Checking in and out
How to use these methods in meetings
work in progress
Checking in is a process during which participants present themselves and say something to the group that is relevant to the meeting.
It is a valuable method for starting a meeting or a working session and helps everybody become aware of what members of the group regard as important for the meeting. It also helps the group become aware of any issues affecting the meeting or working process. It consists of asking each person to answer a question or a series of questions you have formulated in advance.
Why check in at the start of a meeting?
Checking in with a group is a good way for the facilitator to become aware of the issues within the group before the conversation starts. It is also a way to establish participants’ expectations so that adjustments can be made to the design of the conversation and the methodology used, if necessary. It is also a way of getting a group to open up to and gain trust in one another. This is the first step in making issues visible so that everybody is included. During the check-in, you will become aware of important issues for the group. You may become aware of polarities – where people hold opposite views or have different expectations. These will help you start the meeting in a way that corresponds with where the group is at that point.
How to use this method
- Find the questions
Decide in advance which questions you will ask the group to respond to. This depends on the time you have available, the nature of the meeting and the group. For example, a group meeting only to discuss business issues will check in by introducing themselves and sharing their expectations for the meeting. A group working together and dealing with sensitive matters should spend more time checking in and perhaps talking about their fears or concerns, expectations, and hopes. Formulate the questions clearly. Keep them simple.
- Explain the process: each person checks in – no response or conversation
Tell the group what is going to happen. That each person will introduce themself and then give their response to the question. It is preferable that everybody says something, but nobody is forced to do so. Ask people not to respond to each other and start small conversations. The conversation will begin when the check-in is over. We recommend that you do not take turns in a set order – for example, going round a circle or in rows from one to the next. Ask people to check in when they feel ready.
- Start yourself – set the tone.
The facilitator needs to start. This sets the tone and indicates how much others will say. People usually follow your example. So, if you check in very briefly, they will do so too. They will usually do so if you are personal and tell about your own fears or worries. During your check-in, you are not neutral.
- Thank each person without responding to the content.
Once you have checked in, you need to move into a neutral role and listen actively to each person. Be present, and pay attention. Do not comment. This is a time for you to be both neutral and compassionate. Remember that sympathy is not compassion, nor is it neutral. It is you responding personally. Thank each person after checking in, and move your attention to the next speaker.
This is an option for the facilitator. It could help the group get an overview of where the group is and which issues are alive. They might have been very occupied thinking about what they would say and missed things others said. A summary should take only a few minutes. How will you remember everything? You will find that as you practice, you will remember more and more – even the names of people. Some people like to write down keywords, but be careful that you don’t focus more on your notetaking than on the people speaking.
Think about the questions you want to ask. Here are some examples
- If the people don’t know each other, you can ask them to say their names and why they came to the meeting.
- You can ask how people are feeling
- You can ask which expectations they have.
- You can ask what each person brings into the meeting – feelings, attitudes, energy, experiences etc.
- You can ask if they want to be there (a way of making it safe to say that which usually is not said – the “no”)
- Decide in advance how long you want the check-in to last. A deeper check-in will take longer. You must be prepared for long answers if you ask people what they bring to the meeting.
- Practice how you would check-in. Your check-in will set the tone for the group.
- Explain the check-in to the group and ask them not to respond/reply to each other
- Start first, then ask the others to check in when they feel ready.
- Thank each in turn
- You can summarise what has been said, but be brief and stick to themes and polarities.
Some examples of questions for the check-in
- What are your expectations for this meeting?
- What do you hope to have achieved by the end of the meeting?
- What does the part of you that wants to be here say? How does the more doubtful voice in you sound?
- Which feelings do you bring with you today?
- Can you share something that made you feel good recently?
You can also ask each participant to share challenges, successes or experiences related to the topic of discussion.
Some examples of questions for the check-out
- How did you experience this meeting?
- Which things have become clear? Which are still unclear?
- What are your next steps?
- What could we improve in respect of our communication? (if the group meets regularly)
- What do we need to note/remember for the next meeting?