Something profoundly changed in how Friederike Abitz showed up to a meeting when she started integrating the DNA of Dragon Dreaming into everything she does.
That was in 2012 when she shifted from a career in packaging engineering to working as a facilitator and a trainer for Dragon Dreaming—a systemic design process built on a win-win-win philosophy that benefits ourselves personally, the communities we live in, and the Earth as a whole.
Part of her expertise as a co-creative visual facilitator lies in knowing how to design more meaningful participatory meetings. So if you’re looking to add an extra spark of energy to your meetings, you won’t want to miss this great advice. 🙌
Why is it that we all hate the thought of yet another meeting?
Is it the dread of wasting time? Is it the frustration of the conversation being dominated by the same few people?
I’ve been there: listening to my boss repeat everything that’s already been said—making the meeting twice as long as necessary.
But I can strongly say: yes, meaningful meetings where people leave feeling energized do exist.
It starts by acknowledging that we all bring different needs to a meeting. Once we acknowledge those needs by asking the right questions of each other, it’s much easier for everyone to come away from a meeting feeling energized.
This article will teach you about the four personality types from the Dragon Dreaming framework that will help you hold more meaningful meetings by leveraging your facilitation skills.
Two facilitation principles of great meeting design
Everyone should practice facilitation—whether you’re an intern, a scientist, or a CEO. If we all did, the world would be a nicer and more human place.
That’s because, as a facilitator, you train yourself to listen carefully to yourself and others. You train yourself to ask the right questions in the right moments, aiming to integrate everyone’s needs—not just your own.
Here’s a little secret:
To facilitate a meeting, you don't need to be the one organizing and leading it.
Although it may end up feeling that way anyway, because facilitating a meeting also means guiding people through a conversation.
Here are two techniques you can use to create a meeting experience that everyone wants more of.
1. Ask generative questions
Generative questions are open-ended questions intended to inspire thought and thinking. Generative questions can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Every answer is valid and unique.
Asking generative questions is about birthing diverse ideas and giving people the space to share their personal needs and opinions.
If you make your presence in a meeting about asking these questions, you can infuse much more purpose into the meeting for everyone.
We’ll come back to which questions you should ask, because asking the right questions depends on who’s going to be in the meeting.
2. Know who’s going to be in the meeting
In preparation for a meeting, try to picture in as much detail as possible:
- Who will be attending the meeting?
- What are their needs?
- What would need to happen for them to say, "This was a good meeting”?
Even if you don't know exactly who will be there, try to empathize with different personality types and then integrate their needs into the meeting. Then, plan to ask generative questions that will help address their needs.
You won’t be able to think of everything, but just anticipating that there are different needs will already improve your meetings by 90%.
To make this task even easier, the Dragon Dreaming framework lays out a few key people you should plan for.
The Four Personality Types of Dragon Dreaming
As part of the Dragon Dreaming workshop framework, we’ve defined four different meeting characters:
- The Dreamer
- The Planner
- The Doer
- The Celebrator
These four characters represent qualities that some people express more than others, but all these personality types reside within all of us.
Here’s a breakdown of the four personality types and how we can incorporate them into our meeting design.
1. The Dreamer 💭
Dreamers need to feel connected to the big picture. They are born visionaries and feel disconnected if what they’re working on isn't meaningful in a greater sense.
Therefore, Dreamers need to know the why of the meeting.
Of course, it’s helpful for everyone to understand the big picture, the vision, and the purpose of a meeting, so it’s worth spending a few minutes clarifying the purpose.
The trick is that it may feel like the meeting's purpose should be obvious to everyone. But not everyone will remember the events of the last time you met. A lot of things have happened since then—other projects took higher priority, kids got sick, or nobody did the necessary follow-up.
We eliminate a lot of friction by just naming the big picture in the beginning!
If you’re not the host of the meeting and the purpose isn’t stated upfront, you can initiate a conversation by asking the following generative questions:
🤔 Ask: What's the goal of the meeting?
If the person who invited you doesn’t answer this question themselves at the beginning of the meeting, just ask. The meaning can only become meaningful to everyone attending if you have a shared purpose.
🤔 Ask: Why are you here?
That said, even if there’s a common goal for a meeting, everyone will have different individual motivations for attending. So ask what they are!
It’s easier for people to answer this for themselves since we can’t read each other’s minds, so ask everyone to share why they’re here.
After hearing from everyone, we can more easily set common goals for the meeting.
☝️ Tip: You can encourage everyone to contribute their goals for the meeting asking them to raise their hand with Butter’s Queue.
2. The Planner 🗓️
Planners are very organized and have a need for structure and timing. They get nervous and antsy if they don't know what’s happening, how long the meeting will take, and if there will be time for a break before their next meeting.
