If you want to make sure your video meetings are effective, you need to look after the energy levels of your attendees. One of the best ways to do this is with icebreakers, or as we prefer to think of them, engagers.
When done right they're a far cry from those cringeworthy moments playing awkward games. A well-chosen engager brings people together and acts as the catalyst to an energised and productive meeting.
Engagers are easy to run and don't need to take long - and you'll find the time spent enjoying the right engager will pay you back in connection and effectiveness. In this blog post we'll share the “5 Tips to Icebreaker Success” and give you some free engagers to use in your next meeting.
Taking just five minutes to run an engager will result in you moving much faster through the rest of the agenda. It's a principle we call “slowing down to speed up”: giving everyone a chance to breathe and connect as human beings, before jumping into the doing. Most importantly it creates a distinct break from whatever was going on before so your attendees are fully focussed and fresh for your meeting.
The irony of the badly set up ‘ice breaker’ is that it has the exact opposite effect to the intention – instead of a room full of smart relaxed people ready to collaborate and get the job done you’ve created an awkward dynamic and a smell that can linger for the rest of the session.
“It’s time for an icebreaker’. Cue rolling of eyes, muffled groans and knowing looks between the cynics and sceptics in the room – or these days, across the airwaves.
We’ve all been there. The awkward game poorly explained and no mention of how this is something a bit different to get the meeting going effectively. It is cringeworthy, strange and even embarrassing.
Sound familiar? Not for us: we're famous for breaking from the norm and running positive, fun and enjoyable engagers.
This is one of the issues we get asked about most often, and it's part of the foundations we laid into our Remotely Brilliant video meeting training programmes. Making your remote video meetings great is not the technology - it's about the Humanology: the science behind getting the best out of the people in the 'room'.
A good engager will lift the energy of your participants. Obvious right? But it goes deeper than that. The real benefit of taking time to create the right energy in a meeting is not about the energy itself. It's about the brain science behind relaxing and feeling safe.
When you help attendees relax, you accelerate the dropping of barriers and get people aligned with each other, and with you the facilitator (or team leader).
As a result you'll be able to move through the content much quicker, be more productive and have better conversations. It’s these intellectual benefits that have as big if not bigger impact than the physical ones.
For this reason engagers don't just belong at the beginning of your meeting. You can drop them in at various points (after a break, between agenda items) to keep your meeting flowing and your attendees engaged.
If you want to know how to use engagers or icebreakers in any of your meetings - remote or face to face - then use these tips along with our free Video Meeting Engagers download. Together they are guaranteed to to create great energy in your video meetings.
If you want more guidance then you can request a call back and consider getting yourself and your team on to the next Remotely Brilliant video meeting training.
Here are our top tips to make sure you’re using icebreakers well:
1. Don’t call them icebreakers!
For starters, this will fire up some people's previous negative feelings. Secondly, it tricks you into thinking you should only use them at the start of a business interaction. The truth is you should be using them throughout any meeting – they are designed to keep the brain focussed on the task at hand and creating the appropriate energy for what comes next.
We call them engagers, energisers or aphacisers (named after the brain waves they create). Feel free to steal our names, or come up with your own names and language around them so they feel more aligned to your way of using them.
2. Use 'engagers' to create different energy states
There’s a mistaken belief that these activities are only for creating ‘high’ energy, so therefore they can only be used around subject matter that will benefit from that.
They can be used to create the appropriate energy for any task or conversation – some of the best engagers also link directly to the content so they serve the dual purpose of getting people in the right state to tackle the issue and create stimulus that will allow quicker progression through it.Here’s one of our favourite engagers that’s about creating human connections, not bonkers energy:
Try this engager: “I’d never have guessed”
Get people into pairs (in a remote meeting you can use breakout rooms or ring one another on the phone) and ask them to find an attribute that they (as a pair) share in common and that nobody else would have guessed.
Bring the group back together and have pairs share their ‘something in common’. The pair with the most unusual shared attribute are the winners.
3. Carefully select icebreakers to fit your agenda and tone
Engagers (as we like to call them) are often planned as an afterthought rather than an integral part of the meeting or session. This often makes them feel ‘stuck on’ or incongruous to the rest of the content, adding to the belief that they don’t really have a place in ‘proper’ business meetings.
The irony is, that when used properly, they are content boosters. It’s worth spending some time looking at what’s going on in the rest of your agenda, and selecting an engager that will act as a thought-provoker, or a mood-creator for whatever is coming after it.
4. Explain what you’re doing so everyone can connect to it
There’s a misguided belief that you can’t use engagers with senior leaders or importantly-titled people. Unless these people’s brains have evolved in a different way to the rest of us then this just isn’t true.
The secret to obtaining the ninja skill of creating the right energy at any time in any type of meeting lies in the communication and navigation around the energiser itself. As with all effective communication context is everything – lack of context leads to lack of understanding which leads to resistance or misunderstanding.
You can learn how to do this yourself in a live Remotely Brilliant video training event.
5. Don’t let a few cynics put you off
You’ll still get a few people resisting, as you do around anything that is new and different – if you think about people you work with you can probably predict who they will be.
In our experience they often are someone who takes pride in never bringing their full energy and commitment to a session, likes to boast about being cynical as if it is some kind of superpower and kills other people ideas with phrases like ‘let me play devil's advocate’ and ‘we tried it before, it didn’t work’. They may have created an ‘I’m a serious business person’ persona which makes relaxing and having a bit of fun feel like the devil’s work and to be avoided at all costs.
Don’t let these few people spoil it for the rest – stick to your guns, keep explaining the science and if required give them some feedback around the impact their attitude is having on the rest of the team.
It’s time to leave the icebreaker language in the past, there’s too much baggage. Step into the brave new world of appropriate meeting energy management that makes people smarter, creative and more effective. Get excited about weaving our engagers into your meetings.
There's a real art to making them seamless and part of the meeting, and our tips above can help with that. Soon, like us, engagers will be a part of what makes your sessions fun and effective when other people's are a draining experience!
Put this skill at the heart of your meeting planning and facilitator toolset by getting our free Remotely Brilliant meeting games download.
In this download, you'll find short and easy-to-follow instructions for four of our most useful engagers:
You don't need any special equipment or skills to run these games! Each one takes just a couple of minutes and will ensure your meeting attendees are re-energised and full of focus for whatever's coming next.
The free download is part of out Remotely Brilliant training. We have three different formats for Facilitators, Teams and Business Leaders. All Remotely Brilliant events are run live over video between you and us, meaning we can deliver them to you anywhere in the world.
Whatever you think about virtual meetings, given the current context they're here to stay.
Running productive, effective video meetings takes a bit of investment - but not in expensive technology.
It's Humanology that makes the biggest difference to remote interactions.
The good news is, you can change your virtual life in as little as 2.5 hours with our remote meeting training.