Well begun is half done! This proverb especially applies for meetings. The start of a meeting can be designed so that purpose, format and content are all articulated and placed in context.
Irrespectively of the type of meeting you are planning, involving the delegates is always a good rule and, moreover, a good way to begin a meeting. Involving the delegates will help them warm up, create the right mood and clarify in which way you want the whole meeting to proceed.
Here are three types of meetings, and three options for starting your meeting:
1 – THE STRATEGY AND PLANNING MEETING
The strategy and planning meeting usually involves more important decisions than usually. Grand ideas will be on the agenda, but they must be discussed in an efficient and targeted manner. You must reach decisions, set priorities and reconcile differences.
Start the meeting with the Success Spotting method
The ”Success Spotting” method involves a recognition of what works, what we are good at now and what gives us the energy to complete our daily tasks. On this basis, we must create a concept of the future – a sort of positive compass to guide our actions in the right direction.
Time: minimum 2 x 7 mins + 10 mins for summarising
Number of delegates: +4 people
How to proceed:
This method is based on concept, design and execution. Use this method to draw on the organisation's best experiences and the results obtained so far:
- The concept: Start by setting out a vision for the future on the basis of past successes.
- The design: Clarify the vision (and what is realistic about it) by investigating how it might be achieved. What could help us make progress towards the vision? What might be the obstacles? How will you overcome the obstacles?
- Execution: making things happen
The 'success spotting' method can be used for many different purposes, such as improving customer service, working on the individual's professional development, and creating better relations and cooperation within a department. It is especially suitable for managers but can also be used by employees in a number of contexts.
For example: a company has decided to focus on internal cooperation. It seems that the cooperation could be better; They recall a time when everyone was a little happier to go to work and when people talked more with each other. Now, they seem to be in a vicious circle, with everyone focussing on things not done – or errors made.
2 – THE BRAINSTORMING AND INNOVATION MEETING
The brainstorming and innovation meeting is a special kind of meeting. It aims at finding new ideas, activities and solutions in areas such as product or concept development or marketing campaigns. You have to think 'outside the box' and dare to try new approaches.
Start the meeting with the Outside the box method
The purpose of the ”Outside the box” method is to establish ties between the delegates and to practice creative thinking. It is a particularly educational exercise, which in fact shows how hard it is to come up with new ideas.
Time: Approx. 5 - 10 minutes
Number of delegates: 2 – 100 people (best done in groups)
How to proceed:
- Form pairs
- Look carefully at your partner and note how he/she is dressed, what the hair is like, etc.
- Ask the pairs to stand back-to-back
- Now, both partners should change five things in their appearance (this is generally quite easy)
- They must now turn around and tell what the changes are
- Next, they must stand back-to-back again – and now change another ten things (generally this can only be done by taking things from other couples, or from outside the room - which is allowed)
You can vary the number of things to be changed but the point is to make it fairly difficult; this way, the delegates are forced to go beyond the boundaries of their habitual way of thinking. If someone finds it too difficult to say how their partner's appearance has changed, the partner can then explain. The primary intention of the exercise is not to be a guessing game but to force the delegates to keep coming up with new ideas. You can also ask the delegates to change each other's appearance, but this may be difficult, and for some people a little too personal.
The Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel in Copenhagen has plenty of space to gather participants in several ways, which lends itself well to exercises with movement.
3 – THE NETWORKING AND TEAM BUILDING MEETING
Networking and team building is about creating relationships and a spirit of solidarity. The crucial point is engagement – the more the better. A positive attitude and the desire to talk with people in all positions are the primary focal points.
Start the meeting with the: Sudden Survey method
The purpose of the ”Sudden Survey” method is to get the delegates to communicate with each other and to create movement and energy. It is also to establish deals and share experiences with and attitudes to the content.
The method will make the delegates work together from the very start of the meeting. They must collaborate in researching various relevant topics/questions. This can help the delegates and the facilitator to quickly ascertain how others think – moreover, it allows important topics to be brought straight to the table.
The method was developed by Thiagi, but is explained here.
Time: 30-50 minutes
Number of delegates: 8-200 people (best done in groups)
Materials: Flip charts and pens, clock and watches, map for group formation where applicable
How to proceed:
- Formulate four questions or topics that are relevant for the meeting content and for the delegates (for example expectations, experience, changes)
- Ask the delegates to split into four groups (if there is a large number of delegates, more groups may be needed and several may work on the same question/topic)
- Each group is given a topic/question
- Ask the delegates to gather input on their allocated question/topic from the other groups and from their own group members
- Explain the following plan and write it on the board: (number of minutes can be adjusted)
- 3 mins for planning how answers should be collected
- 5 mins for collecting answers from as many delegates as possible
- 3 mins for analysing the answers
- Ask the groups to begin making their plan – give a one-minute warning before the end of this period
- Then explain that they have 5 mins to collect the answers to their question - give a one-minute warning before the end of this period
- Ask everyone to return to their groups to share the answers they have collected
- Give each group a flip chart and ask them to summarise the general results. Give a one-minute warning before the end of this period
- Chose a group at random and ask them to present their ”analysis”– each group has one minute to present their analysis
- Debriefing - discuss results with the delegates
This article was written in collaboration with Ann Hansen, a meeting designer, facilitator and consultant, concept+competence.