Tips for Introverts – Run a whiteboard meeting that includes everyone

So you’ve just heard that you got your new project funded, or there’s an issue looming on the horizon. Quick! Get everyone to the whiteboard!Run a whiteboard meeting that includes everyone including introverts

And while the whiteboard is a great way for capturing ideas from a group, using one doesn’t guarantee the best or most creative results from everyone there.
Whiteboard discussions are great for extraverts: people who get their energy from outside themselves. Extraverts can often think on their feet, and in fact, relish participating in a discussion because it can often help to clarify and stimulate their own thinking.

But what about introverts: people who need some quiet to go inside their own thought space? While they are trying to collect their thoughts there’s a risk that they won’t get a chance to voice their ideas over more vocal and/or extraverted group members. And if they do, the conversation may have already been hijacked and steered in a different direction.

Now I just want to make it clear, that introversion and extraversion relates to your preference for processing ideas and receiving stimulation. It is not a descriptor for how confidently or well one speaks, nor is it related to the quality or quantity of ideas that get generated. It also doesn’t mean that an introvert cannot think on their feet. It’s just not their preferred way of operating, so you mightn’t get them at their best. So how do you create a level playing field and make sure that everyone gets a chance to participate?

Three ways to make sure that introverts can work at their best when having a white board meeting:

  • Give as much notice as possible about what is going to be discussed at the meeting, e.g. an agenda with detailed questions or thought provokers
  • Give individuals their own thinking time during the meeting, e.g. ask everyone to write down their own responses or do an individual right brained activity with lego (LEGO© SERIOUS PLAY™) before sharing results with the group
  • Provide some space for further incubation. If the issue is not urgent, or you don’t need a definitive answer at the end of the meeting, invite people to email you with additional thoughts or post ideas on a communal bulletin board or virtual team space.

On the flip side, what if you’re the introvert? The simple answer is buy as much time as you can.

  • If you know there’s a big meeting coming up, then prepare for it as much as you can. Get a heads up about what’s going to be on the agenda and specifically what type of questions they want answered. Then let yourself think through your responses.
  • If you find yourself in a meeting and would just like a minute to think it through, then why not ask the chair if everyone can just have a minute or two to think things through before launching into the discussion. It might take a little courage, but there’s probably someone else sitting there thinking the exact same thing.
  • If you still didn’t get a chance to say what you wanted to say, then speak to the chair after the meeting and voice it then. You could also capture it in an email and send it to the organiser and relevant people. Or better yet be proactive and set up a virtual or physical discussion board where people are free to post up their ideas and pose their own work questions for others to answer while they’re mulling over their morning coffee. You might just find that you trigger a more richer and productive discussion.

So in the end, by using any one of these strategies you’ll get the most out of everyone around your whiteboard discussion, a wider set of perspectives, and hopefully a richer and more creative exchange of ideas.

So how have you encouraged introverts in your group to participate? Or if you’re an introvert yourself, what strategies do you use so you an contribute well to a whiteboard discussion?

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