Icebreaker Questions

Have you ever been in a meeting or small group session where no one talks?  The silence can be quite daunting for the meeting facilitator.  It can also be frustrating for those in attendance who may not want to be the first to speak.  How can you fix this dilemma?

Question Mark ConceptIcebreaker questions are a great way to start off a small group time.  All of the participants can play a part in answering these questions, hopefully promoting an open environment for them to share once the main topics of the meeting are discussed.  Depending on the group size, you can break off into smaller groups or talk about these as a whole.

If your groups are sitting around tables, questions can be on slips of paper placed in a basket.  If your groups are less formal, you, as the facilitator, can simply ask one question at a time or give each group a handout with questions.

Here is a list of great icebreaker questions to get your guests talking in your next small group time:

•    If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?
•    If you had to give up one of your senses, which would it be?  Why?
•    Does your name have a special meaning and/or were you named after someone special?
•    If you had a time machine that would work only once, what point in the future or in history would you visit?
•    What did you want to be when you were little?
•    What is one of the things you would put on your “bucket” list?
•    What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
•    What do you keep in the trunk of your car?
•    If you could be any animal in the world for 24 hours, which animal would you be?  Why?
•    If you could snap your fingers and appear somewhere else, where would you be?
•    If you could control the weather in your area for the next five days, what would the forecast be?
•    Which Olympic sport would you most like to win a gold medal in?  Why?
•    If you had to choose between never getting your hair cut and never getting your nails cut, which would you choose?
•    If you could change any restaurant into an all-you-can-eat buffet, which restaurant would you choose?

If you’re stumped for more questions and own a smartphone, there are even apps to quickly find icebreaker questions!

Are You Considering The 3 "Who's" When Planning Your Event?

Whether it’s your first time to plan an event, or you’ve been event planning for many years, there are 5 W’s that need to be well defined in order to put together a quality event. The 5 W’s to be defined are Who, What, Where, When and Why and it’s critical to address all of them during your planning process. Shortchanging even one can leave you with an event that is less than what it could have been. Over the next several weeks we are going to address each one of these W’s individually and hopefully provide you with a very helpful roadmap to use when planning any future event.

The first W we’ll cover is Who. When it comes to the Who, here are the 3 Who’s you need to consider when planning:

  • Who will be attending? Answering this question really sets the stage for everything else when it comes to planning an event. Many times it may seem like a no-brainer. After all, it’s a women’s retreat Byron. Who do you think’s going to attend? True enough, but don’t stop there. Give serious thought to exactly which women will be there. Single women, single mom’s, mom’s with young children, empty nesters…women from all these groups could be attending and they all have different needs. Going deeper on exactly who will be attending makes it easier to plan everything else.
  • Who will be speaking? Once you know who your audience will be, you can then focus on who will be speaking and/or teaching at your event. It could be multiple professional speakers teaching your attendees about a certain topic… maybe a youth retreat with a main speaker, worship band and a bunch of volunteers teaching the Bible studies…or anywhere in between. A key item to also consider when answering this “who” is cost. Selecting a “famous name” speaker could help boost attendance, but it can also drive up your cost and make it more difficult to not lose money on your event.
  • Who will be working/volunteering? The final “who” to consider is who will be working at the event? When it comes to event workers/volunteers, all I want to say is do not understaff! Much better to have too many workers or volunteers than realize you need four more hands the first day of the conference. Think about all the tasks that need to happen. Tasks such as taking up tickets, helping the speakers, coordinating food, passing out programs and maybe even be a liaison with the host facility. Save yourself a lot of stress during the event and make sure you have enough help.

Any other “who’s” you consider when planning your events?

3 Key Elements Of Planning Your Next Meeting

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple, easy to use, never fail template for planning your next meeting or conference? You know, something where all you had to do was plug in your dates and times and in return you get a meeting agenda guaranteed to be a smashing success!

Well, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you…this type of meeting planning template just doesn’t exist. And if it did, I’m afraid it would be so expensive, very few of us could afford to use it!

