A group of people stood around an office flipchart
Inclusive meetings can be lifelines for marginalised voices and those less confident in sharing their thoughts. © Historic England Archive. DP085789.
Inclusive meetings can be lifelines for marginalised voices and those less confident in sharing their thoughts. © Historic England Archive. DP085789.

Chairing Inclusive Meetings

It is important for meetings to be inclusive to create equity in discussions. Inclusive meetings can provide opportunities for marginalised voices and those less confident in speaking up.

Staff networks

Staff Networks are groups addressing the thoughts and needs of people who identify with protected characteristics as part of their lived experience. These groups are also open to allies.

They provide spaces where people are invited to bring their whole selves: personal and professional. The aim is to dismantle hierarchical barriers by ensuring voices from all backgrounds are included, achieved through the self-selecting nature of joining networks and forming agendas. They are spaces where someone in a junior role can bring their lived experience to a conversation with people much further on in their careers, who perhaps don’t have the same real-world experience or knowledge of marginalisation.

Due to the diversity of Staff Networks and their memberships, more thought is given to the accessibility and inclusivity of their meeting design. Communication style, behaviours, boundary setting, use of technology and mental health support are all considered, making these meetings examples of best practice that can (and should) be applied to all meetings.

Spotlight session meetings

Throughout the year, the Inclusion Team supports the Staff Networks to connect with an internal audience wider than their membership by hosting optional virtual meetings open to all staff.

At these 'spotlight sessions', Staff Networks use interactive, co-designed and delivered presentations to raise topics important to them (such as, for example, Disability History Month). Presenters will often share their lived experiences. The audience can also ask questions and learn about points of view that may not have occurred to them.

The network decides on what to cover in their takeover by having it as a consistent item on their regular meeting agenda for a few months ahead of their spotlight session.

Using tools in the planning stage

Making good use of technology is important to planning effective meetings and bringing many voices into the staff network virtual spaces.

Co-chairs share the responsibility of writing and sharing agendas, and share meeting details in the Microsoft Teams site belonging to their network. The Teams sites are also used to initiate and continue conversations from meetings.

When the Staff Networks hold spotlight sessions, collaborative documents like Microsoft365 PowerPoint presentations are used so that colleagues can share the preparation involved efficiently.

Code of conduct

Spotlight sessions adhere to a code of conduct, accessibility guidance and - where necessary - content warnings (a gentle indication of when content is of a sensitive nature and might cause distress).

These written guidelines are on the registration page for events, and speakers should remind attendees of them at the beginning of a session.

Example: Code of conduct

This event is a space that supports and welcomes everyone.

By signing up to this event, you are agreeing to the following code of conduct. It will be in place during all interactions associated with this event. A lack of consideration will lead to you being asked to leave.

  • No harassment or negative comments based on race/ethnicity, gender (including gender identity), sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, physical appearance, citizenship, or other protected characteristics

  • No threatening or endangerment of other participants, including the moderators, by any means

  • No unwelcome attention

  • No encouragement of any of the above behaviours

Please also note that we will be ensuring:

  • No interruption of speakers or other attendees

  • Adherence to accessibility guidance

  • The issuing of content warnings where necessary

Example: Accessibility guidance

  • The Microsoft Teams meeting has auto-generated captions enabled for those that want to use them. Speakers must consider this when talking, taking care to speak clearly and towards the camera without covering their mouth.

  • There will be opportunities to join the discussion. This will be chaired, and the hand-raise function in Microsoft Teams will be used for this.

  • We would like to encourage you to use the chat function to join the discussion if you are uncomfortable or unable to speak aloud. Please consider that some people can struggle to keep up with both simultaneously. There will be a chat monitor who will ensure that there is equity in the conversation for those who are only using the chat.

  • Breaks are embedded into every session delivered. If the session is longer than an hour and a half, the host will take a ‘temperature check’ every now and then and - if necessary - add extra breaks to the session.

  • The Microsoft Teams meeting chat will remain open for those who would like to continue the conversation after the meeting has closed.

  • There will be Mental Health First Aiders and Inclusion Team colleagues at the meeting. They will also be available after the meeting should you need to decompress or follow up on any sensitive topics raised in the session.

  • If you would like any additional adjustments to be made to ensure your full participation in this event, please contact [named contact].

  • Find out more about Microsoft Teams accessibility tips

  • Find out more about accessibility tips for presenters

Example: Content warning

  • The content warning for this event is that some topics covered by today’s speakers, such as but not limited to [X, Y and Z] may be sensitive and could be upsetting for some attendees.

  • Please feel free to leave the meeting, or go off camera temporarily, if you feel too uncomfortable.

  • Please feel free to rejoin the meeting using the ‘join’ button from the chat whenever you are ready.

  • If you feel upset by any of the topics covered, there is always a Mental Health First Aider present in a Staff Network spotlight session. They are available on Microsoft Teams chat, email, and immediately after the session closes at [time].

Supporting mental health

Historic England's Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) are trained to provide support and advice if staff are experiencing poor mental health. They can help with advice on initial actions and sources of support, how to stop problems from getting worse, and how to speed up recovery.

Human Resources manage the MHFA training courses and continue to add people to the community as they complete their studies.

Any contact with a Mental Health First Aider will be treated as confidential. Colleagues are welcome to contact a MHFA from a different office location if they wish.

When planning meetings that cover sensitive topics, we recommend ensuring a MHFA attends and introduces themselves in the chat to signpost their support, during and after the meeting.