12 Opening reflections for productive work meetings

Imagine walking into a meeting without any warm-up, straight into the cold, hard agenda. It's like diving into a pool without dipping your toes first – a bit of a shock, right? Well, that's why opening reflections are like the warm-up exercises before your meeting marathon. They may seem small, but they play a strategic role in planning and running your meetings.

In today's blog we're going to get into exactly why these opening reflections are important, as well as offering tips on how you can carry them out before the beginning of your next meeting. This goes for any type of meeting, too! Whether it’s a weekly catch-up or an important all-hands meeting; there are no excuses for poorly planned meetings now!

1. Welcome and gratitude

Imagine you walk into a room, and the first thing you hear is a warm "Welcome! We're so glad you're here." Instantly, you feel like you matter. That's what expressing gratitude and welcoming participants does. It sets the meeting off on the right foot, making everyone feel like they're part of something meaningful. And when people feel valued and appreciated, guess what? They're more likely to be engaged and ready to contribute, making the discussion more productive.

Let’s not forget that meetings can sometimes be a bit of a buzzkill, right? You're in the middle of work, and suddenly, it's meeting time. But when someone starts the meeting by saying, "Thanks for being here; your presence matters," it's like a morale booster. It reminds everyone that this meeting isn't just a time-suck; it's meaningful. It's like turning a potential frown into a little smile.

Let’s try: "Good [morning/afternoon/evening], everyone. I want to start by expressing my gratitude for your time and presence here today. Thank you for being a part of this meeting."

Surf Office’s Top Tip: The "Welcome Handshake" is a great choice for promoting a sense of welcome and gratitude in meetings, whether they are physical or virtual. It helps create a warm and inclusive atmosphere, making participants feel valued and appreciated right from the start.

Remember these steps!

2. Purpose and objectives

Ever been in a meeting where you had no clue why you were there or what you were supposed to achieve? Yeah, us too! It's like wandering in the dark! Stating the purpose and objectives right out of the gate is like turning on the lights. Everyone instantly knows why they've gathered and what they're supposed to accomplish. Clarity is your best friend in a meeting.

Let’s try: "Hello, team. Today, we're gathered here to [state the purpose or objectives of the meeting]. Let's work together to achieve our goals."

Surf Office’s Top Tip: Clearly state the minutes of the meeting to the team and stick to the allocated time slots. If you want to talk about productivity, state that it will take X amount of minutes. Going off topic could elongate the meeting and all your hard work and prep has flew out of the window!

3. Acknowledging achievements

Consider how it feels when your hard work is recognized and celebrated. It's like a shot of positivity straight to the heart. Acknowledging achievements at the beginning of a meeting does just that – it gives your team members a morale boost. It tells them that their efforts aren't going unnoticed, and their work is valued.

When people feel appreciated, they're more likely to approach the meeting with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. This positive energy can be contagious, spreading throughout the team and setting a productive tone for the discussion.

Let’s try: "Before we dive into our agenda, I'd like to take a moment to celebrate some recent achievements. [Mention a recent success or milestone]."

Surf Office’s Top Tip: Create a system of awards or certificates to honor outstanding achievements. Before the meeting starts, present these awards to team members who have excelled in various areas, such as project completion or innovation. You can make this a regular feature of your meetings.

4. Team bonding

We all know icebreakers are a warm-up for the brain and the heart. You know that awkward silence when a meeting starts? Icebreakers burst through that like a champ. They make it all cozy and comfy, so we can chat without feeling like we're at a formal dinner party.

So, let’s say that we’re deep into the icebreaker and you find out that your co-worker not only loves spreadsheets but is also an amateur salsa dancer. Sharing personal stuff like that helps us bond on a deeper level. It's like discovering that you both root for the same sports team; it's an instant connection. And, believe it or not, that connection can make us work better together.

Let’s try: "Let's kick off this meeting with a quick icebreaker. In one sentence, share something interesting or exciting that happened to you recently."

Surf Office’s Top Tip: One of our favourite ice-breakers to participate in meetings is "Two Truths and a Lie" – perfect for setting a friendly tone before a meeting!

Here's how it goes:

Why is this game awesome, you ask? Well, it's like a social puzzle. It gets everyone talking, laughing, and learning quirky facts about each other. Plus, it's a nifty way to break the ice and team build!

