Putting the Va-Va Voom into Virtual!

Prime your meeting participants to perform (and have fun…)

When every Teams call merges into the next, it can be hard to get people engaged and excited around virtual workshops.

At The Culture Experiment, we know that energy and enjoyment are vital for an effective meeting – creating the conditions for collaboration and creativity. We also know the process of getting people excited and engaged starts BEFORE your meeting begins…

Psychologists have long known the impact of ‘priming’. Robert Cialdini, one of our all-time fave behavourial psychologists (yep we really have them) states ‘the best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion – the process of arranging for [people] to be receptive to a message before they encounter it’. Put simply:  What you do before your meeting hugely impacts what happens during it.

Now, we’re not suggesting you drop subliminal messages into pre-meeting material (‘SEND THE FACILITATOR DOUGHNUTS’) but you can help people bring their best selves to your sessions. Whether it’s an innovation meeting or strategic review, prepare your people to have a FABULOUS time, and be blown away by the quality boost to your output!

Priming Experiments

1. The Project Box

Everyone needs to feel wanted – and included. While WFH, we bet you’ve all sent some form of ‘treat’ to colleagues at home (we refer you back to those doughnuts!) And didn’t it have an impact?

Our Hypothesis: What you send to participants before your session sends a huge message about what you expect from them – and how they need to show up.

Our Experiments:  Here are some of the surprises we’ve snuck into project boxes recently –

Finger puppets Yes, really! They create an immediate sense of play and an expectation of interaction. From interns to CEOs, we’ve found people cannot wait to pop their ‘fingerbobs’ on! Digits dancing, comedy voices squeaking, they chat away cheerily to us – to themselves – and more importantly, to each other.

Take a look at these Finger Puppets.

Voting Tokens When quick decisions are required, people need to show their feelings fast. Yes, you can virtually ‘Raise a Hand’, but nothing triggers interaction like a physical action. ‘Yay, we’re waving over here (not drowning!)’

Simply by asking people to ‘flash’ their smiles (or frowns) you prime them for swift decision-making.

Try these smiley face options for a bit of fun.

Team Kit You want your people to act like a team? Send out ‘team kit’ to help them feel connected, even when physically apart.

Don’t worry about matching t-shirts, it could be as simple as sending novelty mugs or hilarious hats. Anything that creates a fun talking point and immediately connects the team to each other and the topic at hand. We’ve been enjoying raising a cuppa to each other with these cute animals and cheeky slogans. (Who’s to know ours contains a Pina Colada..?)

2. ‘Pre-Reads’ that Perform

Properly-informed people have better quality conversations, and make better decisions. (Wow, who’d have thunk it!?)

Yet how often are you met with participants who’ve failed to absorb your meticulously prepared ‘pre-reads’? Work-shy fops, the lot of them! Unless there’s another reason…

Our hunch: The presentation of pre-meeting materials often makes them hard to dig into and decipher (anyone for another dense slide deck rammed with facts and stats?)

Experiment: We can’t force-feed information to people (much as we might like to!) Create pre-meeting ‘tasters’ instead – create appetising chunks of material that appeal to a variety of learning styles. And let people consume at their own convenience!

Some of the things we’ve been experimenting with:

Interview an Expert

Rather than ask people to read the research, record a chat with the expert who produced it! Make things conversational, and circulate the recording, which people can watch or listen to at their leisure.

Have a Fight!

Got a complex, multi-faceted issue you need people to engage with? Record some (well-informed) friends debating the point. Keep it short and punchy – and circulate the highlights to your participants. Agree or disagree, everyone will arrive at your session with their point of view sharpened – and a host of issues they can’t wait to wrestle.

Sensationally Simple

Imagine you’re a splashy celebrity journalist. What’s the grabby headline for the information you’re trying to convey and the splashy picture that’ll pull us in? Use simple words that someone (without a PHD in molecular biology) understands and see how it impacts levels of engagement.

3. Connection Questions

Whether you’re old muckers, or meeting for the first time, if you want people to share and build ideas, you need to develop trust. This comes from getting to know each other even better.

Our hunch: We can signal the kind of honest, open connections we need by priming people with a few fun questions beforehand. Tap into the time of year – what experiences are we all going through?!

New Year’s Dissolution

Which annual resolution do you make for yourself, but not this year? Whether it’s giving up booze or bread – or being defeated at yoga – which noble deed have you dodged? (And how good is this making you feel?!)

Best (and worst!)

Come prepared to reveal something about yourselves – starting with some choice artefacts from your life off camera. Ask participants to find, and hold up to camera, the best/ worst piece of art in their home; the best/ worst book they’ve read; the best/ worst hat they’ve bought (or been gifted!)

New Year’s Honours

Here in the UK, the Queen gives out annual awards for those who have served to the nation. So who deserves a ‘gong’ for services to you? Pre-meeting, ask everyone to mull a spot of theoretical medal-giving. Then inject moments of fun – and personal sharing – into the meeting by asking team-mates to reveal their ‘royal’ decree: Who in their life most merits a medal…and who definitely does not.

What participant priming experiments have you been playing with? We’d love to hear from you at hello@thecultureexperiment.com.


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