We always suggest the importance of taking into account the group’s context and overall state of mind when planning a meeting. Now we want to share some ideas about how to apply the concept of the “human factor” at the start of a session.

Often groups do not take the time to do a personal “check-in” when they sit down to meet. Typical rationalizations include “we already know each other,” “we are together all day.” and most commonly, “we do not have time to waste in idle chatter.” So they dive directly into the first item on the agenda, losing the opportunity to connect with each other as human beings before getting to work.

An indigenous community in South America believes that when a group meets the members must breathe and “take a few minutes in order for the soul to arrive.”

Remember that the participants are busy people. When they take their seat at the conference table they are often worried about many personal and professional issues that do not necessarily have anything to so with the purpose of the meeting. Investing a few minutes to help people “land” can make them more present for the discussions that follow.

A round of introductions does not have to take much time. Depending on the size of the group, 5-10 minutes is enough for each person to give a brief update and strengthen the human connection between colleagues as a first step to working effectively together.

Some examples for opening include:

  • Ask each person to share “something new and good that has happened in my life recently.”
  • In the case of a Monday morning meeting, ask each one to share “something fun (or enjoyable) that I did over the weekend.”
  • Ask everyone to share with the whole group or, if the group is large, with the person sitting beside them, any issue unrelated to the today´s agenda that is on their mind and that they need to set aside in order to focus on the meeting.
  • In a virtual meeting, ask each person to say their name, the local time and what the weather is like where they are.
  • If the group members do not know each other well and/or if they believe that “we are different,” ask them to work in pairs to identify “10 things we have in common.”

Additional advice

  • The tone of the opening round should be neither too playful nor too serious.
  • Choose a question or dynamic that respects each person´s dignity and individuality.
  • A human-centered beginning can contribute significantly to the meeting´s effectiveness.