Five Easy Strategies to Facilitate A Roomful of Extraverts and Introverts

Great facilitators adopt group processes that help introverts and extroverts to shine!

Insights Image Image. Also see HBR: Introverts and Extroverts and Complexities of Team Dynamics

Over the past twenty-five years of facilitating group work, I have found that consciously working with this human dynamic, more than any other – has a dramatically positive impact on the outcomes and interactions of collaborative group work. Here  are five relatively easy strategies to engage both introvert and extroverts in your sessions and meetings:

  1. Make it visible: At the start of any facilitated meeting or session, I might say something like this, “In this room, in addition to any gender distinctions that we may bring, there are two types of people – Introverts and Extroverts” (and here I will add a shorthand description of each, usually accompanied by participant heads nodding in recognition).  “My role as a facilitator is to ensure that everyone can contribute their unique piece of the puzzle to our work. What is likely to happen if we don’t create a level playing field where both Introverts and Extroverts can shine, is that we will be collectively impoverished by one or the other type either dominating or withdrawing.”
  2. Supportive climate:  Ensure the session or meeting norms agreed to include the commitment to “everyone participates fully; nobody dominates”.
  3. Time to think:  Before ANY small or large group conversation, transparently create a space for everyone to reflect on a clear question and to gather their thoughts silently.  Make it explicit that while Introverts need this time to fully participate, Extroverts too will actually benefit from pausing to sort out their responses before engaging.  What works best I’ve found, to bridge any social awkwardness with silent reflection time, is to invite participants to jot down their initial ideas on a note pad or a well-designed worksheet for a set time. Then, and only then, invite verbal contributions adopting strategies 4 and 5 below.
  4. Share in pairs/trios/small groups: Educators are familiar with the “Think, Share, Pair” active learning strategy. In a facilitated session, except in very small groups of 3-5, invite sharing of top ideas by individuals into pairs/trios or small groups of 4-6. Sharing is valuable for both Extroverts – who are able to crystallize their thinking better when speaking with others, and Introverts who will now feel more ready to contribute from their prior thoughtful reflection.
  5. Self-managing group roles:  Before breaking into sharing, give participants responsibility to manage their small group conversation, such as Leader (go round, and ensure everyone contributes), Timekeeper (time cues so each person has equal time to speak within available time). Recorder/Reporter (capture and report key points from the sharing into the larger group).  Small group roles model an individual commitment to shared leadership and a collective desire to tap the knowledge, expertise and creativity of both Extroverts and Introverts.

If you would like to learn more about how to start a meeting right so that both Introverts and Extroverts can shine, here are some links to free resources for meeting leaders:

Finally, as you prepare your group session, keep in mind that there are many different facilitation methods and processes that have a built-in design to address and work with the Introvert and Extrovert dynamic.   If you are seeking to go beyond the above strategies to more in-depth facilitation skills, then also check out the empowering facilitation courses on our website.

Author: myriamlaberge

M.A. (Economics), Certified Professional Facilitator Founder & Managing Director