Every meeting, or conference, is different and the people attending those events are different as well. This means you need to take this uniqueness into account when planning. To help you do this, here are 3 key elements you should consider when planning your next meeting:

  1. Purpose – Why is the person attending and what do they hope to get out of this meeting? Typically people will fall into one of two categories. The first are those who are looking for practical tips they can immediately apply on the job or in their life. The second category are those people who are seeking new information, ideas or trends. It could be both, so you may want to look to balance the practical application with also giving them an understanding of the bigger picture.
  2. Structure – How will the information be presented? Again, attendees typically fall into 2 different camps. Those who prefer a lot of specifics/details and those who prefer the ideas to be presented in a broad, general way. The first prefer a clear agenda and well defined objectives, while the latter are comfortable with a more free flow exchange of ideas. Again, your attendees will probably fall in both camps so be sure to consider how you can appeal to both when planning your sessions.
  3. Involvement – The third element to consider is how your participants will be involved in the meeting. Do your folks prefer to be actively, hands-on involved, or do they prefer to take in a lecture and then reflect on what they’ve just heard? The trend in adult learning is towards more participatory involvement, but you will need to keep in mind some folks will not be comfortable in that type of learning environment.

As we’ve pointed out, chances are good your next meeting will include a mix of learning styles and preferences so be sure to offer sessions that will appeal to both. The key is to know your audience and plan accordingly!

What about you? What planning tips have worked for your organization?




Tips For Handling The Details

Welcome to the 2nd (1st post) in our series of Q&A sessions with professional Christian meeting planners. For this post we asked Melinda Mitchell to share with us how she deals with all the details of planning her events. Melinda is the meeting manager for Christian Medical and Dental Associations and is responsible for planning several meeting a year. Hopefully you will find her answers helpful!

MSM – What are your keys for covering all the event details and not letting something slip through a crack?

Melinda – I have time-lines and checklists that I work off of to keep me on track. There are different ones for the speakers’ information, exhibitors, and hotel details. I also use  Task Reminder in Outlook to keep me posted as to the next item on my checklists.

MSM – As we all know, mistakes happen. How do you recover once you realize a detail has been missed, either by you or the event venue?

Melinda – If I’m the one that has missed a detail, I try to admit it as soon as it’s realized and get with those it has affected. Then together we can come up with a resolution. If I discover the venue is the one at fault, I bring it to their attention and again work with them to come up with a viable resolution. It always helps the situation to be able to say “I just realized. . .” rather than “I’ve known about this for months but. . .”

On a spiritual note, it’s best to use the opportunity to show grace and patience when others are at fault because of the grace we’ve received.

MSM – How do you communicate conference details to your attendees?

Melinda – Our members/attendees are older so I am just now getting to the point where almost everyone has an e-mail address. The confirmation material is usually sent that way once they register and then later I may e-mail some last minute up-dates. We still use mailings such as brochures and post cards to promote the meeting, and then we use the Web site to relay more specific details and to offer an on-line registration option.

MSM – How often do you communicate with attendees before the event?

Melinda – We only communicate a couple of times before the event. Once when they register and then a couple of weeks before the meeting to let them know we’re looking forward to seeing them at the meeting.

What about you? What tips can you share that help you stay on top of all your meeting planning details?

Avoid These 7 Commonly Overlooked Steps When Planning Your Meetings

Creating and sticking to your budget when planning meetings and events sometimes are two different things.  Here are seven commonly overlooked steps when planning and executing your meeting that can help you stick to the budget.

1.  Allow contingencies in the budget for the unexpected.  Don’t cut it so close that you set yourself up for failure.

2.  Include tax and services charges in the budget.

3.  Include labor costs in the budget.

4.  Communicate clear policies to speakers and staff.  What will you pay for?  Set limits on meals, travel expenses, etc.

5.  Review your master account daily and limit the number of people authorized to add charges to the master account.

6.  Rely on your history not attendance when giving your meal guarantees.

7.  Know the value of your business, when you are negotiating your contracts make sure you are getting the best pricing based on the history of what you have spent in the past both on and off the master account.