So, thank you for coming.


We’ll get uh…started…in just a few — hang on, I can’t see my slides anymore.

One second.

Hey, can you see my slides? I can’t…uhhh…oh, hi there, we’ll get started soon, I’m just…um…

Has that ever happened to you?

Maybe you were the host of the meeting, with a big ball of tension in your stomach, trying to troubleshoot the tech quickly enough to get back to your anxiety over everyone’s boredom, and the meeting hasn’t even started yet.

Maybe you were attending the meeting, and as soon as it started, you opened up another tab to surf the internet until it was over.

Meetings continue how they begin.

We create momentum in the first few minutes of our meetings, and that momentum can be designed.

“Your opening needs to be a kind of pleasant shock therapy. It should grab people. And in grabbing them, it should both awe the guests and honor them. It must plant in them the paradoxical feeling of being totally welcomed and deeply grateful to be there.” -Priya Parker

Recently I finished reading Priya Parker’s excellent book:

the art of gathering

Photo from my instagram

This book taught me how to start meetings with intention; how to create a container for the purpose; and how to curate the opening moments.

“The opening is an opportunity to sear your event’s purpose into the minds of your guests,” Parker says. “In those first few moments, people are at their most ready to be inspired.”

For me, this crystallized the difference between meetings that I half ignored, and meetings where I could not click away.

When the opening is intentional, an icebreaker collects the attention of the group, so we can gather with purpose.

Simple Icebreaker Exercises

Breaking the ice – between new people who have never met, or familiar groups meeting again – will help participants find a direction in the meeting.

Once a direction is begun, it is easy to follow it.

If you start by fumbling with the tech…that is the momentum your participants will keep.

If you start enthusiastic and engaged, your participant will follow that momentum.

I like to show up early to my meetings, and set the space with an icebreaker. This ‘Unofficial Start’ will provide immediate engagement for those who arrive early, and allow extra time for people to arrive a few minutes late.

If my meeting starts at 9:00 am, I plan for the Unofficial Start to take place between 8:50 and 9:03.

Here are some Icebreaker Exercises from my Zoom Host Checklist:

  1. If you’re ready to begin, type ‘ready’ in the chat
  2. Where in the world are you? Type your city in the chat box.
  3. Welcome to the DANCE PARTY. Cameras OFF if you’re shy, cameras ON if you’re brave.
  4. Send a weird fact or legend about your birthplace in private chat. Once everyone arrives, I will share them one at a time, so everyone can guess whose is whose.
  5. Everyone set a fun Virtual Background. (Select one here.)
  6. Let’s all share a gratitude. What is something you are grateful for?
  7. What is the most interesting and useful app on your phone? Write the name of it in the chat.
  8. What’s your hidden talent? Do you have a party trick? Share it with us before we get started.

Do you have a favourite icebreaker exercise?