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There’s no such thing as small talk when it comes to meetings
Jolien Noppen

Recently we asked our LinkedIn followers how they preferred to start a meeting – by having some small talk first or by getting straight to the point. 79% of the respondents (n = 57) said they prefer to start a meeting with some small talk.

‘Small talk’ might have been a bit of a misleading term. Because in our opinion, there’s no such thing as small talk when it comes to meetings. While informal small talk or chit-chat can take over the meeting agenda, we like to work with ‘check-ins’, a structured ritual that should be the first item on your meeting agenda.

We believe that attendees of a meeting will contribute more when they talked, laughed and moved in the first 10 minutes of that meeting. In this blog, we explain you how check-ins can help with that.

The power of a check-in

As our friends at NOBL mention in their article ‘Why a Quick “Check-In” Makes Meetings More Effective’, check-ins are powerful rituals that accomplish five goals:

  1. Fostering safety – the shared belief that your team is a safe place to introduce new ideas or share bad news makes the team more creative and successful
  2. Cognitive offloading – ‘checking-in’ and sharing the concerns you bring to the meeting reduces the cognitive demand it has on you and increases your focus
  3. Anticipating miscommunications – taking the time to hear where others are coming from helps you to reflect on how to communicate with them
  4. Priming contributions – by creating a moment at the start of the meeting, you make sure everyone gets the opportunity to contribute, including the more introverted members of your team
  5. Saving time – the clear, structured ‘check-in’ ritual replaces the more informal chit-chat that can take over the meeting agenda

The power of check-in rituals: example of the Smurfs

Example of a check-in: asking the attendees which Smurf you are today.

Checking out at the end of the meeting

Just as important as checking in at the beginning of a meeting, is to check-out at the end of it. With a simple tour de table asking everyone if they’re OK before ending the meeting, you ensure participants leave with a clear head.

Especially while working remotely and having back-to-back meetings without a physical change of location in between, it’s important to make sure you properly check out from the first meeting before heading into the next one. A bad check-out influences your next check-in, making it harder to be present and focus on the content of your next meeting.

Types of ‘check-ins’

The power of check-in rituals: example of a worldmap

Example of a check-in: asking the attendees to indicate on a map where they would like to travel to and why.

From answering the question ‘What are you bringing with you to this meeting?’ to choosing which Smurf you are today or indicating on a map of the world where you would like to travel to and why – check-ins come in many different forms.

Depending on the type of people you have in your meeting, you can keep it simple or go for a more creative check-in. As long as everyone in the meeting gets a chance to be heard, your check-in is valuable. Are you meeting with people who die a little inside every time they hear buzzwords like 'check-in' or 'rituals'? In this case, it’s not even necessary to define it as ‘checking-in’ and ‘checking-out’. Replace it with a simple 'start of the meeting' and 'end of the meeting' and you're good to go. As long as you allocate the time in your agenda for it.

Conclusion

A good check-in at the start of your meeting invites attendees to be present and prepares their minds before they start digging deeper. In the case of an online meeting, it can also help them get familiar with the new technology in a playful way. A good check-out at the end of your meeting helps attendees to reflect on what has been discussed during the meeting and ensures closure.

Want to read more?

The images in this article are examples of check-ins we like to do with our clients at Beanmachine. Curious to find out more on what we do and how we give it the magic Bean sauce? Check out our Bean Campus catalogue 'Revive and thrive in the new normal'.

Looking for some extra inspiration on questions to ask during check-in and check-out? Hyper Island created a toolbox with some examples of check-in and check-out questions.

In the middle of a slump or tackling a particularly complex topic? Remote Energizers help you and your team to stay engaged in a remote meeting.

Struggling to develop a personal connection with your audience in your online meetings? Check out the article on 'Virtual Meetings Don't Have to Be a Bore' by Harvard Business Review.

Curious to find out what our next question will be? Follow us on LinkedIn.