Doing exercises and energizers in your meetings are so much more than adding an element of fun. They give you as meeting facilitator, the power to increase meeting efficiency! How? There are 3 elements to take into account.
First of all, it helps increase involvement, second, it's a powerful tool to switch more empowering meeting modes and lastly it triggers collaboration.
"Try to say something - anything - in a meeting as soon as possible" is an advice I've heard and read a lot. For people with lots of experience, confidence or a very open company culture, it might not be that hard to speak up during a meeting. However, for other more introverted or new people in a team, it doesn't always feel that naturally. Keeping silent might often be the more comfortable and safe option.
Nonetheless, people are not really part of the meeting until they have said something. A statement that's even more valid in virtual meetings. Since people are not physically IN the meeting, you'll never know whether they are actually there following the discussion or using it as background noise while responding some urgent emails. The only way to know if people are involved in your online call is if they speak.
So how can you, as facilitator or meeting organizer, make sure people talk and are thus involved in your meeting? A first advice is to do a either check-in or another exercise that serves your meeting purpose.
An important discussion on the planning? Do a check-in where everyone states his/her expectations.
A brainstorm workshop on the planning? Do a quick exercise to increase creativity!
A lot is happening in the company/team/world? Have everyone describe with 3 words how they feel or what's going on in their heads.
A first meeting for a new project? Let everyone shortly introduce themselves, while avoiding to mention job functions and family situation.
One of the biggest strengths of team exercises and energizers is that everyone needs to actively participate and talk, so use it to your advantage during meetings!
Switch to more empowering meeting modes
The facilitator or meeting organizer has the power to choose in which mode they want to hold the meeting. A mode in this case is the level of empowerment you give to the group.
This can go from very little empowerment, the telling mode, to very high empowerment where the group is almost entirely self-steering, the empowerment mode.
The telling mode is used to transfer a lot of information. In this case the group mostly listens and there's limited interaction.
The proposing mode is often used for presentations with a Q&A at the end.
The moderating mode is one that's usually chosen for, for example, project team meetings with agenda topics that need to be discussed with the whole group.
The fourth mode, the stimulating one, is the typical mode used for workshops. The facilitator guides the process and introduces the exercises, but it's the group that's doing the work.
The last one, the empowering mode is used a lot in e.g. agile teams, where the coach gives a briefing and lets the team explore and learn the work themselves, while the coach observes.
Sometimes it's useful to use multiple modes during one meeting, to obtain optimal results. Let's take a typical team meeting as an example.
It often starts with the manager transferring key information, through telling mode. Afterwards, there might be some open points that need to be discussed with the whole team (moderating mode). To finish, you might want to do a brainstorm to gather some ideas on a challenge that you're facing (stimulating mode).
However, it's not that easy to make a group switch to different meeting modes during one meeting. Once they're used to just having to listen, it's a challenge to move them towards actively participating from one minute to the other. This is why team meetings tend to get stuck in the telling mode and focus on transferring info, even though sticking with one mode limits your meeting productivity.
So how can you get the group to switch modes?
A 5 min exercise in between each of the modes will do the trick! When you want to switch to a moderating one, do an exercise that shows the value of listening te one another. Want to switch to a stimulating mode? Do a creativity increasing exercise!
Team over I
Doing small exercises or energizers during meetings, increases the team bond drastically. It helps to create trust by empowering people to open up in the structured and predefined context of the exercise. I can hear you thinking Ok, but why is it so important that people trust each other and open up ?
Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change - Brené Brown
Exactly what Brené says. By increasing trust, people will over time start to feel safe to express their ideas and concerns. The fear for being punished, laughed at or judged for what they say will steadily decrease, which lowers the boundary to share input. In turn, this entails more fruitful conversations, more qualitative discussions and more creative ideas. Having meetings like that sounds amazing, right?
Do you need inspiration for good exercises?
Could you use some help as a meeting organizer to decide what exercises are best used for which situations and in which groups?
Are you ready to increase innovation, creativity or involvement in your meetings?
Check-out our UNITY card deck, with 52 energizers and exercises. Step-by-step explained, with unique insights and tips on how, when and with whom to use them.
Now with an exclusive offer: you get the UNITY e-book with virtual exercises FOR FREE with the code COVIDNNORM (make sure to add both products to your cart).
If you have other questions or team-related challenges, don't hesitate to reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org!