Not everybody is comfortable making themselves heard. Around 18% of adults in the US are thought to be suffering with social anxiety, but even without this diagnosis, some people simply exhibit more introvert personality traits than others. This can have a negative impact on personal growth, because fear of embarrassment or being the center of attention can result in shying away from engaging with others.

Around 18% of adults in the US are thought to be suffering with social anxiety.

It’s important to point out that shyness and discomfort in social situations are common, and not necessarily symptoms of a disorder. People in the creative industries often come from many different walks of life, with mixed experiences and backgrounds. Some researchers argue that creative types are both introverted and extroverted.

In this article we are going to look at how designing an environment for engagement can help get the best out of your team.

Get a good facilitator

A facilitator will plan and design the session or workshop, and act as a guide to keep things on track. They will also be responsible for recording important outcomes from the meeting and for acting on any follow ups. A good facilitator will put people at ease, and keep momentum and ideas flowing by delicately controlling group interactions. A good way to start this process, is to use “ice breakers“.

According to MindTools, ice breakers “help people get to know each other and buy into the purpose of the event.” These sessions can be useful for helping bring people out of their shell, or drawing together people from different backgrounds to face a common goal.

Optimize your environment

Even the location of the meeting should be reflected on – how easy or difficult is the commute to the venue for most of the attendees?

Environmental stressors can contribute to low productivity and low mood, which are blockers to progress. There are obvious steps which can be taken to ensure the workshop or meeting environment is conducive of an engaging meeting, such as comfortable chairs and considered lighting and heating. But other such environmental nuances must also be considered, such as layout of seating and ease of access to materials. Will people feel comfortable with proximity to others? Will everybody be able to see, hear and participate fully? Even the location of the meeting should be reflected on – how easy or difficult is the commute to the venue for most of the attendees? A lengthy commute can be unhealthy for the body and mind.

Healthy refreshments

It’s common to find coffee and cake at meetings, or sometimes even pizza and beer/wine during later afternoon/evening events. Nobody wants to take these fatty snacks away(!) but offering a lighter, healthier alternative is something that can give people an energy boost and help to avoid a sugar crash later on. This is particularly helpful in all-day sessions. So alongside the processed treats, be sure to put out fruit (fresh or dried), nuts, and water (still or sparkling). If you do want something sweet, try dark chocolate, which is surprisingly good for you.

Give people time!

You and your team should foster an environment where people can process their thoughts and speak without fear of interruption.

Perhaps the most important point to make is that people should not feel rushed in their contributions. You and your team should foster an environment where people can process their thoughts and speak without fear of interruption. This comes down to good facilitation, but it also relies on the buy-in from your team.

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