5. Setting the tone

A great way to set the tone in any meeting is to remind the employees of why they’re working so hard in the first place. Think of it as a little spark that can light up our whole room. When we reconnect with our company's mission, it's like rediscovering that excitement we had when we first joined. It's like reigniting our passion for what we do. And trust us that kind of emotional connection can give us a turbo boost of energy and keep us pumped up throughout the meeting.

Let’s try: "As we begin, let's remember our shared commitment to [company values/mission/goals]. Let that guide our discussions today."

Surf Office’s Top Tip: Sometimes the company's missions and values can seem a bit like those big, fancy words you find in corporate documents. But the moment you start weaving them into a real-life story, they suddenly become down-to-earth and relatable.

So, why not share a story with the team? Imagine sharing a story about one of your own team members who faced a tough situation, and in that moment, they embodied the company’s values like a superhero in action. Your almost taking those words off the paper and showing everyone that they're not just empty phrases but guiding stars that light our way.

When you hear about how an employee went above and beyond to make things right for a customer, even when the going got tough, your company values come alive. It's a reminder that these values aren't just for show; they're the beating heart of what you do. 

6. Inspiration and motivation

Starting with an inspirational quote is like a hook that pulls everyone into the meeting. People can't resist a good quote that hits the right notes.

Also, when you share a quote that's touched you personally, it creates a connection with your team. It shows you're not just about business, but you're bringing a piece of yourself into the meeting.

Inspirational quotes usually pack a positivity punch. By kicking off with one, you're setting a sunny tone that can boost everyone's spirits and motivation.

Let’s try: "I recently came across a quote that resonated with me: [Share an inspirational quote]. Let's use these words as motivation for our meeting today."

Surf Office’s Top Tip: Try using the internet to research some of the best quotes to really get your team going. Try to make it relevant to teamwork or success. If you inspire even just one person during the meeting, you’ve reached your goal!

Here are some of our favorite quotes:

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do." - Steve Jobs

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller

"The best way to predict the future is to create it." - Peter Drucker

"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." - Tim Notke

"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will." - Vince Lombardi

"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill

"Teamwork makes the dream work." - John C. Maxwell

"The future depends on what you do today." - Mahatma Gandhi

7. Emotionally checking-in

Emotional check-ins before team meetings can make a significant difference in how your team functions. It's more than just a routine; it's a practice that can positively impact team dynamics and productivity.

First and foremost, these check-ins allow team members to express how they're feeling. Think of it as a safe space for emotional sharing. It might seem like a small thing, but it's crucial for their emotional well-being. When individuals can open up about their emotions, it can prevent issues from escalating or negatively affecting team dynamics.

Also, check-ins contribute to building trust within the team. Trust is the glue that holds a team together, and when team members feel comfortable sharing their emotions and concerns, trust naturally grows. It's a critical component of effective teamwork, and these emotional check-ins can pave the way for stronger bonds among team members.

Let’s try: "Before we get started, let's take a moment to ask check-in questions to each other. How is everyone feeling today? Is there anything you'd like to share or discuss?"

Surf Office’s Top Tip: Now, it can be difficult to get certain people to open up, especially if, say, they’re annoyed with another team member or experiencing personal issues. Let’s not try this into a unlicensed therapy session!

The key is to create a safe and comfortable environment where team members feel they can open up if they choose to do so. Let’s try a game:

Emotion sharing bingo

Before the meeting starts, distribute bingo cards to each team member with various emotions or feelings written in the squares. For example, "happy," "frustrated," "excited," "anxious," "content," and so on.

During the check-in, team members can take turns sharing their current emotional state, but instead of just stating it outright, they try to incorporate it naturally into the conversation. For example, if someone is feeling excited, they might say, "I'm feeling like a kid on Christmas morning about this project update!"

Other team members can mark the corresponding emotion on their bingo cards when they hear it. The goal isn't to pressure anyone into sharing but to create a lighthearted and non-intrusive way for people to express themselves if they wish.

The first person to complete their bingo card can get a small prize or recognition, adding a fun and friendly competition element to the activity. This approach encourages emotional sharing without making anyone uncomfortable or forcing them to divulge personal information. It keeps the atmosphere light and enjoyable while still allowing team members to connect on an emotional level if they choose to do so.

