With the world of work undergoing rapid transformation, isn’t it time you shook up the way you run your meetings too? Whether you’re holding a meeting to share information, solve a problem or to connect as a team, it doesn’t have to involve sitting patiently around a PowerPoint presentation. Try one of these six creative ways to run a meeting that can offer real — and often unexpected — benefits to your team.
The Doodle Meeting
It may seem counterintuitive, but a room full of ‘distracted’ people scribbling on their notepads could be the most attentive meeting you could have. A 2009 study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology showed that those who doodle increased their recall of the information in the room by up to 30%. Professor Jackie Andrade, of the University of Plymouth noted, ‘In psychology, tests of memory or attention often use a second task to selectively block a particular mental process. If that process is important for the main cognitive task, then performance will be impaired. My research shows that beneficial effects of secondary tasks, such as doodling, on concentration may offset the effects of selective blockade. This study suggests doodling may be something we do because it helps to keep us on track with a boring task.’ So next time you have a meeting focused on imparting information, break out the drawing pads and pen and encourage a group doodle-in.
The (Unmusical) Chairs Meeting
No one loves an overrunning, unfocused meeting, so this rather direct way of ensuring things run to time and stay on topic is just the ticket to hold attendees accountable. At the kickoff, let everyone know the ‘hard stop’ for the meeting’s end — and if the meeting runs over that time, all the chairs in the room are taken away and everyone is forced to stand until the end. The effect of having this ‘unmusical chairs meeting’ is two-fold: firstly, a clear and non-negotiable deadline from the outset provides a sense of inbuilt urgency to participants that adds dynamism to a meeting — the ‘psychology of limitations’ is at play here, giving boundaries that encourage people to make strong decisions, and force ideas out of their heads without over-evaluation or discussion; secondly, looming pressure automatically forces people to stay on track and to the meeting agenda and discourages aimless debate or rehashing of things that have already been covered. ‘Parkinson's Law’ states that ‘work expands to fill the time allotted’ — so allot the time before the work and make the most out of this phenomenon.
The Half-Baked Ideas Brainstorm
‘A place in which people feel psychologically safe is one where people are willing to take interpersonal risks – speaking up, making mistakes or sharing creative ideas,’ says emotional intelligence coach, Alina Addison, and the ‘half-baked ideas brainstorm’ could be a great way of introducing this energy to your company. People come to this meeting to rattle off outlandish, impractical, unfinished or as-yet unformed ideas with no feeling that these need to ‘work’ — the purpose then in this non-judgmental space is for people to run with them and see how far they can take and develop them. As Patricia Riddell, psychologist and Professor of Applied Neuroscience at Reading University notes, ‘Psychological safety gives people that freedom to say, ‘I want to tell you what I’m thinking at the moment. It may be great; it may be rubbish. But can we just talk about it and see what we get out of it?’ The real joy of creativity is throwing up ideas that seem completely off the wall and then realising that actually, we could make that happen.’
The Micro Meeting
The meeting equivalent of the ‘elevator pitch’, Pecha Kucha has been growing in popularity since the first event was held in Tokyo in 2003. Japanese for ‘small talk’, Pecha Kucha focuses on the art of giving concise, fast-moving presentations — and the principles can be distilled into meeting presentations with equal success. Team members present their ideas in a slideshow of 20 pictures, in a timeframe of six minutes and 40 seconds — each picture therefore being shown for exactly 20 seconds, with each slide advancing automatically while they talk (there’s no time here for ‘next slide please’). Purists say there should be no text on slides, only pictures — for a format that has been likened to a ‘visual haiku’. And as research shows over 80% of all information absorbed by the brain is visual in nature, this image-led process could lead to far better retention than other types of presentation. Plus, the restricted time and presentation criteria forces participants to prepare thoroughly, be creative and get to the point. This includes thinking about what the audience wants to hear rather than how much there is to say about the topic.
The Anxiety Party
Whether they’re concerned about an aspect of hybrid working, annoyed at an unreasonable deadline or just want to complain about the lack of decent biscuits in the kitchen, team members can benefit from a little controlled moaning. Enter the trend for ‘anxiety parties’ — sessions that are now providing regular safe spaces for employees to vent together without censure. As well as being good for psychological safety in the company — giving people permission, and perhaps even an obligation, to air negative things that they might otherwise feel unable to — it also has the added effect of helping to keep negativity corralled into one place. In this way, people feel they can get things off their chest but are not spreading negative vibes indiscriminately around the office, something that can have an insidious and toxic impact on a working environment. To fulfil its mission though, the anxiety party must respect what is said in the room and it must stay in the room — and no personal attacks are allowed. This is a ‘stream of consciousness’ style meet-up, not a witch hunt, so having a ‘moderator’ is essential to keep things on track.
Hybrid Walk it Out Meeting
Neutralise the in/out of the office division of hybrid working by getting your whole team out on a meeting walk, wherever they are. ‘Thinking on your feet’ may be the single most productive way to hold meetings — research shows that walking increases creative thinking by around 60%’ as well as giving you valuable physical exercise in the day. Pick your meeting carefully though — while walking meetings are great for brainstorming, building on a shared goal or team bonding, planning meetings may be trickier and formal, private or sensitive meetings should be done indoors. Key tips for walking meetings include planning your route beforehand (build in a 10-minute rest in the middle), share all documents ahead of time so people aren’t trying frantically to send or find them on their phones while on the move and send follow up minutes as soon as you’re back at your desk, cup of tea in hand, feeling virtuous.