A sense of safety is a prerequisite for participating, contributing, and collaborating in a group. When people fear potential embarrassment, they clam up and let other people take the lead, which means we may lose out on the diversity of valuable insight.
People usually arrive at that sense of safety in two ways. The first is with their own commitment to practice. For example, many professional speakers have conquered their knee-knocking fear by practicing. They speak dozens or hundreds of times in front of small audiences for low stakes, and gradually they practice in ever bigger venues. They rehearse, mentally practice on planes, and memorize every word, inflection, and movement. There are all sorts of commitments to practice; some people practice speaking up more in meetings. However, most people are not intentionally practicing their participation, contribution, or collaboration skills, so these opportunities can seem unsafe. Not all is lost because we can help them!
The second way to feel a sense of safety is for the meeting designer, host, facilitator, speaker, community manager, editor, or interviewer to construct each interaction to signal a sense of safety. They can:
Prioritize imbuing a sense of safety into all member interactions to help members wholeheartedly engage.