How to Get Shy Employees to Open Up During Meetings

by Wendy Lau

When you bring together a group of people for a meeting, there will be those who like to talk, those who prefer to stay silent and those who are somewhere in between. For everyone to contribute in the meeting, you need to make sure the talkers don't dominate the conversation and that the shy employees speak up and share their thoughts. There are ways to draw out shy employees during meetings.

Roundtable Format

Structure your meeting so that it doesn't come off as a lecture. When you structure your meeting more like a roundtable, the meeting leader can serve as a moderator to ensure everyone in the meeting has an opportunity to speak. You may lead by presenting an idea and then go around the room to ask every person what their thoughts and concerns are. This will ensure that everyone, including the shy employees, have the chance to speak.

Call Out

Talkative employees will not have any problem with speaking up, so to ensure that shy employees have a fair share at speaking, the meeting leader can call on specific individuals -- including the shy employees -- and ask for their thoughts on how the issue may be addressed. The point of calling out to the shy employee is not to catch him off guard, but to help him capture the moment to speak in front of the group. Be careful when you call on the employee to avoid putting him on the spot; that would further dissuade him from wanting to speak up in the future. Ask open-ended questions, not quiz show stumpers.


Shy employees may hesitate to speak up because they do not have enough courage to come into the spotlight, but when you specifically give them an assignment to cover a particular topic during the meeting, you set the stage for her to speak. For instance, if you are having a staff meeting discussing next week's activities and know that the shy employee is planning the holiday party, ask her to take a few minutes to provide the group with an update.

Public Speaking Training

The more opportunities a shy employee has to speak in public, the more comfortable he will be opening up during meetings. It is a gradual process, and to help it along, you may suggest that the employee take public speaking training. There are free programs such as Toastmasters that offer practical training and experience for employees to speak comfortably in front of others.

About the Author

Wendy Lau entered the communication field in 2001. She works as a freelance writer and prior to that was a PR executive responsible for health care clients' written materials. Her writing experience include technical articles, corporate materials, online articles, blogs, byline articles, travel itineraries and business profile listings. She holds a Bachelor of Science in corporate communications from Ithaca College.

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