2 warm-up exercises that turn disconnected meetings with low participation into effective & engaging work meetings

2 warm-up exercises that turn disconnected meetings with low participation into effective & engaging work meetings

Last Friday, our teams held their two-weekly retrospective, continuing their cycle of improvements. This post highlights the start, a very small yet essential part of a retrospective (or any meeting for that matter) but one that is often underestimated and therefore skipped: the warm-up. 

Have you ever thought one—or all—of these things during a meeting: 

  • “I’ve been in meetings most of the day … it’s hard for me to stay focused.” 
  • “I don’t feel engaged in this meeting.” 
  • “I don’t feel included in this meeting.” 
  • “Not sure if what I want to ask is a stupid question … better play it safe and don’t say anything.” 
  • “Who is that guy? Is that the new guy from sales?” 
  • “The more privileged speakers are doing all the talking … I feel like I don’t have any room to give my input.” 
  • “I wonder what’s for dinner tonight… Did I forget to add the attachment to that mail I just sent? Wow, the sky is blue today!”

It’s normal. Most of us have! 

A warm-up helps everyone in the meeting to: 

  • Be present—mentally and physically—and focused on the topic at hand. 
  • Be actively engaged: your input matters and is valued. 
  • Build trust, which fosters collaboration, which in turn fosters higher value coming out of a meeting. 
  • Improve team dynamics
  • Build relationships between peers. 
  • Enjoy work! Adding some fun to your day sure helps in getting back up the next morning. 

Additional bonus: You get to test if everyone’s audio and video are working properly!

So what warm-ups can you do? There are plenty of warm-ups you can Google but I want to highlight two of my personal favorites. I’ve tried these with a number of teams with very different backgrounds and they just worked best. No matter whether the teams were newly formed or had been working as a team for years.

Warm-up #1: energy music playlist

✔️ Reserve 1-2 minutes per participant for this warm-up. 
✔️ Remote: Make sure you share your PC audio during your conference call. 
✔️ Co-located: Bring a laptop with speakers. 

Open the meeting with this question: What song gives you more energy than five espressos?

Each individual then writes their title and artist on a note (either digitally or physically). While the notes with the songs appear, start adding them to a new Spotify (or alternative) playlist and start playing the first song through your shared audio. 

How long you keep the song playing is up to you. Personally, I tend to jump to the next after the song’s main chorus.  

While the songs are playing, you will notice that the participants start talking: “Who’s song is this? That’s a classic, I really like it!” or “Never heard this song before, what’s it called?” 

Make sure you then take a step back: let the person who wrote down the song reply and have the team dynamics take over while you jump from one song to the next until you’ve had everyone’s song played for at least 30 seconds. 

In our meeting, everyone immediately felt revitalized and the ice was broken: we discovered a side of our peers we didn’t know before and felt comfortable sharing our thoughts on the meeting topic at hand. The time spent on the warm-up was returned with interest seeing as all participants were way more engaged than before.

As a nice bonus, you now have a playlist your team can use throughout their workweek whenever they need a pick-me-up. 

You Rock GIF by Christine Gritmon

Below are three playlists that came from some of our teams: enjoy! If you do this warm-up please get back to us and post a link to your playlist in a reply; that would be really amazing! 

🎶 Skyline Communications, the Automation and Orchestration team’s energy playlist on Spotify 
🎶 Skyline Communications, the Data Insights team’s hype playlist on Spotify 
🎶 Skyline Communications, the Data Explorations awesome playlist on Spotify 

Warm-up #2: show and tell

✔️ Reserve 2-3 minutes per participant for this warm-up. 
✔️ Remote: Use a digital whiteboard that allows you to post images, like Mural, Miro, MS Whiteboard, etc.
✔️ Co-located: Everyone brings their smartphone to show a picture or brings an object they have on their desk.

The goal is that everyone brings an item (or a picture of an item) that is linked to them in some way. It’s entirely up to them to choose if the item is personal or work-related. It just needs to be something that brings them joy or something they are passionate about. 

Now go around and ask everyone to explain their connection with the object or picture they have shown. Get some follow-up questions going: “Is that a black belt? How long have you been doing Judo? Remind me to never upset you! 😅” People generally love to talk about the things they are passionate about, so do keep an eye on the timebox. 

Below is an example of what came out of one of our team’s warm-ups. Topics ranged from hobbies and sports to pets, family, and more.

Again you get to explore a different side of the people you work with day in, day out. It’s small things like these warm-ups that build trust in a team; that trust leads to collaboration and collaboration leads to better results!  

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