If one thing’s for certain, it’s this: that relationship-building is really difficult in a virtual world. The importance of intentional, relationship-oriented agendas has risen in importance as teams, projects, and communities collaborate together online. And the effort of brainstorming new, fun questions has correspondingly increased in difficulty!
The following list is the CDR Team’s go-to icebreaker questions. We hope it helps you out in a pinch!
What is the best piece of advice you have heard and used recently?
What is your first or favorite childhood memory in the outdoors or nature?
Is a hotdog a sandwich?
Coffee, Tea, or other?
What is your go-to form of procrastination?
What is your favorite pizza topping?
What kind of ice cream to you enjoy most?
What was your first concert?
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
If time, distance, and money were no barrier, where would you go visit?
You may already be familiar with our human staff, but we also want to introduce you to the ones who constantly kept us smiling, covered in fur, and apologizing for the barking sounds in the background of our virtual meetings. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced us out of the office, it was our dogs who helped us navigate the fear, uncertainty, and loneliness of a new virtual world. Our office space in Boulder has long been dog-friendly, but over the past year and a half, these colleagues have really stepped up to get our team where it is today.
Nickname: There are too many to count, it’s so confusing. They call me Goober, Goob, Teeny, Athy, OG, Teeny Beanie Baby, Boo… there’s more, should I continue?
Age: I feel and look younger than I am, but Mom says I’m 6. Is that old?
Breed: Goober. But they think Black Lab and Great Dane.
Three adjectives that describe you: Goofy, happy, and lanky!
Your favorite toy: I love this yellow duck Dad got me for Christmas two years ago. Mom’s had to sew it back together a couple times because I love it so much.
Your guilty pleasure: Licking lotion off people’s legs.
Describe your perfect day: Mom’s home. Dad’s home. It’s cold outside and I can dive into the snow. Then cuddle under the blankets in the big bed.
What’s your proudest accomplishment? Making it to Colorado from Georgia on a very long road trip while I had a broken leg. I love Colorado!
Which famous actor would voice you in a movie about your life? Ellen DeGeneres.
City, mountains, or beach? A beach in the mountains with some shade and some sun, maybe some water. I loved Tahoe!
Psssssst—Are you guys interviewing my sister Monarch too? I can’t get her to play with me, so I’m just wondering if you could ask her what she likes and let me know so I can become friends with her. She’s a little smaller. I’m not sure she’s a dog; I think she might be a “kat”—am I saying that right? Whatever she is, she seems pretty fun.
Nickname(s): None. I like “Echo” just as it is.
Age: 5 years young!
Breed: Golden Retriever/Border Collie.
Three adjectives that describe you: Fun-loving, loyal, and kind.
Your favorite toy: Seal Seal, my fluffy Alaskan seal.
Your guilty pleasure: Sneaking off to meet my girlfriend, Dahliala.
Describe your perfect day: Breakfast, running, treats, long nap, romp with some friends in the water, dinner, and then snuggle time with Seal Seal by a campfire.
What’s your proudest accomplishment? My ability to make anyone like me.
Which famous actor would voice you in a movie about your life? Michael J. Fox! He played Chance in Homeward Bound, so I think he could handle the challenge.
Office, home office, or coffee shop? Office—preferably the CDR office—where there are good treats, lots of loving humans, and my canine co-workers!
Nickname(s): Cole-flax, Quaqui, E. Colfax Avenue (full name when he misbehaves), Mensch of the Year, Captain Colfax, The Prancin’ Prince.
Age: I’m 6-ish!
Breed: Half-dog, half-cowboy, all-lover.
Three adjectives that describe you: Tolerant, anxious, and professional.
Your favorite toy: Anything the neighbor buys for their dog!
Your guilty pleasure: KUWTK
(Editor’s Note: This is an initialism for E! Channel’s hit series, Keeping Up With the Kardashians.)
Describe your perfect day: Early morning run, mid-morning walk, human time, afternoon at the lake, watching 101 Dalmatians with the humans, sleepin’ on the bed… yup, that covers it.
What’s your proudest accomplishment? Sometimes when my humans forget me outside, I just sit at the front door until someone notices me.
Which famous actor would voice you in a movie about your life? Sir Ian McKellen, of course.
Fetch, tug of war, or naps? Fetch! Fetch! Fetch!
Nickname: Oakie Pokie, Oakie Girl, OP.
Age: 7, but I’m not totally sure. I lived a whole life before I met Mom and Dad.
Breed: Chocolate Lab, what else?
Three adjectives that describe you: Loving (to people, not to puppies), resilient, and strong.
Your favorite toy: The sunshine in my backyard.
Your guilty pleasure: Eating my sister’s food when she’s not looking, or maybe stealing my dad’s pizza—ahh, yum… have you ever had pizza?—oh, or begging to be pet. Actually, I LOVE begging for pets.
Describe your perfect day: Dad’s home. Mom’s home. Athena’s calm. We’re all lying in the sun on the grass in the yard, rolling around. Then we go swimming in the river.
What’s your proudest accomplishment? Swimming in Lake Tahoe. I think it’s so cool my new mom and dad take me with them on vacation and I get to enjoy the woods. We’re not so sure about my life before my current family, but I think it was pretty rough. I love my family.
Which famous actor would voice you in a movie about your life? They don’t let me watch movies, so I’m not sure. Maybe Meghan Fox, she’s pretty beautiful. I’m beautiful too, don’t you think?
Hiking, swimming, or barking? Swimming’s first, then hiking. I HATE barking. Yuck.
Nickname(s): The Muppet
Age: 5, or 35 in dog years—my Gotcha Day is October 31.
Breed: Terrier Muppet Mix!
