Anyone?Anyone? Engaging Introverts in Your Trainings and Meetings



I like to show a video clip in some of my classes from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. You may know the one. The teacher, played by Ben Stein, is trying to get students to answer his question and the camera pans to an array of bored students who say absolutely nothing. He repeatedly asks, “Anyone? Anyone?”

I am not saying that Introverts are those bored students but if we don’t engage all personality types in our programs and meetings, we are missing a huge opportunity to reach our entire audience.

Introverts prefer solitude and often succumb to people exhaustion. Group meetings and training programs don’t typically allow for these preferences. However, as aware facilitators, we can build in breaks, give people time to think and not overdo it on the group activities.

We can also step back and look at how our organizations are catering to the needs of all preferences.  I shared some ideas on the topic for Chief Learning Officer. 

Some excellent questions came in on this topic during a speech I gave at a NASBA, conference. This is a group that certifies accountants (think CPAs, etc.). The folks are delivering training in classrooms and online to trainers of accountants and finance people. A good guess, if you think most are introverts.

Here are a few questions that came in during the program and shortened versions of my responses:

“How do I know that the quieter participants actually heard what was said?” A: Ask them to paraphrase what they heard. You need feedback when sharing information and you can ask for this in a non-threatening way.

From an introvert: “How do you convey to extroverts that a lack of a response doesn’t mean you aren’t listening. You are just thinking!”  A: You can bring this up early in the session when expectations are being discussed. Or take a sidebar with the instructor. They will usually be receptive.

“ I know some of my team members have points to make but are holding back their comments. How can I get them to share? A: Try prepping them by talking with before the group discussion to let them know you are going to ask them to share a comment. The introverts will be grateful for this preparation time.

“How can you respond when you ask a question and your audience just stares at you? A. Pause and wait for someone to answer. Usually, someone will and if they don’t you can say, “Some people have said that….” Just to get the ball rolling. Also, try asking people to write down their answers to some of your questions before speaking.

“People complain when we put them roundtables. They prefer the room set up in lecture style.” A. Just be sure to build in time for people to work alone and in pairs. The small group set up is good for discussion but it can be overused.

With practice, you will be able to find strategies that work for ALL your students: introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts. It is really a matter of being aware of your audience and flexing your style when needed.


View All