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Unexpected Ways to Improve Your Meetings

Just because you have to gather in a boring room-and you have no control over what that room is-doesn't mean you can't make a few small changes to reset expectations & have a creative, productive meeting.

Meetings. Ya hate ’em. Ya love to hate ’em. Ya still have to sit through ’em. Sometimes, a meeting can’t be an email. Just because you have to gather in a boring room—and you have no control over what that room is—doesn’t mean you can’t make a few small changes to reset expectations & have a creative, productive meeting. 

And don’t forget to grab a copy of my free meeting planning toolkit here!

1. Add A Theme

I once hosted a meeting with internal stakeholders whose buy-in I needed to purchase a corporate license to Livestream. This team of leaders was constantly pitched to for purchases and spends most of their day in meetings. 

To set mine apart, I created a “movie night.” Instead of a conference room, I used a meeting room that had theatre seating and a big screen. I played a loop of silent movies and a jazzy retro soundtrack to make it feel special. The result was a completely different vibe, a much more easy-going tone and lively conversation which allowed us to make our sales pitch a lot more naturally as part of the conversation flow, versus a 1-on-20 presentation. Total budget: about $30.

 

2. Challenge Convention

Or maybe you ditch traditional nametags. I’ve done a few different takes on this — once, I had people write 1–3 words that allude to an interesting story about themselves, instead of their names. Mine was “82 Skydives.” Others in the room were “cooked for Clinton,” “auctioneer,” and “escaped serial killer” (emphasis is important on that one). This is a great opportunity to turn something expected (nametags) into something unexpected (genuine conversation, potential for new connections and icebreaker all in one).

I’ve also seen a huge uptick in the number of meetings and events that skip the slide deck in favor of a hand-illustrated flip chart. The team at Neon Sprints does this well. Here’s an example of their flip chart slide deck (below). 

 

3. Try a Visual Agenda

If you’re skipping slides and don’t need a deck at all, try a visual agenda. I credit Daniel Stillman of The Conversation Factory with adding this gem to my practice (as well as the confidence to draw it!). I’ve been using visual agendas in all of my workshops since the Google Sprint Conference and find they are super-helpful, not just in managing expectations or setting tone but in keeping things moving. And while technology will usually fail you, it’s rare that good old fashioned paper would.

 

Get planning!

 

You can grab my free meeting planning toolkit here. Please take it for a spin and let me know how it worked out for you!

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