💡 Plan: Communicate an agenda
You can accommodate the needs of a Planner by setting up and communicating an agenda, even if it only describes the rough blocks of the meeting.
The agenda doesn’t have to be super detailed. Basic blocks can be just enough information to ease the mind of the Planner:
- Start time
- Block 1
- Block 2
- End time
🗓️ Tip: In Butter, you can create a time-blocked agenda in advance of your meeting, which will be shown to everyone when they join the waiting room. Not only will it ease the mind of the Planner, but it will also help your meetings stay on track.
🤔 Ask: How much time do you have?
Not only is it important for the Planner in us to know what's happening in the meeting, but also when the meeting will end.
They can put everything else in the background for some time, but only if they know when they’ll be able to get back to it.
To accommodate that need, start the meeting by asking:
“I know the meeting times have been communicated and we expect you to be fully present for the time we’re here together. But I want to remind everyone that we’re all human—things happen and people give other needs priority over the meeting you are invited to. Is there anyone who doesn’t have time for the full meeting?”
Asking this question gives everyone the chance to express their current needs in regard to time. It allows you to achieve a mutual agreement on how long the meeting will be.
🤗 Bonus: Asking this question also gives us a small peek into what’s going on in each other’s lives. e.g. "I need to leave the meeting sharp because I have to pick up my kids" or "I’m waiting for an important phone call so I may need to leave at any moment."
That kind of valuable information makes us relate better to each other, which gives meaning to the meeting since we are inherently social beings. We can also use it to adjust the agenda accordingly.
3. The Doer 🔨
Doers are wired to see results. If they can’t see what was achieved during the meeting, they are frustrated. To make Doers feel welcome, make the results measurable and visible.
But how can you measure results if you don't know what the Doers want to get out of the meeting?
That's why I ask the following generative question at the beginning of a meeting:
🤔 Ask: Imagine it’s the end of the meeting. What would have had to happen for you to say it was a good meeting?
Ask that question and write down your answers one by one (Butter’s open-ended polls are great for this!). Then, adjust your agenda accordingly.
Writing down what people want to achieve during the meeting gives you the chance to:
- manage expectations: given the time restriction, you can see which outcomes have to be achieved for people to be satisfied
- foster ownership during the meeting: e.g. "Here, look at the list: you are responsible for bringing that up in the meeting because it's important to you!”
Before the meeting ends, get that list out again and have everyone check if there’s anything else you can achieve with the remaining time.
For hour-long meetings, I usually do this about 20 minutes before the meeting ends. That gives enough time to review it together and still achieve one to two of the desired outcomes—adding to the feeling of satisfaction for the Doers.
For longer meetings, make sure to have a look at that list periodically—e.g. at the end of each thematic block.
✍️Tip: Use the Miro or Google Docs integrations in Butter to co-create your list of expectations.
4. The Celebrator 😍
Celebrators are the ones who provide the care work. They’re most likely to show gratitude, give thanks, and recognize effort and achievement. They’re also the ones most likely to bring tea, coffee, and snacks—so we like them.
In return, Celebrators also need these soft parts of social interaction to feel satisfied themselves.
💡 Plan: Leave time for check-ins and check-outs
Integrate a clear beginning, middle, and end to your meetings (e.g. a check-in and a check-out round).
This attends to the needs of the Celebrator in us, as this space is often reserved for creating personal connections.
💡 Plan: Use breakouts for smaller discussions
In virtual meetings, it can be tough to have meaningful conversations in large groups.
Throughout the meeting, integrate breakout rooms of 2-4 people to make it easier to have smaller, more meaningful discussions.
⚡ Tip: By adding breakouts to your Butter agenda in advance, you can start breakouts during a meeting with only one click.
Takeaway: Great meetings happen by prioritizing everyone’s needs
Meetings often make us feel empty and frustrated before, during, and after. That's because we often don't consciously think about our own needs before entering a meeting.
We might leave a meeting feeling like we didn't get what we wanted or needed, but can’t always express why in words. That’s because we didn’t spend the necessary time with our inner selves to know.
Unconscious and unexpressed needs often show themselves in blocked conversations. People then react in irrational ways, leaving everyone equally frustrated and annoyed.
By being aware of the different needs of the different personality types within us (by using the Dragon Dreaming framework) and asking generative questions, we create containers for the irrational parts of ourselves.
This eliminates a lot of friction, creating time and opportunity for truly meaningful meetings.
Host great meetings with Butter
You can also make your meetings more meaningful by removing all the usual technical hurdles. To see what it’s like to hold smoother meetings in Butter, start a free trial today.
For more facilitation insights from Friederike, you can follow her on LinkedIn. 👏