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How a Producer Helps Offset Power Imbalance in the Virtual Space

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Due to a myriad of obstacles in the workplace, virtual tools have emerged as essential to keeping things running. However, even there lie problems to be wary of - one of the main reasons this can occur is through power dynamics that show up in discussions, even online.

Read more articles on our publication Transformative Readership

Power dynamics are always at play during meetings, whether in person or virtual. There have been extensive accounts and research on the phenomenon of men interrupting women and dominating conversations during meetings, and similar accounts from people of color. Introverts and neurodiverse individuals may also struggle in meetings to contribute fully if too much emphasis is placed on speaking up to contribute.

It’s vital to understand that due to biases in education and business environments, women, people of color, those who are lgbtqia+, and neurodivergent populations may all have experienced being silenced or being ignored in discussions. These lenses of bias are many and color our perceptions of others. In order to change the paradigm and gain their valuable insights, we have to make sure they know they are being heard and provide multiple outlets to speak through. We must consider why certain people seem quiet and unresponsive during meetings and challenge our assumptions and narratives.

Another employee to consider for cultural dealings? A cultural broker.

In the virtual space, it can be even harder to see and address these dynamics, particularly when we are struggling to facilitate the meeting, stay on time, and negotiate new and ever-changing tech. This is where having a virtual producer can help.

A producer is someone on virtual meetings calls who is tasked with ensuring the flow of a meeting. Though some might think the position is strictly technical support, there are actually many additional benefits to having a virtual producer on the call. They make sure the environment is inclusive, that important information is understood by attendees, and that there is engagement from members of the team. For our work at Integrative Inquiry, we usually have a producer on every call – this way, the facilitator can focus on facilitating, while the producer focuses on making sure everything is understood. Let’s look at how having a producer can avoid some of the pitfalls we see in video meetings.

Constant Interruptions

Interruptions online can happen even more than in the workplace together, because we miss many of the real-time body cues we receive in person. When some people are on video and others are calling in it becomes even more challenging to know when someone wishes to speak, finishes their thought, and who should go next. This can be incredibly frustrating to attendees, particularly because so many meetings, workshops, and presentations go over time. When someone dominates a virtual meeting or cuts into someone’s argument, they actively shorten the rest of the time that can be put to other perspectives. To curtail this, we have to make sure to use our authority as meeting arbiters to moderate the situation so that the burden is not placed on those being interrupted.

How a producer can help: It is essential that you clarify the role and purpose of a producer at the beginning of a meeting. The producer keeps time, so if someone’s responses are starting to eat into the schedule, they can leverage their role as time