The Introverted Facilitators’ Club: How to be a quiet LD in the sometimes noisy world of module design?

A hedgehog on a gravel path in the golden sunlight.

Hayley Johns ~ Learning Designer

Back in September, I attended my first ever ‘real life’ or in-person conference (the ALT conference, at the University of Warwick – you can read about my and my colleague’s experiences here). It was a brilliant experience, and we learnt a huge amount.

As well as all of the fascinating sessions we attended, being in that kind of big, mingly conference space for the first time really got me thinking about the social side of our role in Learning Design (LD). When I got back to my WFH set-up (feat. tea, dressing gown and small brown cockapoo), I decided to reach out to Learning Design colleagues who consider themselves to be introverts and to hear about their experiences in the LD role in either physical or virtual spaces.

Thinking about introversion is not a new thing for me. Back when I was a classroom teacher, I felt able to ‘act’ the part – but it really did feel like an act, and I used to joke that spending every day standing in front of a class of 30 teenagers wasn’t quite my natural habitat. In my current role, I’ve become a lot more conscious of the fact that that kind of performance doesn’t ring true for me, so I’m trying to find another way to go about facilitation and that ‘front of the classroom’ role that’s more authentic.

What does it mean to be an introvert?

Firstly, my fellow LDs sought to define what being an introvert means to them. They identified aspects such as needing quiet time to recharge after being sociable; thinking and feeling deeply; actively enjoying ‘me’ time; being reflective and liking to mull things over.

Then we thought about what strategies we use (or could adopt) as introverted LDs to make the parts of our role where we have to be front-and-centre a bit more comfortable.

Here’s what the team came up with:

Speaking up
      • Always go to a meeting with at least one thing to say.
      • Try to speak up at least once in a meeting (but don’t be too harsh on yourself if you aren’t able to).
Using remote working to our advantage
      • Use the ‘raise hand’ function in Teams, even if it feels unnecessary! I find interjecting in meetings really challenging and this takes away some of the awkwardness of finding a point to interject.
      • There are other ways to communicate, e.g. typing, creating infographics.
      • Have a quick lie-down after an intense ‘social session’.
      • Control your sessions by setting up small groups so you feel less overwhelmed.
      • In some Teams meetings where people know each other or aren’t hesitant about speaking, I’ve noticed the ‘raise hand’ function isn’t used so much. Having your video on helps then so that everyone can see you’re about to say something and you’re not just sitting in the background.
      • You can write down your questions or comments so that you can refer to or read from them.
Acting with acceptance, openness and authenticity
      • Don’t try to be or appear to be an extrovert. Ultimately, this will cause more problems than it solves.
      • Things to celebrate about introverts: they are perceptive, make great listeners, don’t create noise for noise’s sake, have a calming presence, when they speak it is often considered and insightful.
      • It’s OK to be quiet. Sure, your efforts might get overlooked but who cares? While acknowledgement can be nice, the only person who needs to acknowledge or celebrate your achievements is you.
      • It can be difficult to justify choices as an introvert, such as responding to confusion about your desperate need to avoid large events (like conferences). You shouldn’t put yourself in an uncomfortable position to please anybody else, though – do what feels right when it feels right.
      • Accept that I’m going to stumble over my words from time to time, we’re all human.
      • Over time you’ll recognise that some people like to talk a lot and use complicated words in front of their peers. Don’t try to compare yourself with them. You have the job, you are an expert.
      • Be more open about your introversion and needs, e.g. ‘I’m an introvert so would prefer to think about this before I respond.’
      • See it as a long learning journey – start with small things that you are more comfortable with, and gradually build up. Don’t kick yourself if you ever ‘fail’.
Being prepared
      • You can prepare ‘back-up’ scripts and practise reading them ‘naturally’ before the meeting.
      • Get in lots of preparation and dry runs of workshops or sessions.
      • When asked to attend a meeting that you feel unsure about, be upfront and ask what expectations are to help you prepare. The OU seems very open to people’s needs and colleagues are usually understanding.
      • Rehearse, anticipate likely scenarios, and rehearse again.
      • If possible, research the people you are meeting, or make the first meeting a more relaxed style.
      • But also, be wary of over-preparing sessions so much that, if things don’t go to plan, you feel lost. Prepare a basic outline of what you expect to happen, but allow space for participants to go off-piste.
Buying time to think and reflect
      • I’m not always going to know the answer to questions, so I say I’ll come back to them.
      • If you get overwhelmed or a mind blank in a ‘live’ session, look for strategies such as ‘I’ll get back to you later as I need more time to think’.
      • It is absolutely OK to say ‘I’ll come back to you later’.
Taking a holistic approach to our wellbeing
      • A recent study showed that spending five minutes looking at nature (in real life or in photos) before a stressful event helps the body to regulate more quickly following the event. So give yourself five minutes before a workshop to look at pretty pictures of nature.
      • Do a three-minute breathing exercise before something stressful (there are lots of options on Insight Timer).
      • Listen to your body and not your brain – what does your nervous system need to regulate and feel safe?
      • If you know you’re going to be stressed in an event, try breathing exercises, taking a walk, thinking about the bigger picture. And have a comfort something nearby, e.g. tea, blanket.
Drawing on colleagues’ support
      • Pair up with another LD or co-facilitator.
      • Getting feedback from colleagues is really useful, if a bit daunting at first.
Managing our workloads
      • I make sure I’ve got no other meetings that day if I’m facilitating training or a workshop.
      • If I can, I like to manage my time so there’s a flow of demanding, people-focused conversations and solo project work I can recover in.
Shifting our thinking
      • I’ve tried to shift my thinking from ‘I have to perform’ to ‘I want to help’, and that’s made it easier for me. So thinking of it as a conversation where I’m trying to help a friend to solve a problem, rather than a big song and dance.
      • Try to think of facilitation as a conversation with a friend – if your buddy has a problem and you have some tools that might help solve it, you’d share it with them!
      • Stand back and look at the situation. It may only be an hour or so of your time, and then you can get on with things that you enjoy!
      • Don’t confuse being an introvert with lack of confidence or leadership. It is possible to be a confident, introverted leader.

All in all, we agreed that we can definitely be effective LDs and quiet people at the same time, and that these tips can help us to do just that. You can find out whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or ambivert using this quiz and, if you are an introvert, you might be interested in the book Quiet, by Susan Cain.

If your role has a certain amount of presentation, facilitation, or ‘standing at the front’, whether that’s in a physical or virtual space, I wonder what that looks like for you? If you’d be willing to share any thoughts, I’d be really interested to hear from you. You can email me at

Banner image: via Canva / osign