Three adjectives that describe you: Fierce, faithful, and fluffy.
Your favorite toy: Definitely my decapitated sloth stuffy.
Your guilty pleasure: Raw goat milk soaked on my kibble. You have to try it.
Describe your perfect day: I wake up at the crack of 10am; a dish of salmon skin miraculously appears on my bed. After a cuddle and scratch, I go for a 4-minute walk in 65-degree weather. Then I Lounge on the porch in the sun and finally catch that pesky squirrel. In 3-4 hours, after I’ve finished an afternoon nap, I go for another stroll around the neighborhood and scrounge for discarded chicken wings. After a brief cuddle on the couch, I assume my position below “the food-throwing machine”—you might call it a human toddler—and catch mounds of delicious human food as it floats to the floor and into my fur. I then eat some of my own dinner and go out for a late night bathroom break before heading upstairs and into my king size bed for the night.
What’s your proudest accomplishment? I am a huntress. In particular, wasps, flies, and other dangerous insects. I rarely notice a bunny or squirrel, but I can laser in on an ant from a 1/2 mile away. This takes an incredible amount of patience, some quick-twitch muscle movements, and a great willingness to grab insects between your teeth. Not many are up for this challenge.
Which famous actor would voice you in a movie about your life? Oh wow. I’d have to say Audrey Tautou playing Amélie Poulain.
Bed, couch, or floor? BED, king size only.
(Editor’s Note: Monarch did not immediately respond to interview requests from CDR, and a representative has, on her behalf, declined to comment on her relationship with Athena. According to reliable sources, Monarch continues to ignore Athena and has since been spotted walking across her human’s laptop keyboard during virtual meetings.)
As anyone reading this is well aware, the COVID pandemic catalyzed a seismic shift across the professional landscape. Organizations were forced to upend their normal operations and move to entirely online work environments. At CDR, this meant virtual meetings, virtual happy hours, virtual coffees, and virtual public events.
While this shift proved challenging, at least the overarching policy was clear: all convening was to be done online, and if that wasn’t possible then the whole approach necessitated rethinking. Now, as another shift begins to take place––not necessarily back to pre-pandemic routines, but toward a “new normal”––things have gotten a little more complicated. Some organizations have begun implementing plans to return to their offices in full, while others are staying remote. Some are giving employees the option of working from home; others are instituting specific schedules for remote and in-office work. CDR even recently facilitated a series of Listening Sessions for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on this very topic: to understand employee preferences about returning to work in-person or moving to a more virtual workplace.
But regardless of an organization’s individual policy decisions on this topic, change across the working world is afoot. These changes produce a slew of important questions for facilitators, but one has risen to the top for us at CDR: how can groups collaborate effectively in real time when some members are in-person and others are virtual?
Enter the hybrid meeting.
Because so much of CDR’s work consists of convening stakeholders, we’ve been working to develop our own list of best practices for hosting hybrid meetings since long before the pandemic. As a reminder, hybrid meetings are those in which some participants are in the same physical space, like an office or a conference room, and others are joining online or on the phone.
Here is a brief list of tips and tricks to ensure your hybrid meeting is productive, engaging, and equitable:
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work – Hybrid meetings require extensive preliminary coordination and in-meeting support. We’ve learned the best way to ensure the success of a hybrid meeting is by providing adequate staff to fulfill the various roles these events require. Roles often include:
Meeting facilitation – We’ve found it’s typically more effective to facilitate hybrid meetings from an in-person vantage point, especially for larger groups. However, if the meeting is primarily virtual with a few participants together in the same room (e.g., from a single organization) virtual facilitation is doable.
Technical support – Significant technical support may be needed for hybrid meetings. Technical components include: hosting the virtual side of the meeting, ensuring participants have correct links and call-in information, running the slide deck or visual presentation, ensuring all parties can comfortably hear and see each other, monitoring the virtual chat log, and troubleshooting when issues arise––this is a full time job for at least one team member.
Documentation – Compared to fully in-person or fully virtual meetings, in hybrid meetings it becomes even more critical to track and document the discussion, action items, and next steps. No matter how much we prepare, technology can still be faulty, so making sure that someone is taking accurate notes throughout the meeting is vital for preserving key points and ensuring nothing gets lost across the airwaves.
Promoting Equity Across the Digital Divide – A principal concern in the realm of public engagement is ensuring that opportunities for input are equitably shared across geographies, demographics, and, in this case, technologies. It’s easy for people who are engaging virtually to feel left out of the discussion, especially if most participants are together in-person. A few options for remedying this potential disparity include:
Allocate specific time in the agenda for virtual participants to provide input.
Call on participants, both virtual and in-person, who have not provided input in case they are looking for the right moment to jump in.
Allow for various types of input to inform decisions. This could include verbal input, but it also might include written input in shared documents, messages in the virtual chat, or notes on physical handouts.
Distribute agendas ahead of time in which you describe in detail the logistics and flow of the hybrid meeting approach; then ask for feedback to ensure all participants are on board with the approach.
Consider the “Why” Behind the Hybrid Meeting – There are plenty of reasons to hold a hybrid meeting. Perhaps there are documents that are difficult to accurately portray virtually, but some stakeholders are far away and can’t travel; Perhaps COVID restrictions are preventing certain participants from joining in-person, but a significant contingent strongly prefer an in-person setting. The list of potential reasons for holding a hybrid meeting is extensive––however, we recommend thinking long and hard about these reasons and talking them through with key decision-makers prior to scheduling. Often it’s the case that when the reasons for a hybrid approach are laid bare, there turns out to be other, less complicated approaches to meeting the interests of those involved. If it turns out that indeed a hybrid meeting is indeed the best course of action, we hope the tips and tricks listed here will serve you well.