A Magical Meeting Story from Dr. Myriam Hadnes, professional connector and founder of Workshops Work and NeverDoneBefore.
Welcome to Magical Meetings Stories, a series where I chat with professional facilitators, meeting practitioners, leaders, and CEOs across industries about their meeting culture. We dive deep into a specific magical meeting they’ve run, including their approach to facilitation design, and their tips and tricks for running meetings people thrive in.
Today’s story is with Dr. Myriam Hadnes, connector, behavioral economist, and facilitator from Amsterdam, Netherlands. Passionate about creativity and human behavior, Myriam facilitates business and team workshops with a focus on helping meeting participants “get out of their own way”.
Myriam is well versed in the art of connecting and leading game-changing meetings as she is the creator of the podcast Workshops Work, founder and curator of NeverDoneBefore, and project facilitator at European Investment Bank (EIB).
With an emphasis on helping meeting members build stronger networks and share knowledge, Myriam is passionate about leading meetings that cut to the heart of the matter and enrich each participant with passion and purpose.
I spoke with Myriam about a meeting template she calls “Project Kickoff”, the reason behind this meeting, what it accomplished, and where the magic happens.
Finding That Magic Moment
The Project Kickoff is a specific meeting template Myriam uses to connect a team or department as they gear up for an upcoming venture. In my conversation with Myriam, we discuss a Project Kickoff meeting held before the start of a European summer school as they prepared to host 70 students for 10 days.
With Project Kickoff sessions, as with any meeting Myriam hosts, she aims to find the magic moment of any workshop: the moment each team member finds their reason to be there and the motivation to keep going.
As each participant prepares for the project ahead, this meeting serves as a way to encourage them to work as hard and learn as much as possible heading into a week of unexpected challenges.
The Meeting Preparation
Before the meeting begins, Myriam identifies the goal and prepares to get participating team members on the same page. Following the Project Kickoff template, the meeting facilitator will choose the following:
- Location: The location should provide space for team members to break out into groups of two or three
- Setup: The meeting should begin with the chairs arranged in a circle and enough wall space to cluster sticky notes
- Participants: Invitations should be sent to a diverse group of staff that are the most instrumental in executing the upcoming event or project
Gather office supplies for organization and note-taking:
- A4 paper
Myriam recommends limiting the team to six people for a more focused session. In the summer camp Project Kickoff, Myriam’s team included individuals from various departments such as advisory, finance, and operations.
Plan the Workshop:
- Length of time: 90- minutes
- Day: Generally a weekday excluding Monday or Friday
- Breakout Group
At the start of this 90-minute Kickoff session, Myriam led with an icebreaker to help tackle nerves and get the creativity going, passing out M&Ms as a snack. The question, “If you had a superpower what would it be?” helped to break down the barriers and hierarchy of all team members involved.
Following the icebreaker, each individual took two minutes to share who they were and why they were there. This way, everyone understood they were working on the same project, even if their backgrounds and roles were different. The rest of the check-in served to get the entire team on the same page as they geared up for a week of intense focus, hard work, and unexpected challenges.
Myriam’s approach to facilitation prioritizes organization and orderliness.
“If unstructured, it’s quite easy to lose yourself in the details without bringing the meeting back together… For me actually, a meeting is successful if the people leave with a better understanding and less confusion than when they walked in,” Myriam said.
The Breakout Group
With a team of six engaged and energized individuals, the meeting shifts into the breakout portion.
Identify Needs, Problems, and Roles
The team splits into groups of two or three to identify potential needs, problems, and roles the upcoming project or event will require of them.
In the meeting, Myriam considers the issues the team would face throughout a week of summer camp. Questions like “Who will handle the logistics in the event of missing equipment?” and “How can the staff make sure each camper had a meaningful experience?” are addressed.
Activity: Matching Talents to Roles
These discussions segued into identifying roles that needed to be filled, such as someone responsible for managing the sound equipment and another individual responsible for connecting with the campers.
With the roles identified, Myriam encouraged each team to create a list of hidden passions and talents. This process served to help each team member connect with their “why”, allowing them to feel like a valued member of the group and giving them a clear responsibility to fulfill when the time came.
During this activity, each participant notes their primary and secondary roles on a sheet of paper. As a way to encourage connectivity and teamwork in the groups, each individual’s primary role is something they struggle with, allowing them the opportunity to evolve and strengthen their talents.
A Tech Retro is for and by developers. While pair-programming is essentially continuous code review, it can still be useful to take some time to step back and look at the codebase. Tech Retros often take the traditional “Smiley / Frownie / Meh” format but focus exclusively on the codebase. This is a great time to talk about modeling Similar to the check-in meeting, the check-out brings the group of six back together, wrapping up by giving each team member homework. In her story, Myriam began the check-out by asking questions like, “What are the biggest challenges we face?” and “What are some risks to prepare for?” Myriam gave the team homework to fill their roles with more “meat” as they prepared for their new responsibilities.
Breaking the Barriers to Problem Solving
Myriam explains that the success of her Project Kickoff meetings lies in the meeting’s transformative power to break the ice, break down barriers, and eliminate anxiety and stress. Thus, creating an open-minded, creative team that is ready to face whatever lies ahead.
As the Project Kickoff meeting gives each person a mission and passion, Myriam hopes to eliminate fear, doubt, and anxiety with each check-in and check-out.
Explaining the power in identifying roles, Myriam shares,
“They walked in as a group of strangers, kind of being maybe intimidated and stressed or, “What will happen? Am I good enough? How will I know what I have to do?” Walking out with new friends and the confidence that now they have their own little thing that they’re responsible about.”
The Power of Six
In any meeting filled with participants pulled from every department, Myriam warns of the risk of creating hierarchies. In her Project Kickoff meetings, she aimed to level the field, no matter the individual’s academic or professional background.
I ask Myriam what improvements she would like to make going forward and she shares that she would urge her clients to make the check-ins and check-outs a regular part of their department meetings. As her clients experience tremendous success by applying her Project Kickoff template to specific projects and events, she has no doubt applying this method to daily operations would yield successful results as well.
Wrapping up our conversation, I asked Myriam what her favorite part of the Project Kickoff template is. “The power of it”, she shared, “that six people gained confidence and buy-in.”
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