by Sharon Fisher
• Energize engagement
• Introvert insights
Are Only HALF Your Attendees Getting the Max Out of Your Meetings?
The answer is a resounding YES! Studies show that 40-50% of meeting attendees are introverts. Yet the majority of our meetings are designed most definitely for extroverts. To glean some ideas on how to structure better meetings, let’s look at some of the differences – because they aren’t what you think!
Many of us believe the biggest difference between extroverts and introverts is that extroverts are ‘outgoing’ and introverts are ‘shy.’ The reality is a little different. It’s really all about how they recharge and gather energy.
Extroverts get their energy from being around people. They love to be surrounded by friends, engaged in conversation, and meeting new people. Extroverts wake up in the morning with an ‘empty tank’ from being alone and talk to people all day, fueling their energy reserves until finally, at the evening reception, they are fully energized and raring to talk and meet people.
On the other hand, introverts get their energy from being alone. They wake up in the morning with a ‘full tank’ and ready to engage, then by the end of the day they are completely depleted and exhausted from spending the day with others. They need some alone time.
Introversion ≠ Shyness
Being introverted and being shy are not the same thing. According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet Revolution, introversion is born. Shyness, or social anxiety, is made. Choosing to be alone is very different than being nervous or afraid to be around others. While it is usually introverts that are socially anxious (due to the fact that extroverts need to be outgoing by nature) they are not one and the same. The good news is…great meeting design can help both of these audiences.
Designing Introvert-Friendly Meetings
To think about how to design more introvert-friendly meetings, lets look at a few statements that you will never hear an introvert utter.
The More the Merrier!
Extroverts love a good party! Introverts by nature prefer small groups and one-on-one conversations. Large, noisy, and energetic cocktail receptions and parties at the end of the day (when their energy level is depleted) make them want to head to the room and order room service. And for the socially anxious, nothing is more intimidating than walking into a party alone.
Design your events to include:
• First-timer events that include an opportunity to meet others, so when they first arrive at the party they are already connected with others.
• Quiet spaces with four-top tables to sit and carry on a small-group conversation.
• A networking game or icebreaker, to give a reason to meet people.
• Consider hosting a passeggiata – a strolling party with stops along the way to interact.
• Provide a couple different kinds of entertainment – a band/DJ for mingling, dancing, and lively conversation, and a one-man guitar player for background music in a quieter space.
Just One More Session, Please!
As the day progresses, introverts’ energy levels drain, and it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to engage with others. Scheduling ‘refueling time’ will help them be more productive. Some ways to do that:
• Include some white space – a quiet area to think, relax, and be alone. Don’t pack the schedule so tight there is no downtime.
• Build a Labyrinth for quiet meditative thought. Preferably outside in the fresh air.
• Offer yoga, nature walks, bike rides, and other relaxing wellness activities.
Coffee Breaks are My Favorite Part of the Meeting.
For extroverts, any chance to talk is good. For introverts and shy attendees, the first thing they do is pull out their smartphone. Encourage interaction with easy-going networking activities.
• Host “Walk-the-Wall” activities, such as an, “I’m Daydreaming Of…” room. Time spent adding their thoughts also provides a great chance to interact one-on-one.
• Create a “flash learning mob” where passionate conversations about your sessions and content can take place.
• Gamify your meeting, so that during breaks people can network to earn points.
• Host “interactive” break stations – make your own ice cream sundae, blend your own trail mix, and other fun food stations spark easy conversations.
Engage ALL of Your Attendees
While attendees may be as different as bowling balls and cows, understanding the differences between introverts and extroverts - how they think, how they network, and how they behave - will help you consciously design your meeting to engage everyone.
See a preferences chart for extroverts and introverts at
Sharon Fisher, a professional experience-maker, is the CEO/Chief IdeaSparker of Play with a Purpose, a company devoted to creating more fun, creative, and hands-on events. A passionate believer in the power of play, Sharon helps her clients brainstorm new ideas that will transform their attendees into participants. Her favorite quote “In a world full of copies, here’s to the ORIGINALS!” summarizes her business style.