Nothing brings people together more than shared experiences.
There is nothing like that awkward silence that inevitably surfaces at the start of meetings or professional development sessions. It seems to fill the room regardless of the comfort level that participants have with one another.
I have always launched meetings with some form of reconnecting as a way to overcome that uncomfortable silence. The words of comedian Jimmy Fallon often run through my head in thinking about groups of people. He says, "Nothing brings people together more than shared experiences." Those were the words he spoke immediately before having the entire audience shoot Nerf balls at one another at the start of one of his shows. I know it would be inappropriate for us to shoot Nerf balls at one another at work, but it got me thinking about the kinds of shared experiences that we can embed within meetings, experiences that aren’t too cheesy or “ice breaker-ish”—experiences that could bring us together and launch us into meaningful work. I am the kind of person who doesn't enjoy ice-breaker activities at meetings. I would much prefer an experience that would help me get comfortable and rooted in my seat to one that takes me out of my seat and around the room. Videos are an effective tool to create common shared experiences.
It’s only been in the last two years that I have fallen into the deliberate practice of always starting meetings with a short video. They are especially useful in leadership meetings or full-day professional development where staff come together across grade levels and school buildings. I find that the right video can become the quick conversation starter that brings us together before launching into our real work.
In the beginning I used only educational or inspirational video clips. TEDx videos have been wonderful resources that inspire. Presentations posted on YouTube from educational gurus like Lucy Calkins and Chris Lehman are invaluable. I also incorporate videos that are simply for fun and make us smile.
A key to the effectiveness of using video at the start of meetings is selecting the right video for the right meeting. Some months I choose heavier clips like Lucy Calkins talking about learning systems of continuous improvement, an address she gave at Teachers College at Columbia University—watch 46:20-49:46 for a short clip worth sharing. Other months I choose TEDx videos with inspirational speakers like Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. And then, there are those lingering winter months in Maine when we are so tired of being inside and looking at snow that we simply need to remember to laugh, and for those times I turn to lip-syncing clips from Jimmy Fallon.
The strategy of launching meetings with video is more than simply the content of a video; it’s how the power of a video can bring a group together to create a sense of unity. Here are some of my favorite online videos for launching meetings.
What’s Your Sentence? from Daniel Pink
Video Power of Belief—Mindset and Success with Educardo Briceno
The Power of Introverts with Susan Cain (watch first five minutes)
Educational: Reflecting on Where We Are
Chris Lehman: Exploring a Route to the Adoption of the Common Core (Watch minutes 29:22- 32:10, the excerpt on what reading with 80 percent accuracy looks like for students.)
Students Who Inspire
Just for Fun