by Jessica Delaney, Principal, Engagement + Strategic Communications
A few weeks back, I was in a Zoom meeting with 15 other professionals the day after the long-weekend. The facilitator of the session opened by saying: “ Welcome back to work. I know you’ve all had a great summer, hiking, camping, and now it’s back to the routine.” I was immediately put off.
This summer did have some nice moments, but it was also stressful: there were wildfires across the region; the smoke was thick where I lived; my asthma was brutal; the kids couldn’t go outside for days at a time; I was stressed about the kids going back to school during a fourth wave. My summer was not the summer to rock all summers, which is hard to admit when you live in a town built for memorable summers. It was a powerful reminder to me, as I am often in the role of facilitator, not to project my reality onto others. Our reality is only our own. As a facilitator, it’s my role to open and hold a space where people who have had all different kinds of experiences can feel welcome and safe.
Here are some tips for how to open meetings with intention:
- Welcome and acknowledge territory
- Thank people to participating
- If you have a large group, consider doing small group introductions
- Encourage people to share as they are comfortable – this might mean sharing in the chat or verbally
Here are few “safe” options with how to open a session. Please use your good judgement based on the audience and the familiarity participants have with each other:
- Your hope for this session (or our time together)
- One thing you are grateful for – big or small
- A travel destination you are dreaming of
- Coffee or tea | Cat or dog
- Best thing about (the season you are in)
What are your great openers? Creating rapport is always important, but now, as we find ourselves still in Zoom, Teams, GoTo, it’s even more important that we remain intentional in how we hold and share spaces as well as make people feel welcome and comfortable.