This is an updated version of a previously published post.
“Time’s Up! Move to your next partner” Ellen, the well-meaning trainer shouted into the mike. I could feel the large room shudder with the silent eye rolls of the mostly 200 introverts. The current exercise was meant as an icebreaker – to get us to loosen up and discover what we had in common. But the time was too brief to learn anything of substance and her staccato-like, loud interruptions were jarring, even to us extroverts.
I have found that most facilitators, trainers, and speakers are unaware of the impact their actions can have on the introverts in the crowd. It is possible that they are missing out on 40%-60% of their audience and sending those introverts running back to their hotel rooms.
Here are 5 “rules” to follow as a trainer, facilitator or meeting planner that will ensure you lose a good part of your audience.
Rule #1 Turn up the lighting and blast the sound. Introverts are more sensitive to outside stimuli than extroverts so be conscious of the mood you are setting. Ask an introvert how the setting feels to them.
Rule #2 Cram seats close together. Physical space is important so give everyone breathing. room. When you are talking to introverts be aware of how close you are standing to them.
Rule #3 Provide short breaks. With time only to grab a quick cup of coffee and no opportunity to recharge by themselves, introverts will most certainly lose steam by midday and will skip out of those afternoon sessions.
Rule #4 Introduce everyone to everyone. Assume everyone wants to network all the time and pull people who are standing alone over to meet others. Though you may be well-meaning, restrain every matchmaking chance. Respect people’s ability to meet others in their own time and own way.
Rule #5 Put people on the spot. Ask introverts to introduce themselves to a large group without preparation. This can be very anxiety producing. This also goes for pulling “volunteers” up on the stage for activities and demos without a private request before the program. This also includes Likewise for putting a mike in their face.
If your goal is to reach your entire audience and keep people where the action is – at programs and at networking events – take a moment. Stop and ask yourself “What would an introvert prefer?”
And if you are unsure, ask the nearest introvert. They are probably sitting next to you at this moment. One last piece of advice: wait for their answer.