A Magical Meeting Story from Sara Huang, a human-centered facilitator and heart-based consultant from The Randstad, Netherlands.
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 where people thrive.
Sara Huang is the founder of Bureau Tw!st and is a human-centered facilitator based in The Netherlands. I spoke with Sara about the Teambuilding Account Managers meeting, the reason behind it, and her proudest moments from the meeting.
Team Building 101
In a Teambuilding Account Managers meeting, Sara’s main objective is to facilitate learning by doing. In this particular meeting, Sara’s client hired her to facilitate the sessions while acting as the team coach. In each session, Sara focused on improving the team’s communication and collaborative efforts while highlighting any problems that may be affecting the team.
As a facilitator, Sara focuses on building agility and resilience with and through people. Working alongside her clients, Sara aims to shift the focus of leadership from ‘power over’ to ‘power within’ and ‘power to’.
In this particular meeting, Sara’s main goal was to facilitate real connection and engagement for a disconnected team. With the Teambuilding Account Managers meeting, Sara hoped to encourage reflection and stimulate serious learning.
Let’s take a closer look at Sara’s process to learn what made this meeting magical.
In a Teambuilding Account Managers meeting, the facilitator works with the team to uncover learning by doing via gameplay.
In this meeting, the facilitator will select the following:
- Three two-hour sessions
- 8 account managers
- Microsoft Teams
- Questioning power dynamics
- Disrupting patterns of interaction
This particular meeting was attended by eight account managers and was the final session of three.
Plan the Workshop
- Chat Check-In
- Small-Group Interactions
- Serious Game Part 1
- Intervention Round 1
- Serious Game Part 2
- Intervention Round 2
- Bio Break
- Solo Reflection
- Plenary Sharing
Ahead of the meeting, participants are sent materials such as different pieces of the puzzle for the game.
To add a bit of mystery to the meeting, Sara sent out invitations to participants with just enough information to pique their curiosity without giving too much away. Sara’s preparation also included making a Spotify playlist of the team members’ favorite songs to play during the welcome, transition times, or breaks.
The facilitator welcomes participants with a playlist of their choosing and explains the concept of serious gameplay.
This meeting was Sara’s third and final team-building session that she designed and facilitated for this team in six months. Sara began the session by playing the Spotify playlist.
In the initial chat check-in, the facilitator will ask participants to rate their energy level on a scale from 1 to 10.
The facilitator leads the small group interactions with the following prompts:
- What is your dream achievement for this team?
- How are you contributing to that ambition?
In Sara’s meeting, the account managers self-organized into smaller groups. Sara then asked the team member with the nearest birthday to go first.
Serious Game Part 1
The facilitator introduces the serious game.
In the first serious game, each member of Sara’s team held a piece of the puzzle. The objective of the game was for the team members to solve the puzzle without showing anyone their piece of information. The team had 20 minutes to solve the challenge while Sara muted herself to observe their interactions.
Serious games are unique in that they highlight the need for willingness and cooperation in teams. Through gameplay, the client’s account managers experienced collaborative learning leading to increased communication, improved motivation, and more refined collaboration skills.
Intervention Round 1
The facilitator asks participants the following questions:
- How is it going?
- What’s going well?
- What is not going well?
- How can you improve as a team, considering how things are going?
Sara notes that this gameplay highlighted the dynamics and pattern of interaction among the team members:
“Interestingly, the informal leader took the lead while the former leader took the back seat. This dynamic was already implicit in the meetings but made explicit during the teambuilding.”
Serious Game Part 2
The facilitator introduces the second game and observes for the next 20 minutes.
Intervention Round 2
The facilitator asks the final round of follow-up questions:
- How is it going?
- Who has what tasks?
- Discuss the influence of perception and paradigm
For Sara’s team, the results of the games were clear:
“The team members shared at the end of the session how frustrated they felt while playing the game and how frustrated they were working as a team. It was the first time they opened up to each other, instead of complaining to each other.”
There is a 10-minute break ahead of the solo reflection prompts.
The facilitator asks team members to reflect on the following prompts:
- How have you experienced the game?
- When did you feel energized?
- When did you feel drained?
- What games do you recognize in everyday working life?
The facilitator encourages discussion for 15 minutes as team members reflect on the exercises. During this phase, team members should share their findings.
The facilitator brings the session to a close by asking participants to rate their energy level at the end of the meeting on a scale of 1 to 10.
For Sara, serious gameplay is about stimulating experiential learning. With creativity comes cohesive facilitation, something Sara strives to champion in all her sessions. I asked Sara how she would change her meetings if she was bold, and her answer was to add more ingenuity to the process.
“If I were really bold …I would have sent them materials via post mail and asked them to get even more creatively reflective. Maybe send them lego materials and ask them to build a 3D model which represents their personal goals within the team and criteria to hold them accountable if those personal goals are met.”
The element of gameplay transforms an otherwise standard meeting into a session full of engaging, challenging, and thought-provoking problem-solving. With a dedicated team of quick thinkers, Sara’s serious games were as effective as intended. She notes that without proper facilitation, this type of meeting runs the risk of encouraging finger-pointing or prioritizing the game over the learning experience.
I asked Sara what meeting moment made her the proudest and she shared how happy she was in challenging her task-and-result-oriented team to make a shift. With her efforts, she successfully encouraged her team to use their reflective thinking muscles to approach the unconventional challenge, which dramatically improved their communication and collaboration efforts in the process.
Do you have your own Magical Meeting Story to tell?
We’d love to hear your wizardry! Share how you are creating magical moments in your work below.