We have all been in charge of regular meetings. Perhaps it’s a formal board meeting with dozens of papers and reports, or maybe it’s a more informal weekly staff get together or something in between. Have you ever thought, I wish I could freshen this up to make sure the attendees get more from the meeting? You probably know that the more you get used to an environment the more you operate on autopilot. So, how do you go about adding some creativity to a regular meeting?
With the same room and the same format comes the same approach from your attendees. Trust me; it’s not just you that gets bored in board meetings, your attendees do too.
Operating on autopilot and being a little bit board is hardly the best environment for your attendees, especially if the meeting is in some way trying to solve problems.
A huge amount of research has shown that conducting a meeting in a more creative space leads to clearer creative thinking and better problem-solving.
So here are a few thoughts about on adding some creativity to a regular meeting.
You will, of course, need some buy-in from your stakeholders so initially, we are suggesting you try these one at a time.
1. Take the meeting to a different venue
If at all possible you should consider taking your regular session to a separate meeting space.
I don’t mean another similar meeting room, but perhaps booking a room in a swanky members club or a funky space in a co-working space.
Simply by hosting the meeting externally, you will help your attendees to have a more evident mindset when they consider the problems and challenges ahead.
Of course, there can be a whole host of reasons that stymie an external meeting. So here are four easy things you can do if you can’t leave the building.
2. Freshen up the format of the meeting
Normally, your meeting will follow the same process every time. Perhaps it is coffees and an informal chat, then once around the table with verbal updates, followed by working through an agenda.
No matter the process, your attendees will have become very used to how the meeting is run, and it is likely that this familiarity is stifling their creativity. So, why not change the format?
You want to make sure you still get through the agenda but how about approaching it differently? One of the most successful ways to increase creativity is to shorten the time available to solve a problem. This “blink” approach is wonderfully explained in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink: The Power of Creative Thinking Without Thinking.”
This can sound counter-initiative to many people, but we all know how well many snap decisions work out.
So, why not shorten the time of the meeting?
You can also do a stand-up meeting or have a meeting without tea of coffee. As long as you make sure the attendees know what to expect you can be quite creative and “challenging.”
3. Start the meeting with a creative introduction
I have used this type of creative icebreaker at a whole host of different meetings and events. They help your attendees focus in on the point of the meeting.
The format is always the same, cut out some colourful cardboard shapes and ask the attendees to either draw or write something on the shape before the meeting and then stick them to a wall in the room.
- Brain shapes or light build shapes for new ideas
- Heart shapes for something they love
- Brick shapes for barriers they can see
What you are also doing is creating a “creative” space in the room. Everyone will gather to look at all the other ideas/challenges, and this can become a focal point for the meeting.
Rather than having a set agenda your attendees could work through the ideas/challenges of the attendees?
4. Don’t think boardroom, think classroom
There is no limit to where you can take this idea, so my best advice is to take things slowly.
Many creative spaces borrow heavily from the classroom.
We know that we were at our most creative and open when we were learning as children, and a lot of research has pointed to the value in “regressing” your attendees if you need some creative solutions.
There are some straightforward ways to do this that doesn’t involve a psychologist’s chair. You can use some colourful notepads, or place coloured pens, crayons and markers in the room.
You can ask them to write on tablecloths or cutouts as we covered above.
I have one client who provides squash in plastic cups instead of coffee in the belief he can open up his Director’s creative memories.
5. Change the environment and atmosphere in the room
Another simple fix is to change the atmosphere and ambience of the regular meeting room.
There are a whole host of ways you can do this.
Perhaps you can bring in some desk lights into the room to make it much brighter; maybe you can take out the boardroom table and hard, uncomfortable chairs and bring in more informal, comfortable furniture from the reception area.
Maybe you can just change a few of the pictures in the meeting room. Cushions, flowers, jugs of coloured juices or, basically anything that you can think of, to inject a bit of colour into the room.
You could also experiment with some music. Perhaps you could ask your attendees before the meeting what their favourite songs are and have those playing while you are welcoming attendees into the room.
The time our Executives spend in meetings should be the most productive use of their times, and these few tips will help those regular meetings add more value to your organisation.
Learn more: Managing Meeting Rooms.
This guest post is written by William Thomson, Head Honcho at Gallus Events Ltd.