8. Visual icebreakers

Adding a visual icebreaker is like sprinkling a dash of creativity into your meeting cocktail. It's not just about words; it's about connecting on a more personal level. When you ask your team to show off their current workspaces, you’re inviting them into your world. This helps break the ice and makes those virtual relationships feel a bit more real.

Let’s Try: "Hey, let's kick things off with a visual icebreaker. Show us your workspace, and don't forget to highlight something special on your desk."

Surf Office’s Top Tip: The secret here is to let your team get a bit fancy with camera angles and backgrounds. It adds a fun element, kind of like a little guessing game. Plus, it's a chance for everyone to show off their unique style.

9. Reflecting on recent challenges

Before you dive headfirst into the meeting agenda, why not take a moment to make sure that projects and tasks are running smoothly? Reflecting on recent challenges your team has faced is giving everyone the chance to speak up about concerns or failures that have happened since the last meeting.. It's a chance to learn from your past adventures, tweak your strategies, and build that all-important resilience.

Let’s Try: "Okay, let's kick things off by reflecting on a recent challenge. What lessons can we squeeze out of it, and how can we put those lessons to good use?"

Surf Office’s Top Tip: Sometimes people are reserved when admitting failures or challenges. If this is the case with your team, perhaps integrate a game into the meeting to energize the room!

Lesson card

Here’s how to play:

This activity encourages reflection on recent challenges and allows for meaningful discussions without the need for too many resources and planning!

10. Mindfulness minute

So, you're about to start your meeting, but before you dive into the nitty-gritty, you all take a quick breather. Hit the reset button on everyone’s brain! A short mindfulness practice – be it a one-minute breathing exercise or a mini-meditation – helps everyone dial down their stress levels and become Zen warriors.

Let’s Try: "Let's kick things off with a mindful moment. Close those peepers, take a deep breath, and let's get our heads in the game."

Surf Office’s Top Tip: If you're feeling adventurous, you can even bring in a mindfulness guru or use some nifty meditation apps. Over time, this practice can turn your meetings into Zen zones of focus and calm.

11. Guest speakers

Inviting a guest speaker to open your meeting is a fantastic meeting idea for several compelling reasons. It not only adds a layer of novelty and excitement to your gatherings but also brings significant benefits to your team and organization as a whole.

These people are professionals; they have all the ingredients to get people's heads off the desk and onto the ball!

Let’s try: "Good [morning/afternoon/evening], everyone. Before we dive into our meeting today, we have a special treat for you. We've invited a motivational speaker who will share valuable insights with us. Thank you for being here to make this moment even more meaningful."

Surf Office's Top Tip: Do your own research! Every company has different values and ideologies, and guess what? There are motivational speakers out there who fit your description perfectly. Take recommendations from other people in similar companies, surf the internet, read reviews, but overall, make sure the motivational speaker is fit for your company.

12. Change the setting!

Switching the setting to an opening reflection before a meeting can work wonders. It's like a mental palate cleanser, especially if you spend 40+ hours in the same space!

Instead of diving straight into business, it gives everyone a chance to ease in, clear their minds, and set a positive tone. This change in scenery allows your team to shed any distractions and focus better. Plus, it encourages a more relaxed and open atmosphere, promoting better communication and collaboration. So, where can you go?

What if we told you that you could take your meetings offsite, say, on a…beach? That's right, picture yourself brainstorming ideas with your team, the sound of gentle waves in the background, and the sun kissing your skin. It might sound like a dream, but with the help of Surf Office, this dream can become your reality.

Not a fan of the beach? No problem! We also have a plethora of different city and countryside retreats for you and your team. Imagine taking the opening reflection on a picnic in the Irish countryside or trekking in the forests of Scandinavia. Very inspirational places!

At Surf Office, we specialize in creating unique work experiences that combine business and pleasure.

With Surf Office as your partner, you can seamlessly transition your business meetings to the beach, where productivity meets paradise. So, why not trade in your boardroom for a beachfront office and experience the magic of combining work and leisure in the most idyllic setting possible? Your team will thank you, and your business will thrive in the process.

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