A corporate environment gives life to the words ‘daily grind.’ Weekly schedules and looming deadlines can begin to take their toll on the productivity and sanity of the team, and a company meeting that drags on in endless disinterest and boredom can ruin any chances for creativity that may have previously been brewing. One-sided conversations will lead to doodling and general sleepiness, and the meeting will conclude without moving any issue forward or allowing new innovations to be voiced.
However, a meeting is a real chance for the team to collaborate and create new strategies and goals, so a meeting lacking in creativity is nothing but a missed opportunity for a business.
Employees zone out during meetings for a variety of reasons, the primary reasons including:
- “This meeting doesn’t really apply to me.”
- “I’m not prepared, so I’ll just listen.”
- “What is the point of this meeting?”
- “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be getting from this.”
- “This is wasting my time. Nothing is being decided.”
- “Wasn’t this called a brainstorming meeting? No one is talking but our boss.”
- “This meeting seems to be nothing but complaining.”
- Don’t make someone attend the meeting if they really don’t need to be there. This should go without saying, but many times, team members are included that really don’t have a voice on a project. They will feel as though their time is being wasted, and additionally, will realize how little responsibility they have been given, and they will either mentally check out or sit in silent rage. Invite only necessary team members, and attempt to keep numbers small.
- Give enough notification of the meeting so that people have a chance to prepare. Of course a brainstorming meeting isn’t going to be productive if everyone on the team found out twenty minutes beforehand and scrambled to prepare anything they could to bring to the meeting.
- Delegate each portion of the meeting to a different team member. Often, if given a little responsibility, people are far more likely to step up to the plate and swing in the right direction. This also gives everyone an equal part in the meeting. And it is difficult to zone out when everyone knows he will have to speak at some point.
- Award those who arrive on time. Not to say that those who are late should be punished, but encouraging everyone to get started on time is as easy as offering an incentive for those who show up early or on time. Give each a ‘get out of the meeting’ card, to be used at their discretion for a future meeting, or offer ‘leave work early’ coupons to be used that day, giving them a 15-minute head start on the late employees.
- Change the location. A collective sigh can almost always be heard when everyone files into the same boardroom to sit in the same chairs at the same table. Try a new location. If the organization has a courtyard or outdoor gathering area, meet there, or take the meeting to a restaurant or coffee shop. Often changing a location is enough to stimulate creativity.
- Avoid a ‘theater’ or ‘lecture’ setup for the meeting, as this clearly designates one person as the speaker and everyone else as listeners, rather than participants. Round tables that give everyone equal placement in the group are ideal, or team leaders can arrange chairs in a circle that allows everyone to be seen and heard.
- Offer food. If it’s that simple and obvious, what isn’t it being done more? If the meeting’s in the morning, offer coffee and bagels. If it’s an afternoon meeting, offer fresh fruit or cookies.
- Stand up. If the meeting topic can be brief enough, hold the meeting where everyone stands the entire time. This encourages everyone to get to the point and doesn’t allow anyone to slump into silence. Many articles are now saying the ‘stand up meeting’ offers a boost in productivity…and saves time.
- Keep a whiteboard of questions that are best answered following the meeting. This lets everyone know their opinions matter, but keeps the meeting flowing at the preferred pace.
- Start on time and finish on time. Announce the agenda at the beginning of the meeting and make sure it is wrapped up by the designated time.
Thinking outside the box is the first step to making a meeting creative. Going out of the ordinary can inspire others to do the same, even if the idea seems silly at first. Some examples of creative ideas for business meetings include:
- Hang poster board around the room with different problems or tasks to be solved. Give everyone a stack of sticky notes and have them spend time roaming the room, writing their solutions and sticking them to each board.
- Tie a balloon to everyone’s chair. If the person sitting in the chair voices an idea that is shot down or instantly rejected by the team, that person has to pop his balloon. Obviously, this tactic is about motivating the team to not burst each other’s bubbles, and hopefully the end of the meeting will still have a room full of balloons.
- Use a timer or hourglass to limit response times. Have everyone take part in agreeing a fair time limit and stick to it. When the timer goes off, the person speaking must stop.
- At the beginning of the meeting, have everyone jot down a few ideas about the meeting’s topic, whether solutions or questions. Halfway through the meeting, have everyone exchange their notes with another team member. At this point, the new information should be used to address any questions that still remain or any potential solutions that have not been voiced. Sometimes suggestions are easier given if they come from someone else.
- Give everyone a water gun at the beginning of the meeting. Place an empty jar at each end of the table. Any time a team member offers something productive to the meeting, whether a suggestion or the answer to a question, he is allowed to take one shot into the jar. Whichever jar is filled first is deemed the winner, and gets to leave the meeting ten minutes early.
Creative activities like these, while seeming silly at first, are ways to bring a team together and make the most of meetings. Pointless meetings suck productivity out of an organization and life out of a team. For more meeting innovations and to make the most of your company’s time, pick up a copy of No More Pointless Meetings — you can read the summary in 10 minutes or less, and your organization’s productivity will be booming in no time at all.