Inspiring Meeting Design for More Authentic Connections

Inspiring Meeting Design for More Authentic Connections

I did something I had been wanting to do for approximately one year. I started a Meetup group in my field of expertise, Appreciative Inquiry. I had relocated to a new town – 1200 away from all that was familiar. It takes time to acclimate and find community. My professional community is spread all over the world, and finding local connection to experience a sense of belonging has been a strong need. Establishing a Meetup group and coming up with an appreciative meeting design was worth a try. There are less than a handful of such professionals in my immediate area, so I wanted to see what I could do to bring together people who are like spirited adventurers and explorers.

I picked a date for the first meeting, and created my Meetup landing page with the name, Appreciative Inquiry – Where Inspiration Meets Action.

My Meetup Invitation

Calling all positivity strategists and would be positivity strategists!

What's your story of bringing positive change into your life and the lives of others? Capitalize on your strengths, your past successes, your best assets – your positive core – with Appreciative Inquiry. Let's experience the power of dialogue in a truly appreciative way.

If you are drawn to see the good in people and situations, you'll find yourself in like company in this group. I don't have to tell you, there are many things in life that go wrong and, let me remind you, there are many, many more things that go right. We just don't notice them as much. We have to learn to see the best, as our negative default gets in the way.

Most people find they have "come home" when they experience Appreciative Inquiry. I welcome you to try it for yourself.

Without even a confirmed location for our first Meetup, I watched over a short period of time the group grow to 32 members with 12 people RSVPing in the affirmative.

Whoever Comes are the Right People

Ten days before, thanks to a local friend, I found a wonderful location – a private dining room in the newly refurbished Even Hotel. It accommodates 12 people which is perfect to start.

On my Meetup Page, I began to connect with members in advance of our first meeting. I was excited to discover who else was curious about Appreciative Inquiry and Positivity. These were the key words I used: Self-Improvement · Professional Development · Intellectual Discussion · Entrepreneurship · Leadership · Personal Development · Business Strategy · Learning · Collaboration between Creative Minds · Knowledge Sharing · Spirituality.

Roll on the first meeting. We were a total of six people. It was perfect. We took our time to introduce ourselves in as much depth as we wanted. It was so special. The synergies bounced back and forth and encircled the space – professional backgrounds, travel experiences, transplants to our new town, shared interests and so on. We felt as if we were the chosen ones!

The Meeting Design Allowed for Fluidity

After our indulgent personal introductions, I briefly introduced Appreciative Inquiry (AI) transformational change methodology with a hand-out. In this small group everyone had some knowledge of AI, from minimal to full-on training. I had prepared an activity for the group and asked permission to use it. Permission granted. Up until this time there had been organic unfolding of the conversation, as it felt so right, and the participants were flexible to experience the activity I had designed.

The meeting design was framed as AI Discovery interview which is pasted below.

Creating Deeper, More Authentic, Worthwhile Meetings

Lead in Statement

We’ve all attended meetings – maybe too many! They vary in many ways. Some we get invited to; some we’re mandated to attend; and some our participation is voluntary. As a result, sometimes you’re fully engaged and participate actively; you’re curious and are keen to learn. Sometimes, you sit back daydreaming about something alluring, and sometimes, you’re feeling most anxious inside and wish vehemently you could get out of there for whatever reason.

For the sake of this activity, think back to a meeting that you really enjoyed. You were engaged, you listened actively, you contributed, you felt heard and seen. You walked out of the meeting feeling uplifted and more energized than when you walked in. What was that meeting like? Tell that story!

The points below are prompts for your interviewer.

  • Tell the story of the best Meetup group or meeting you’ve attended recently?
  • What was happening: what kind of people were there, describe the setting, the ambiance, the time, what you did you see, hear, feel, smell, taste etc?
  • What did you appreciate about your own contribution to that meeting?
  • What did you appreciate about others, and their contributions?
  • What did you appreciate about the organization of it?
  • What wishes do you have going forward for better meetings, even for this meeting on Appreciative Inquiry – Where Inspiration meets Action? What would make it worth your while to attend?

Following the Appreciative Inquiry meeting design protocol for such Discovery Interviews, we at first paired up and interviewed each other. Next, we introduced our interview partner to others in the room, sharing their responses to the above questions. Then we identified the wishes that we'd all expressed about what would make it worth our while to come to the next meeting.

Wishes for Future Meetings

Wishes to incorporate in future meeting designs included:

  • An organic flow to the conversation
  • There is diversity of thought
  • No pressure to contribute
  • There is safety to speak and a feeling of being supported
  • Creativity emerges from comfort and feeling at ease
  • Feeling really listened to and heard
  • A collaborative sense of unfolding ideas and contributions
  • A mutuality of sharing and giving back
  • The meeting design allows for deep conversation leading to connection
  • A range of emotions from seriousness to laughter
  • Engaging the mind, heart and emotions
  • Flexibility to change perspective and see with freshness
  • Feeling a commitment to the intent and process
  • Willingness to be open and honest

We were all so inspired by our free-flowing conversation that was informed and guided by the appreciative interview protocol that we went over the end meeting time by 30 minutes.

To peek into our next meetings, please visit us on Meetup: Appreciative Inquiry – Where Inspiration Meets Action. Even if you are not local to this area, you can still join the group and be in touch with us.