding quickly with proper time to reflect on the issue" - I think this is what a good portion of the article was covering, no?

    Thanks for the input though!

  2. Darin Herle
    June 13, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Hi Rob,

    Great article - some very pragmatic advice here.

    Early in my career I struggled with making my voice heard in meetings - I'd have all these great ideas but could never find a gap in the conversation to pipe up! One of the tactics that worked well for me was to chat with my manager beforehand, and to let him know that I'd appreciate being called upon. This gave me an opportunity to speak AND made him feel great getting my input!

    While we were designing Trackmeet (www.gotrackmeet.com), we worked with a broad range of user types to figure out what they wanted in a meeting productivity tool. Our more amiable users wanted ways to interject and so we listened, which is what we should be doing for them in meetings. :)

    Keep up the great writing!

    Darin Herle
    Co-Founder
    Trackmeet

    • Rob Nightingale
      July 13, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Darin! And I'm glad you found a way to speak up in those meetings!

  3. unknown2070270179
    June 8, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    1) I do not readily accept there are so many Introverts. The link says the number was revised and that the first number was a guess. That is not correct. Meyers and Briggs based their numbers on a small sampling, and Keirsey estimated 1/3 introverts as well. Furthermore, Quenck's book shows an ignorance of the major writers on the subject.

    2) Introverts have no issue speaking in meetings. The issue some of them have is responding quickly with proper time to reflect on the issue. Uncomfortably with public speaking has nothing to do with introversion. Indeed, i would even think introverts are less likely, as meeting express ideas, which is something introverts excel at.

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