We’ll never be free from the need to have meetings, but that doesn’t mean they have to be long, boring, and unproductive. Here are ten unusual meeting approaches you can use to get out of a rut, stimulate more creativity, and be more productive.
The PowerPoint Cave
Do you dread the weekly staff meeting?
Sometimes even thinking about it can put you into a funk. Phrases like “boring” and “waste of time” pop into your head as you head for the coffee pot. Can you make it through the next one without dozing?
In fact, one survey found that 30% of time spent in meetings was wasted.
And you can almost predict what will be said and who will say it. After 90 minutes or more in a dimly lit PowerPoint cave your mind is mush. If you are thinking about anything, it’s all those things on your to-do list that aren’t getting done.
When you finally emerge, blinking, into the bright light of day, you may even wonder what was accomplished, other than enduring yet another BOGSAT.
Departures from the Norm
To help you get out of the rut, here are ten ways that you can meet that will encourage people to focus on the topic, think more creatively, and produce better results.
Do a stand-up routine. Who says you have to be seated? If everyone is comfortable, there’s no incentive to be concise and move on. Keep everyone on their feet. Want to level up on that? No bathroom breaks!
Pick a single subject. A packed agenda can scare people off or make them reluctant to talk. Trim your meeting times by focusing on just one subject for a limited time. Ban all other discussion. Have a specific outcome to achieve, and stop the minute you get there.
Gather around the map. Visual aids are powerful, but think beyond PowerPoint. Spread a map on the table, hang a diagram on the wall, or gather around a table with a big blank sheet of butcher paper and sketch as you talk. In the Army, we would often lay the map out on the hood of the Humvee to review the plan and talk through contingencies.
Go on-location. Get out of the office and go to where the action is. Whether it’s a building site, local store, or the production line, seeing first-hand what is going on can help focus and inform the discussions. This can double as a recon so you know things will go according to plan when the time comes.
Go off-site. Sometimes getting out of the regular routine can stimulate creativity, so find a convenient location you don’t normally use: the local library, an open room downstairs, maybe even a local coffee shop.
Hold a huddle. When you hear the word “meeting” we tend to think long and dull, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Try having a quick 10 minute update in the morning to get everyone on track; keep it to essential business only so that everyone is on the same page for the day. Then get to it.
Walk and talk. Sometimes getting some fresh air can be a good change of pace while stimulating the brain at the same time. Talk as you stroll in a park, through a quiet neighborhood, or around the town square.
Change Chairs. Scramble the seating once in a while to give everyone a different perspective. As leader, you don’t have to sit at the head – try having someone else sit there and see what happens.
Change roles. What if the IT guy had to talk about the marketing plan, an intern captured the due-outs, or the sales person chaired the meeting? If you announce this ahead of time, you might get some useful cross-talk on your team that helps everyone.
Ride a bike. This one’s really out there, but it combines many of the things we’ve been talking about. Check out this short video to see what the kids over at Google sometimes do.
Unusual Meetings – The Takeaway
You may never get entirely away from the need to meet, but adding variety can spice them up, help everybody focus, improve the output, and might even be a little fun.
So get out of the rut, use your imagination, and try something new once in a while.
Question: What other kinds of unusual meetings have you seen?