My personal experience — and the prevailing wisdom of management and psychology research — is that meetings default to patterns like these:
- Whoever speaks first is likely to set the direction of the conversation.
- The higher-power, more extroverted, majority-demographic people are more likely to take up disproportionate airtime, receive credit, be given the benefit of the doubt and interrupt others.
- The larger the group, the less meaningful the conversation — and the less likely we are to break out into more meaningful, smaller group discussions because doing so is time- and space-consuming in the physical world.
- Key information is less likely to be shared when it is already known by others; lesser known but important information tends to not be shared broadly.
- Whatever we did in the last meeting, we are likely to do again in the next meeting.
The result is predictable: A sub-optimal, sub-inclusive meeting.
I believe we can do better.
Whether you are running the meeting or just participating in it, there are ways to make it better and more inclusive. And, believe it or not, in some ways that’s easier to do on virtual platforms. So while many of us are stuck on our screens, let’s make the most of it and use some of the unique features offered by virtual platforms for better inclusion.