Encouraging Zoom Introverts to Speak Up, and Other Tips for Better Video Meetings
Introverts may be some of your best employees, but how would you know it? Technically, the word “introvert” means someone who is introspective. Shyness and quietness may also be traits you’ll see in an introvert, but not always. Introverts will generally carefully consider things before they speak, which already makes meetings with extroverts problematic. Video meetings can be both a blessing and a curse for introverts, and it is up to management to make sure they work for everyone in the “room.”
Being on camera for hours per day in video meetings takes a toll. “Zoom fatigue,” as it has been coined, is a phenomenon that Stanford University quantified in a series of studies in 2020 and 2021, and the findings are very interesting. First, introverted personalities are the hardest hit by having to participate in endless video meetings. Second, women are more likely to experience “Zoom fatigue.”
Mirror anxiety, caused by looking at images of yourself and comparing them to others, explains part of what causes Zoom fatigue. Sensations of being physically trapped, large faces being in your physical space, and other issues also roll into it. In short, video meetings are jarring, especially if you have multiple meetings per day. Unfortunately, they are also a necessary evil of remote work, so it is up to companies to make them less anxiety-inducing and more comfortable for participants - especially for introverts.
Encourage everyone to be on video & upgrade tech where necessary
Despite the negatives of “Zoom fatigue,” more meaningful relationships are created when we can see each other than when we can’t. However, introverts and those fresh out of workouts, for example, may prefer to turn video cameras off in meetings. For those who do not enjoy seeing themselves and others on screen, a Zoom employee offers a couple of helpful tips - turn off self-view and minimize the meeting screen to one-third the size of your monitor.
Ensure that employees have the proper set up. If someone lacks essential video conferencing tools such as a proper webcam or a ring light, the company should be responsible for ordering and walking them through the correct setup. Even something as small as helping an employee to improve their lighting will make them more confident during video meetings.
Finally, throw everyone a mini-party by having a day where internal meetings are done with the video camera off - this is the new casual Friday.
Have clear rules for video meetings
It’s human nature - every meeting is going to have one or two people dominate the conversation, and hopefully that will be the person who is hosting the meeting. Introverts respond much better in meetings that are structured and allow room for their voices, as opposed to free-for-all meetings which can easily only become a megaphone for a couple of voices.
Meetings that are meant to be announcements, like an explanation of a new brand launch or procedure, should have all participants on mute with a Q&A session allowed only at the end. Meetings that are meant to be collaborative are where things can get a bit sticky for introverts d.
Collaborative meetings can get hijacked very fast by the most extroverted people, and a proper set of rules surrounding each meeting can act as a firewall against this. This rule-making should happen at the team level, as each team is going to have different preferences and requirements around meetings. While Robert’s Rules are great initial guidelines, they are more applicable to formalized meetings such as ones conducted by the Board or senior management.
Meetings at the team level should have a looser set of rules, which should include:
- Time caps on talking (5-10 minutes per person depending on length of meeting)
- Prescribed turn for each of the meeting participants
- Next steps discussion at the end of the meeting
- Basic meeting agenda provided in advance
- Clear rules about cutting other people off and muting of repeat offenders
Introverts & extroverts agree: Useless meetings shouldn’t exist
How often have you wanted to say: “That could have been an email!” Eliminating useless meetings will benefit everyone on your team. Chat, email, Slack, and other means of communication are enough for most interactions. Restrict meetings for when you have to develop or introduce concepts. If, for example, someone is awaiting instructions to begin a project, don’t have a meeting to give them instructions. Produce a clear brief, and then they can have a meeting to clear up any questions they have after reviewing it if needed. Clear, written instructions are far more effective than verbal ones, leaving less open to interpretation.
If there is one thing everyone can agree on about video meetings versus in-person ones, it is that they actually level the playing field for introverts - when done right. Overtalkers, big personalities, and people who like to drone on can be contained in a more polite way in a virtual setting. When a good structure is in place, people who are naturally quiet in meetings will speak up. But it is up to managers to implement policies, stick to meeting agendas, and make the right call on when something needs a meeting and when it doesn’t.