Openers are pivotal. Starting a meeting with an effective opener (or an opening game/activity) allows every attendee to feel welcomed and engaged right from the start of the meeting. If the host uses the same kind of opener at the beginning of every meeting, a sense of rhythm and routine is created. Rhythm and routine lead to stability and comfort, which improves team dynamics in the long run.

“Go slow to go fast” is a good mantra for openers. To set your expectations as a meeting host, you should expect to spend more time on creating openers the first time you use them. You'll find that, with practice, you can create openers that take less time, allowing your team to knock out an opener and get to work quickly. Most of all, you'll find that taking time to add openers to your meetings will eventually make your meetings more productive.

Why Use Openers?

The purpose of an opener is to make sure everyone is focused on the meeting and not their email, text messages, or social media.

Michelle Cummings, owner of Training Wheels and a proponent of using openers, says that openers are crucial because there must be connection before content.

Open with a Check-in Question

Opening with a check-in question is one of the easiest ways to create engagement in your meeting and create connection as everyone learns about who is attending the meeting. You learn something about each person at the meeting from their answer to the check-in question.

Have every person check in with an answer to a question. If the group is new, make sure they add information such as their name, their location, the company they work at, or their role at the company.

Following is a collection of check-in ideas.

Video Openers

These video openers are fast, easy, and super-engaging because they just use the video function of your virtual meeting. They use very little instruction, take one minute or less, and are very easy for attendees to participate in.

Matching and Mirroring Openers

Generally, people like people like themselves.

Joseph Deitch, author of Elevate: An Essential Guide to Life

Matching and mirroring operates on the principle that people like people who are like themselves. These are easy openers that only use video and can take 1–3 minutes. You can use just one or combine 2 to 10 of these openers. You can sequence the openers, such as lower-energy or easier openers followed by openers that have more energy or that are more complex.

Behavioral research shows that matching and mirroring—copying other people's body language, mannerisms, and repeating their words—helps build trust and establishes rapport. This benefit can help your meeting attendees get into sync or rapport at the beginning of the meeting and help the results of your meeting by the end.

Here is a story of how powerful matching and mirroring can be.

I was at a training program showing how matching and mirroring is a valuable meeting skill. When I learned this skill, we were divided into teams of three. One person, Helen, was asked to strongly imagine an emotionally intense experience. I was the second person and I attempted to match that person's body position, breathing, and muscle tension as much as possible. The third person, Alan, coached me on how to move or change to match the first person exactly.

After five minutes of getting into and holding this position, I imagined that she was in a white building with stained glass, she was kneeling up front and was contemplating a big decision.

After the exercise, she disclosed she was in her white church in Georgia with stained glass, kneeling and praying in the front row. She was trying to decide if she was going to stay in her marriage.

Reminder: I had just met Helen and had no idea of what she was imagining. Needless to say, we were all blown away as I was able to connect with her in a meaningful way even though I had just met her.

The point of the exercise is that the correct use of matching and mirroring is one of many ways to help build strong connections between team members in a short amount of time. While you may not see somebody's experience, you can get your attendees to feel more connected and engaged with each other.

Virtual Meeting Nametag Openers

Snapshot of the virtual meeting nametag openers.

An easy and useful opener is to log in up to 30 minutes early for your meeting and while people come in, take time to ask them where they are from and what company they work for. As the host, you can rename them by right-clicking on their video and selecting “Rename.”

Another way to ask for this information is during registration. You can prepare the information and quickly cut and paste it as people log in.

Like a name tag, this helps attendees network as they can see where each of the others are from and who they work for, helping to create new connections as they log in.

Chat Openers

Another method of conducting openers is to ask your attendees to type out something in the chat feature of the video calling platform. Chat openers are recommended for meetings of more than 25 participants, when you have limited time or when many attendees may not be able to use their audio, such as if they are in loud environments. You can use similar ideas from the verbal one-word openers; they are different here as your attendees reply by chat. Instead of having to use air traffic control, attendees can chat at the same time. One tip is to have the host read one or more of the chats, making sure to use the attendee's name and thanking them for their input. Here are some opening activities that are specifically geared toward chatting.

Why are meeting openers important? Ann Chastain at Michigan State University said it best: “Meeting openers are activities that help people feel welcome and comfortable in discussion with others and help to focus on the purpose or content of the meeting, according to ‘Developing Community Leadership, a guide for MSU Extension,' Michigan State University Extension LeadNet and Community Development AoE Team, 2005.”5

When you choose the right meeting opener for your group, you should find your meeting to be more engaging, more inclusive, and help get more work done.


  1. 1   https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/APPLAUSE/7950/1
  2. 2   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dab_(dance)
  3. 3   https://www.aclunc.org/article/frequently-asked-questions-whats-pronoun
  4. 4   http://thecircular.org/why-are-quotes-important/
  5. 5   https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/what_is_the_best_way_to_begin_and_end_meetings
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