Tingey injury law firm 9 S Kh D Fnw4c4 unsplash Think introvert

A meeting is only truly successful when the objectives have been achieved and everyone has been able to contribute. Because only then do you make use of all the intelligence and problem-solving abilities in the group. That means you have to design the programme and methods in such a way that everyone feels genuinely involved. Both introverts and extroverts should feel free to participate – in their own way.

Juup de Kanter is an experienced lecturer in Event Management at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences in the field of concept development and creative thinking. Through her company Juups.nl, she also helps teams and organisations work together to create impactful encounters.
She specialises in inclusive design. We asked her to outline how to build a programme that does justice to introverted participants too. She gives us nine tips.

"Most meetings are mainly designed for extroverts, with lots of variety, stimuli and interaction. But that does not fit the characteristics and preferences of introverts. The brain of an introvert works differently from the brain of an extrovert. In an introvert, the blood goes to areas of the brain where problem solving is situated, while the blood of extroverts flows more to sensory perception. The first group wants to process things more deeply and the other wants to be more stimulated.

To ensure introverts can also provide input, they need to feel seen and valued. There must be room for the way they function, and you should design the programme accordingly. In this regard, you should also bear in mind that hardly anyone is 100% introverted or extroverted. Everyone has their own place on the sliding scale between the two extremes.

A number of things are important if you want to make a programme introvert-inclusive.


Too often, we design programmes based on content. We think about what we want to send – information, inspiration, insight. In doing so, we forget to think about the recipient: how do you make sure the story penetrates, is processed and leads to action? Only when we start thinking the other way around will there be room for the introvert's needs. If you design based on 'people', you can start to distinguish different types and think about how to serve them all.


An extroverted participant quickly feels at ease. The introvert needs more attention. Thus, an introvert wants to be able to prepare well, know what the session is about and understand which role they are taking on. For example, who are the others, which topic is the main focus, which approach is being used and is prior knowledge required? Who are you sitting with at the table? If you provide this in advance, an introvert can get involved safely and properly and make a valuable contribution.


Extroverts stand up for themselves. The introvert 'suffers in silence'. A good moderator deliberately looks around to see how everyone is doing and makes space for that process in the programme.
The points below are helpful here.

Thoughts, not opinions

One of my key insights is that rather than asking an introvert for their opinion, you should ask for their thoughts. When asked for an opinion, judgements immediately kick in and some people become blocked. The mind may be filled with thoughts like: 'Who am I to have an opinion on this?', 'I think we should ask person X too', 'don't forget the past', etc. etc. If you ask what is going on in the mind, this valuable information comes to the surface.

Slow down

Introverted participants are less able to be immediately ready with an opinion or insight. So, build time into the programme for individual reflection and for thoughts to be organised before exchanging ideas. This may also benefit the extroverted faster thinkers; sometimes it pays to take a little more time before shouting something.

Build enough 'white space' into the programme. As a host, you can make all the difference with just one minute of silence. The introverts can catch their breath and the extroverts may come up with three more ideas.


Speaking in a large group is a nightmare for almost every introvert (and even some extroverts). So focus on small groups and build up slowly: first individually, then 1-on-1 and then to groups and, who knows, maybe some introverts will dare to go ‘the full plenary’ after that.

You will also see that it broadens and improves the returns; because everyone is chatting, the first extroverted opinion is not immediately elevated to truth. On top of that, most introverts are very good at organising large amounts of information and providing structure.

A working method I have developed, which works well, runs as follows:

Everyone in the (small) group receives an egg/capsule and is asked to formulate an open question that the person is curious about. When everyone has finished, this person puts the question in the egg. You'll find that the introvert wants more time to formulate the right question and an extrovert will often have written down three questions before deciding on the right one. Then, one by one, individuals answer a question. This way, one individual has full attention, there is energy in the question, it is a question that at least one person is interested in and it is also good fun. It also immediately focuses on a topic.


An introvert likes to contribute to the outcome, as long as it can be done their way. And that does not mean sharing your thoughts or articulating your knowledge in front of 500 people.

Look for working methods (often in smaller groups) where the introvert can provide their input (more or less) anonymously. The extrovert may then articulate it for the general public.


The design of the venue and setup are crucial. Small seating areas, each with its own rug, create a cosy atmosphere that immediately feels safer than the standard endless rows.

And where do you put people: all extroverts up front?

During EMEC 2019, I had the room set up in three areas: benches on the right for 'socialising', chairs in the middle in listening mode and high, active tables with stools on the left. Upon entering, participants were asked to sit wherever they felt their needs would be met. How did they want to handle the content? This worked out surprisingly well for both introverted and extroverted attendees.

Juup de Kanter EMEC


Finally, reward the introvert's input and talk about this expertise. ‘You've just raised such a great point, provided a summary etc., would you and person Y like to elaborate, deepen this, etc.?’ This, in turn, is important for the follow-up process.


Introvert-inclusive design enriches and broadens your meeting. It gives introverts a full role. And it won’t harm the extroverts either.”

Juup de Kanter

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