Make Meetings Matter
Articles by Charlie Hawkins
Looking for ways to bring new life and energy to your meetings? Turn "dull and dreaded" to "energizing and effective" with these tips.
1. Keep It Moving
Change some aspect of your meeting about every twenty minutes: presentation style, insert Q&A, use a panel discussion, small group breakouts, videos, mini-breaks, team presentations, exercises, games, quizzes, feedback, voting, etc.
2. Social Time
Start ten minutes earlier than usual (e.g., 8:50 instead of 9:00 am).
3. Bread Winner
Bring different kinds of breakfast breads to morning meetings; rotate "catering" responsibilities to each member of the group with the challenge to bring a new and different kind of bread. Each month the group votes on the best "bread winner" of the month.
4. Ideas To Go
Line the walls of the room with different problems for group members
to solve, posed as "How can we…" statements. (e.g., How can we improve
service in XYZ area?)
5. Act It Out
After information is delivered (training, new policies, etc.), break the meeting into groups of 5 to 8 people and challenge each small group to design a skit, song, rap, dance or other ways to recap part of the "learnings" from the session.
6. Change Places
Have every group member place their business card into a bowl or container. Then, everyone draws a card other than their own. When generating or responding to ideas, participants assume the persona of the person on their card and respond from their (assumed) point of view. This is a great way to "level the playing field" in the meeting.
7. Give It A Chance!
Have soft kids' toys in the room (foam balls, squish toys, etc.)
8. Standup Meeting
Remove all the chairs in the meeting room, and hold the meeting standing up. It will make the meeting shorter.
Get a two or three minute egg timer (miniature hourglass) or electronic
alarm clock and use it to time discussions. Designate a timekeeper to
10. Give Me a Break!
Set a ground rule that any group member can call a break during the
meeting for any reason (potty break, food, stretch, etc.)
11. Call Your Office
Pose a challenge to group members.
12. Balloon Toss
Supplies: toy balloons, small note pads and pens or pencils.
Start each meeting with a game or brain teaser to get the creative juices
14. Skip It
Instead of having a meeting, make a conscious decision to "skip it." Ask the people who would normally attend to do something to develop their creative awareness …take a walk, listen to music, draw, go to an art museum, play with a child or play skip-the-rope. Also ask them to capture any ideas which come up while they are playing, and e-mail them to the meeting leader.
15. Celebrate Success
When the group has something to celebrate (open new account, finish project on/ahead of time, promotions, etc.) celebrate it in the meeting with sparkling water served in champagne glasses. If appropriate, use champagne!
16. Cartoon Time
Ask group members to search for and bring a favorite cartoon to the meeting, and post them for all to see. To make it even more challenging, make it any other cartoon except Dilbert.
17. On Your Best Behavior
Designate a portion of each meeting for "meeting skills training." Introduce
a new skill at each meeting, such as gate-keeping, building, summarizing,
etc. (See Chapter 6 of Make Meetings Matter).
18. I Don't Think So!
Ask the group to identify the most common types of disruptive behaviors in meetings (interrupters, boors, manipulators, side conversations, nay-sayers, etc.) Anytime someone exhibits one of the disruptive behaviors, any group member (or the whole group) can shout out "I Don't Think So!" to lightly remind the "offender."
19. The Funniest Thing
Ask group members to write down the funniest thing that happened to
them or in their department since the last meeting. Put the responses
in a bowl. Periodically during the meeting, draw them out and invite the
group to guess who wrote each story. The "authors" can embellish if time
20. Exercise Break
Rotate responsibility for group members to lead the group in some kind of physical exercise to start the meeting or use during breaks. If desired, award prizes for the best exercises of the week/month. Bring a boom box with upbeat music to accompany.
21. Pet pictures
Ask everyone to bring in pictures of their pet(s) or of a friend's pet
if they don't have one. Alternative: draw a picture of their pet.
22. Facilitate This!
Take turns being the meeting facilitator. Responsibility: keep the meeting
23. Game Breaks
During breaks, stage games or competitions that challenge people mentally or physically. If energy is lagging, use games that involve light physical activity.
24. Outside the Box
During nice weather, hold all or part of the meeting outside. Take advantage
of the environment by changing the dress code, refreshments, activities,
25. A Little Lower Please
Hire a professional masseuse to give five-minute back and neck rubs
to participants during the meeting. Time the massages so that everyone
receives the relaxing treat. For example, ten participants x six minutes
each = one hour.
Invite group members to wear a creative hat to the next meeting…or bring
a box of fun hats for members to choose. During the meeting, have a "hat
parade" while designated judges choose the best (most creative, absurd,