Why it’s important to get off to a good start if you want a successful meeting.

Like almost everyone else, I have been involved in hundreds of Zoom calls in the past couple of years. I design them, I lead them, and I attend them. I’m sad to say I continue to see some basic bad habits which result in unsatisfactory experiences for the attendees and unsuccessful outcomes for the meeting itself.

Get off to a good start with your meeting

Now clearly there are different kinds and levels of meetings. In a large info sharing webinar you don’t expect to get to know people; however, if you are meeting over a period of time with a group to tackle a specific issue or as part of a learning community you really want to know who the passengers are on your journey.

I like to manage my learning journey. I want to know the people I’d like to connect with – those whom I might help by sharing knowledge and experiences; those I want to work with because I’d like to learn about their experiences and skills. Those I admire and want to learn more about? Those I’d like to network with?

Far too many meetings are started with very little if any sense of real check in and kick off. What results is people who don’t know who they are meeting with, or why certain people are present, there is a feeling of disconnection and trepidation – should I speak? Is it appropriate that I speak? Who are these people anyhow?

I firmly believe it is worth the effort to invest in a ‘getting to know you’ session because it creates greater affiliation and identity with the group, sets a foundation for building trust, encourages transparency, increases enjoyment and leads to overall better experiences. If you want end of meeting comments like: “The time flew by so quickly.” I can’t believe it’s over already.’ Or ‘how can we continue our relationships?’ then you need to reconsider how you connect and kick off your meetings.


Check In And Kick Off

Check in for me meets several needs and intentions and as a facilitator I have to balance how and how much time I invest in the process because I intend to achieve four things.

  1. Connection: People need to know people’s names. Our name is our most intimate identifier, and it’s a sign of respect and friendship to use people’s names.
    1. Encourage attendees who are logging in on a partners iPhone or child’s laptop to change the name on their tile and make sure that name is the one they’d like to be referred to.
    2. If your group is broadly spread or international suggest they add their location to their name.
    3. Have people say their name out loud. Some names are unusual and pronouncing names correctly is a sign of respect so ask for them to model it.
    4. Use names throughout the meeting
  1. Community: We are social animals and we have evolved to work in groups for our own protection and for improved outcomes of the group as a whole. People operate better in groups where they feel a sense of identity and belonging. Of course, this is job one for a team, and a whole team building industry is built around creating high performing teams. However, even groups of people coming together for a short time, learn, perform and decide better when they feel a sense of belonging,
    1. Make sure everyone is on the same page with the purpose of the meeting
    2. Clarify and manage expectations about the intended outcome and expected contributions of everyone involved.
    3. Encourage people to disclose something of themselves to strengthen bonds of trust and transparency.
    4. Continue the efforts for the lifetime of the group – this cannot be achieved as a one-off activity.

3.Commitment:  People contribute to meetings in several ways. Some of them come as protesters and reject and find fault in pretty much everything; some come as prisoners and state or act as if they had no choice in being there, some are passengers and simply sit back and observe while others do the work and make the contributions; and then there are the true participants who fully engage and are committed to finding the best solution or of getting the most learning out of the adventure. It’s your job as the facilitator or leader of the meeting to purposefully encourage commitment to the end goal and to the process.

    1. Make sense of the overall aim or goal of the meeting. Put it into context for the meeting members. The end goal may be beyond the input of this particular meeting. If your activity sits within a longer-term vision or strategy you need to communicate it’s intended impact in a way that makes sense to the attendees.
    2. Make meaning of the goal and activity. Help people see how what is being created, or being decided relates to them personally.

4.Collaboration:  Most people don’t naturally collaborate.  Although we are social animals, we are hard wired to self-protection and we achieve this through error detection and negative bias. This might save us from a life-threatening risk but it’s not conducive to collaboration. Make sure everyone is on the same page with the purpose of the meeting and its relevance to each individual of the group.

    1. Clarify and manage expectations about the intended outcome and expected contribution
    2. Clarify roles and responsibilities so that everyone knows who should be doing what and how people relate. Your meeting may be totally flat in terms of hierarchy and status. If this is the case them help people realise that there is no hierarchy and that everyone’s contribution will be respected and welcomed equally.

With a thoughtful process you can get off to a great start in your meetings. In a follow up article, I’ll follow up with how to check-out with a powerful DARE.

Contact us at www.facilitationexpert.com to learn more about specific ways to connect, create community, gain commitment and collaboration.