Meetings, they’re common, they’re necessary and they’re often loathed. We think meetings have been given a bad name, but it needn’t be this way. With some simple changes to how you run meetings you can turn them into productive events with value for all involved. Whether you’re planning a short catch up meeting or an annual strategy all-dayer, these tips should help you to come up with some ideas to make it fresh and worthwhile!
1. Better time management
A common complaint; meetings that meander and last for too long. A meeting where time is not managed can lose focus and end up feeling wasteful. Taking control of meeting timings isn’t exactly an ‘out of the box’ idea, but how you go about managing the time can be.
Why not schedule your meetings to last 50 minutes rather than the full hour most calendar apps default to? That way, everyone gets five minutes to top and tail the meeting with some chat and getting comfortable. Google Calendar even has a ‘speedy meetings’ setting that does exactly this for you.
2. Hold an outdoor meeting
Need to be looking at a screen for your meeting? If the answer’s ‘no’ then why not take the meeting outside? It might just be the best way to refresh your thinking. Even if the answer is ‘yes’, you can still take a laptop or an iPad with you and continue discussions in the great outdoors!
3. Hold a walking meeting
Continuing the theme, if you’re outside, why not go for a walk? If your only meeting with one or two people, a walking meeting can be a great way to approach a discussion differently whilst also taking the opportunity to get active. Check out Harvard Business Review’s overview of walking meetings, including the point that research has shown “walking leads to increases in creative thinking”.
4. Really break the ice
Sometimes a meeting needs something different to get everyone talking. Why not take the opportunity to properly break the ice with some team building activities? Whether that’s an outdoor team challenge such as raft building, or an indoor event such as a creative challenge, or a food and drink event hosted by an expert. Meeting ice-breakers don’t need to consist of just introducing yourself to the person to your left!
5. Get comfortable
You don’t need to sit around a boardroom table. As we’ve already shown, a productive meeting can take place outside or whilst walking. If it is inside, why not get comfortable, whether that’s on sofas, beanbags or however else you see fit.
6. Find some inspiring surroundings
You turn up to the office everyday, it’s where you spend hours on end often grappling with challenges great and small. The phone is usually ringing and your email inbox pinging. Is it any wonder that people often report struggles with trying to get creative when in the office? If you’re looking for real inspiration, use the meeting as an opportunity to find new surroundings. Whether it’s a nice cafe, hired room or somewhere like our venue, The Great Barn, where we have 250 acres of countryside to inspire you!
7. Hold a stand-up meeting
A bit like a walking meeting, but stood still! Stand-up meetings are a favourite among agile teams who rely on quick updates to keep a project moving. If your meeting needs concise information conveyed at speed, then a stand-up meeting is ideal. Nobody will feel inclined to nod-off and the meeting is less likely to stray off course.
8. Eat well
If you’re in a meeting that lasts longer than an hour, your delegates are going to get peckish. If it strays too close to lunchtime, you’ll start to lose the attention of your audience. Instead of letting that happen, why not combine the meeting with a meal?
Instead of serving up the usual sandwich and crisp combo, perhaps try something different. Going for an all-vegetarian lunch may put meat-eaters off at first, but there are some amazing and fresh dishes that can be served up to please everyone, and will make sure everyone is feeling fresh and ready for the next part of the meeting!
9. Mix in some games
Meetings don’t always need to be serious the entire time. Spend some time playing some games to keep everyone’s thinking clear. Whether they are simple games played in the same room as the meeting, or more elaborate forms of entertainment. For long meetings, building in something like this can be a game changer (pun intended)!
10. Mix in some incredible activities
Looking for some adventure to break up an all-day meeting? How about some clay shooting to liven things up? Or some rage buggy driving? You could even do something completely out of the ordinary with some sheepdog handling and duck herding!
Find more activities to engage in with your team in our business & strategy away day ideas guide.
11. Get refreshed
There’s nothing wrong with coffee. Many people like it and the caffeine is definitely appreciated when a meeting moves beyond its first hour but why not consider laying on something else to keep your attendees alert and refreshed.
It might not be the crowd pleaser that coffee is, but green tea is a healthy choice that can help attendees stay switched on. Sticking with tea, you could even provide a selection of interesting types of tea from around the world. Anyone for a lapsang souchong?!
12. Pre-share the agenda
Again, this one’s not particularly ‘out of the box’ but it’s so simple many people forget to do it. Sharing the agenda ahead of the meeting is a chance to set expectations and help everyone to prepare in advance. Check out our full guide on how to plan a business away day agenda to help you with the process.
For bonus points you could request people submit their talking points based on the agenda ahead of the meeting. That way, the meeting becomes a run down of key information with everyone prepared for what they are about to hear and discuss.
13. Give everyone a platform
Pixar is a company that walks the walk when it comes to offering everyone a platform from which to express their thoughts on a topic or ongoing project. Called the ‘Braintrust’, these meetings see members from across the company coming together and getting the opportunity to be candid, without fear of judgement about something the company is working on. Read about it on fastcompany.com to see how the Braintrust works.
It’s a great approach and underlines just how important it is to allow everyone in a meeting to contribute. Don’t let the meeting be run by a few loud voices, take time to encourage all involved to make their point, afterall, they were invited for a reason!
14. Play some ambient music
Meetings are all about concentration, but how often do you get down to work in absolute silence? There’s almost always some background noise, the hubbub of the cafe or quite often we choose to wear headphones to get us ‘in the zone’.
Take the same approach with your next meeting. Help to relax the group and set a tone with some ambient music. It might feel strange at first, but it will add a new dimension your guests aren’t used to and might just help them open their minds!
15. Doodle and play
You probably don’t notice when you doodle, but a 2009 study showed that when doodling, participants were able to recall almost 30% more information in a memory test!
Want to aid focus in a meeting, encourage some doodling! The same however doesn’t apply for people playing on phones. So, ban the phones and bring in the doodling pens!
16. Tell a story
If you need to present some boring information it’s hard to to avoid making the meeting dull and hard to follow. So get creative, turn the information you’re sharing into a story.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to become the next Charles Dickens, just give your facts and figures some real life context. Don’t talk about your financial figures from last year, instead tell the story of the year, weaving the important numbers and takeaways into your story!
There you have it, some fresh ideas to think about for your next meeting. Give them a go and make this year the year that you banish boring meetings and bring in sessions that are genuinely time well spent!