Our society has a way of giving attention to those who are comfortable with speaking up. But in striving to become more inclusive, we need to engage with the less vocal. For those conducting training programs, this means considering how learning works best for both extroverts and introverts.
In a 2019 workplace survey, introverts reported that training programs rarely considered their learning preferences. Only 34% said that their organizations provide opportunities during training for both discussion and reflection time, essential activities for introverts to absorb new information.
On-demand and live virtual programs have exploded during the pandemic, and we are seeing the huge benefits they offer. This is a positive trend for introverts who now have more opportunities to learn on their own schedule at their own pace.
But more needs to be done to truly engage introverts. Here are five key elements to consider when designing and delivering introvert-friendly training programs and other learning sessions.
1. Provide Pre-Training Preparation
Introverts excel at preparation, so play to their sweet spot by providing materials to participants before class. This can include readings, surveys, and provocative questions related to the material. Introverts will appreciate having the time to carefully think about the content beforehand.
Some trainers like to send out a short quiz and present the summary of results at the beginning of the session. An advantage of this strategy is that the trainer can dive right into the material at the start of the training session. Because some of the basics have already been addressed, the facilitator can then cover topics with more depth, another introvert preference.
A further way that facilitators can help participants prepare for a session is to make themselves available for questions beforehand. It has the added benefit of helping the facilitator customize content to address issues people are experiencing. One way to do this is to create a shared folder for participants to add their ideas. Introverts, who appreciate written communication, especially welcome this method of offering input.
2. Know Your Audience
Who is in the class? What are their roles? What are their ages, genders, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds? Who identifies as an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert (someone in the middle)? Also, do you know what people are concerned about in their organization right now?
For example, during one session that I facilitated, one quieter participant mentioned in his pre-session comments that he had had five bosses in five months. That remark prompted the need to discuss change and resilience with the group, and to be ready for some potential frustration from participants. It then came as no surprise when people wanted some time to vent.
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Facilitators will also want to arrive early to sessions to connect one-on-one with participants as they filter into the room, both in live and virtual trainings. It helps to strike up conversations with people and learn names and where people are from. If it’s an online session, use chat boxes and virtual breakout rooms to interact with people and facilitate interactions.
3. Create Personal Connections
One of the most effective ways to develop rapport, especially with quieter class members, is through personal stories, especially funny ones. Try to make a point related to the program about introverts and extroverts speaking “different languages.” If you can include a relatable situation, it helps you connect with people. You can also incorporate cartoons and a prop or two to lighten the mood. Whatever the presentation, creating a comfortable atmosphere will help engage both introverts and extroverts.
4. Allow for Ebbs and Flows
Just as concerts consist of songs with fast and slow tempos, think about how you can create a pace for your sessions. Incorporating variety in the flow of the information will help everyone — introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts — get the most out of the training.
Take note of your speaking pace. Pause occasionally to stop and breathe. Also allow for enough breaks so that people can unwind physically and mentally. Introverted participants need these chances to disengage from others and recharge their batteries.
5. Put It in Writing
Introverts often feel most comfortable expressing themselves through writing, so allow plenty of time for participants to write (and review) their own notes during a session. Another powerful technique to increase introvert engagement is to give people time to write down their answers to a question before they share them out loud. Doing this allows introverts and extroverts to respond with more thoughtful, fully fleshed-out answers that benefit the entire group’s learning.
By taking some time to consider the preferences of introverts, you are more likely to experience greater impact when creating and delivering your learning sessions.