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Plan Efficient Meetings: Activities for Introduction and Wrap Up

This lesson is a part of an audio course Plan Efficient Meetings by Igor Arkhipov

In this and the next lesson, we will be focusing on the key elements of each meeting and will discuss how to effectively plan for them.

To re-iterate, the body of any meeting can be roughly split into 3 stages:

  1. First, start the meeting when you set the scene and get people on board.

  2. Second, the active part of the meeting where the discussion happens and decisions are made.

  3. Third, the wrap up where the conclusions are drawn and final notes are taken.

Let's start from the beginning. How do you open a meeting?

The first words are important to set the scene. They will define your appearance and, to a noticeable degree, will set the impression from the overall session. It is hard to fix the meeting if the first impression is ruined. Think about what you are going to say in advance.

Make sure you cover the following topics:

  • Welcome your participants.

  • Introduce the participants if it is the first time they see each other, or re-introduce them if you know it's been a while since they've met.

  • Explain the purpose and goals of the session. Clearly state what is the desired outcome versus the dream outcome.

  • Explain how the session is going to be run, what the roles are, and how long it is going to take.

It is best to rehearse the intro! If you feel nervous about running a session – learn the first couple of sentences that you are going to say by heart. Once you start speaking, you will gain confidence – you just need a little kick start. Well rehearsed opening and welcome can help a lot.

Often, it is best to plan your intro the last, after you have designed the rest of the session.

Always remember that the people come to your meeting from their work environment. Their thoughts may still be occupied by their daily problems, or recent news, or something else. It is good to spend a bit of time resetting the people and get them to start collaborating in an easy or even game format. It is good to consider a warm-up exercise for it.

The goal of a warm-up is to "break the ice" – to get everyone to open their mouth and get comfortable speaking aloud.

Let's explore some ideas for warm-up exercises.

2 truths 1 lie. This is a fun activity that encourages discussion and often results in amusement and laughter.

Start by asking each person to come up with two real facts about themselves and one believable lie. When everyone is ready, they start sharing their three statements one by one while the rest of the group votes or discusses their guess for which statement is a lie. Once the group agrees, the person speaking reveals the truth.

For example, consider these three statements about me.

  1. I've recently started to learn how to play the piano.

  2. I used to do karate at school.

  3. I spent 6 months backpacking around the world when I was 20.

Can you guess which is the lie? I'll give you some time. Piano, karate, or backpacking?

It is the backpacking, much to my shame, I've never traveled around the world.

The next activity. Candies. This one helps people to better know each other and start building bonds based on common interests.

To coordinate this icebreaker, pick your favorite kind of multi-colored candy – it can be a bowl of M&Ms, Starbursts, Skittles, or whatever you fancy the most. Next, pass around the bowl and ask people to take as many candy pieces as they like, but NOT to eat them – although hard, it is important. Once the bowl of candy has been passed around, each person has to answer a question for each color they have taken. For example, you can assign questions such as:

  1. What's your favourite movie for red.

  2. Best or worst travel experience for yellow.

  3. Favourite book for blue and so on.

You can include some interesting questions like if you had a superhero ability, what would it be, or if you could meet any famous person, who would that be?

Another good exercise is called paper airplanes. Pass out different colored sheets of paper to each person attending the meeting. Then ask everyone to write an interesting fact about themselves on a piece of paper and fold it into a paper airplane. Then everyone launches their paper airplane to somewhere around the room. After the planes land, everybody retrieves one of the paper airplanes, reads the fact, and guesses whose paper airplane they've got. It's physical, people need to move, which helps energize the room. It's also fun to guess, and you learn new things about each other.

The last idea I want to share with you is called coins. Get some coins, then sort through them to make sure you don't have any coins that are too old – you'll see why it is important in a sec.

Get everyone pick a coin out of the bowl. Go around and ask each person to share something they were doing the year the coin was minted. This is great for getting to know someone's past—and test their memories.

There are lots of agendas for a warm-up. Regardless of which one you choose, it is a matter of helping people open up, build a bit of empathy to each other, and start speaking.

Warm-up, although being fun, is not why you spawn a meeting – so don't spend too much time on it, and move on to the core activities. Remember that spending too much time on warm-up and refreshing activities may prove as inefficient as spending no time on them at all.

Core activities that you will perform within a meeting will depend on the format you choose and the goal of the meeting. In the next lesson, we will discuss the following key types of meetings and how to prepare for them the best.

We'll talk about:

  • Information radiation meetings.

  • Decision-making meetings.

  • Innovation and problem-solving meetings.

  • Requirements elicitation meetings.

No matter what is the type of meeting, always try to make the meeting engaging, but also make sure you keep focused on the outcomes.

Now, a few final notes on wrapping the meeting up.

Check the time, and always finish when planned. If there is not enough time to finish all the activities, explain it to the participants in advance and decide collaboratively what to do next. If the people are available to spend a bit more time on the spot, it may be a good option; or agree on a follow-up meeting if needed. If the follow up is needed, discuss the goal and purpose of it.

Conclude the meeting formally – make sure your playback key decisions and state whether the goal has been achieved. Ensue people leave the room on the same page. As a part of the conclusion, discuss the next steps. Make sure everybody understands them and knows their own role in them.

Then, say a thank-you and, finally, ask for feedback. How did your audience like the meeting, and what can be improved going forward.

At this stage, let me give you a small task: assess some of your previous meetings. Did they have a warm-up activity? How efficient was it? Which one would you suggest to run?

Also, remember how the meeting concluded. Did it finish on time? How would you finish it you were not happy with the meeting results?

On this note, let's finish this lesson. We'll speak soon.

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Written by

Igor Arkhipov