Meetings, conferences, briefings and awaydays

Types of meeting

Good practice can make meetings more accessible for everyone – request or suggest adjustments to the organisers

There may be several different types of meeting you may be invited to attend. These could include:

One to one, line management and supervision meetings – Most organisations have a formal performance management process, which will be covered in meetings with your supervisor. This will include how often you should meet to discuss your work with your line manager or supervisor. You can ask to meet more often than that as a reasonable adjustment.

Conference calls – Increasingly businesses are using calls to bring multiple colleagues together to discuss a particular topic or challenge. Sometimes these are run over the internet via video call, and you can see your colleagues, or they can show you documents or other information on their computer screens and vice versa. It can be difficult to know when to talk without interrupting, or to know when other people are going to talk or ask a question, but it’s the same for everyone else on the call! An agenda can help, as can having someone chair the call, who is skilled at ensuring everyone can contribute.

Team meetings – Where you meet with other members of your team – typically all those who report to your manager. The frequency of the meetings will vary, they may be daily, weekly or monthly. Companies where things change regularly tend to have more frequent and shorter meetings. Sometimes team meetings can take all day if they don’t happen all that regularly.

Leadership briefings and management meetings – Usually led by a senior member of staff at key periods – e.g. at the end of the year, or times of change. They can relate directly to the work you are doing, or to the organisation itself.

Staff forum meetings – Many bigger companies have staff groups, often made up of volunteers, who come together on a regular basis to discuss a workplace issue that’s important to them. For example there may be a workplace Diversity group. You could volunteer, or be asked to represent autistic or disabled people in such a staff forum if one existed at your employer. The forum might focus on employment issues such as pay and working conditions but may also consult on changes in strategic direction.

Project Management meetings – If you are working on a project, you will need to meet (in person or virtually – e.g. by video or conference call) at agreed intervals or stages of the project to discuss progress.

Quality management meetings – Attention to detail is a strength for many autistic people and is essential to developing and delivering a consistent high-quality approach to organisational delivery. There will normally be a group pf people responsible for quality within any large organisation.

Organisational Awaydays – (Sometimes called ‘off-site’ meetings) When a new team is set up, or a major organisational change is happening, many organisations will choose to get key people away from the office so that their thinking can be more creative and they can work more closely together than is possible with the usual workplace demands. These meetings are sometimes combined with evening social activities.

Accessible meetings

Meetings can be overwhelming. The items in the following list may be provided to make the meeting more accessible, or you could ask for them as reasonable adjustments.

All meetings can be made more accessible for autistic people by incorporating good practice such as:

  • A timed agenda saying who is due to attend
  • A map, and details of how to get there
  • Link to the venue with pictures of the room and a guided tour if needed
  • All papers sent out in advance of the meeting. Read them through in advance so you can prepare for the meeting so that you can contribute in writing if that works better for you.
  • Share your dietary needs (e.g. vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, plain food) with the organiser in advance so that they can provide food that you can eat if the meeting or event goes over a mealtime.
  • Sending a draft set of minutes to participants for comments and questions before the final minutes are sent out.

Accessible conferences

If you need to attend large meetings, staff briefings and conferences, they can be made more accessible by following the guidance for meetings above. The following things may be provided by the organiser, or you could suggest them:

  • Reserved seating to minimise sensory overload
  • Early registration to conferences to avoid crowds
  • Access to a quiet room
  • Interaction badges – coloured communication badges to indicate to other people if you are happy to be approached by them. You should have access to all 3 badges and be able to choose which to display:
    • Green – Please talk to me (I may have trouble starting a conversation)
    • Yellow – Please don’t talk to me unless I already know you
    • Red – Please don’t talk to me
  • Questions submitted in advance – submit written questions to the conference organisers in advance if you do not want to raise them in person