Inclusive Meetings: 5 Strategies for Promoting Collaboration and Diversity

In this article, we will be sharing our top 5 tips for ensuring your organisational meetings are as inclusive as possible.

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We all know that improving diversity, equity and inclusion need to be a priority for every organisation. Making sure that all employees feel safe, valued and respected is something all organisations need to strive for. Whilst organisations are now striving to make an inclusive environment within their workplace there is still a long way to go.

There are many different aspects to building an inclusive workplace culture and one of the components is making sure that all meetings are inclusive. We’re all familiar with the incredible benefits of a diverse workforce, but do you know the benefits of inclusive meetings? Some of these include:

• Diverse perspectives and opinions
• Enhanced creativity and innovation
• Improved employee engagement
• Increased employee satisfaction
• Better decision making
• Improved employee retention
• Enhanced employee well-being

Now that you know why inclusive meetings are crucial, it’s time to look at how you can make it happen. In this article, we will be sharing our top 5 tips for ensuring your organisational meetings are as inclusive as possible.

5 Strategies to Make Your Meetings More Inclusive

Listed below are our top 5 simple but effective strategies to ensure your meetings are inclusive. Keep reading to find out more.

1. Use Inclusive Language

Inclusive language is essential in any workplace and is especially essential in meetings to ensure you’re creating a welcoming and respectful environment, where all participants feel valued, heard and repeated. When it comes to using inclusive language, there are a few things you should consider, these include:

• Be mindful of what you say: Always pay attention to the words you use, avoiding any phrases or words that can be deemed offensive. Including things such as gendered language or terms that can make people feel excluded from the conversation.
• Be respectful of pronouns: Before the meeting, make sure you have a clear insight into the preferred gender pronouns of all the individuals who attend. When you use the right pronouns, you’re creating an inclusive environment.
• Use inclusive terms: You must use inclusive terms that everyone can use. Employees are all diverse, from age groups to religious beliefs, so it’s important that you use terms that are respectful to everyone.
• Avoid assumptions: Always be cautious that you’re not making assumptions or using stereotypes when addressing participants and always treat each person as an individual, respecting their contributions.
• Always learn: Inclusive language is ever-changing, so you must keep up to date with new terminology and trends. Always be open to learning and updating your vocabulary to make it more inclusive.

2. Promote Active Listening

If you want to make sure your meetings are inclusive, then you need to encourage participants to actively listen and be engaged with one another's ideas. It’s all about creating an inclusive environment, where everyone is comfortable to share their own perspectives whilst being shown respect and empathy by other meeting participants. Here are some tips to actively listen:

• Be fully present: You need to lead by example and encourage your participants to be fully present. By giving your undivided attention to whoever is speaking and avoiding distractions, you’re showing that you respect the ideas of an individual.
• Show interest: Make sure that all participants demonstrate engagement, through body language and non-verbal cues, there are several ways to show interest such as keeping eye contact and showing understanding.
• Ask open-ended questions: To further encourage elaboration and seek clarification, you should ask open-ended questions. This means that the speaker can provide more detail and shows your interest in understanding more from their perspective.

3. Offer Hybrid Options

To host inclusive meetings, then you need to make it hybrid. Holding hybrid meetings can foster diversity and inclusion efforts, by allowing for participation and collaboration from everyone, regardless of where they are or for those who find it difficult to take part in in-person meetings. Some of our best tips for hosting hybrid meetings include:

• Choose the right technology: When hosting hybrid meetings, use tools with the right features to do so and platforms that encourage interaction and engagement.
• Communicate meeting expectations: It’s essential that before conducting a hybrid meeting you communicate the meeting guidelines and etiquette to each participant.
• Balance participation: Ensure that all participants, whether in-person or virtual, have the same opportunities to contribute to the meeting. Discourage people from dominating the conversation and establish guidelines before the meeting starts.

4. Encourage Diverse Representation

If you want to have an inclusive and well-rounded discussion during your meetings, then you need to have participants who come from various backgrounds, roles and even departments. This ensures that a wider range of ideas and perspectives are heard, which is crucial when making any decisions within an organisation. A few suggestions to encourage diverse representation:

• Identify potential participants: As mentioned, you need to have participants who come from different cultures, roles and backgrounds to ensure that the meeting is being exposed to fresh perspectives and experiences.
• Actively involve diverse participants: Make sure to actively involve diverse participants, encouraging them to share their ideas and perspectives. Create opportunities where they can lead the conversation or present their ideas.
• Equal speaking time: Pay attention to the distribution of speaking times during your meeting, making sure that participants from diverse perspectives have the same opportunity to voice their ideas as everyone else.
• Lead by example: Leading by example is a key way to encourage diverse representation. If you show that you are interested and actively listening to the contributions of diverse perspectives, then you set the tone for respectful and inclusive conversations.
• Create a safe space: If you want to ensure there is diverse representation within your meetings, you need to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable in expressing their opinions without judgement, discrimination or fear.

5. Ask for Feedback

Feedback is key for improvement. That’s why we suggest always asking for feedback during or after the meeting to ensure that you improve your inclusivity going forward. By gaining feedback from participants, you’re able to implement the suggestions in future meetings which will improve future discussions within your organisation. Ways to gather feedback include:

• Create a feedback culture: If you want to gather feedback, you first need to foster an environment where your employees feel comfortable providing honest feedback. You can do this by encouraging conversation and acting on what was said.
• Simply ask: At the end of your meeting, simply ask your participants for feedback from the meeting. Maybe they suggest that different languages are used or that they want more diverse opinions, whatever they suggest, is a great learning experience.
• Offer anonymous feedback: We suggest providing anonymous feedback options as this will encourage more employees to speak truthfully and offer feedback without fear of consequences. It helps create a safe space where employees can provide suggestions.

Final Thoughts

Using inclusive language, promoting active listening, offering hybrid options, encouraging diverse representation and asking for feedback are all ways you can make your meetings more inclusive. We hope these strategies will not only encourage you but make your meetings more inclusive at your organisation.

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