Not Another Meeting!
By Terrill Fischer
Jun 27, 2004 - 5:26:00 PM

"We are going to continue having these meetings, everyday, until I find out why no work is getting done."

The note reads, �Meeting today at 3:00, conference room, entire team must attend.� �Oh please not another meeting!� you think to yourself. Your stress level skyrockets, your workload gets postponed, and you re-think the value of anything you might even consider offering up at the meeting. You quickly repeat the meeting mantra handed down through the years, �It�s better not to say anything, It�s better not to say anything�� You wish it didn�t have to be this way. Sound familiar?

A meeting can be called to discuss, brainstorm, punish, or just about anything else. The idea is that a face to face, interactive session with individuals and team input is valuable. The problem is that the team or the individuals introducing an idea in a meeting are often made to feel like their ideas aren�t valuable at all. The new idea often has to prove itself before it can even get all the way on the table. Scrutiny doesn�t wait. Introducing ideas in meeting can be like sending the untrained into war.

Here�s an example. The meeting is convened. Your team leader opens up the topic of discussion and asks for input. You have what seems initially to be a great idea. You don�t know if your team will think your idea is weird or too new. Or maybe your idea isn�t new-- you are, so you feel insecure. You begin to describe your idea but right after you start, one of your teammates mentions a reason why your idea isn�t viable or smart. It gets dropped. You feel like the problems with your idea were the focus, not the value in it. Frustration sets in and you keep your mouth shut for the remainder of the meeting. You have learned that new ideas are risky and quickly criticized and so you vow to play it safer in meetings from now on.

For this and other reasons, many if not most meetings tend to slowly discourage input over time. Our skills at analyzing and judging overwhelm our skills of acceptance and encouragement. This is especially true of innovative or out of the box thinking. Ideas are shut down instead of heightened.

The good news is that meetings don�t have to be that way. How do we defeat this depressing meeting scenario in a time where new ideas are more important than ever? There are many ways to ensure that meetings are more positive and productive. Here are four fun pointers that you can use immediately.

� Have an appropriate environment. Choose a location suitable to your group's size. Small rooms with too many people get stuffy and create tension. A larger room is more comfortable and encourages individual expression. Lighten up the room with a toy box with toys inside to spur creativity, reduce stress, and build teamwork. Also food is a great way to help establish a lighter environment as well. Serve light refreshments; they are good icebreakers and make people feel special and comfortable.

� Start each meeting by letting someone tell a joke. Or you could have everyone answer the following, �The funniest thing I�ve seen at work is�.� or �Wouldn�t it be fun to�.� Give a little time to get the creative juices flowing. If time is an issue then you can do what one organization does by having all the meeting members stand and laugh for one full minute before they start. This helps to create an energy boost for the remainder of the meeting.

� Go to the bag. Upon arriving have everyone at the meeting jot a simple fun and short break idea on a slip of paper. These could be things like �everyone shake hands and compliment each other for 10 seconds�Go!� or, �everyone stand up and stretch and yawn out loud for 5 seconds.� The anonymous ideas are put into a paper bag or a company product and left on the table. When the meeting gets too heavy or stressful, someone announces �time to go to the bag,� and picks an idea for a 30-second activity. This is a humorous touch that isn�t time consuming but does help to keep you out of the meeting doldrums.

� �Yes And�.� exercise. Here�s one of the most fun and positive techniques to get the best out of the ideas offered at a brainstorming meeting. This �Proactive Agreement� exercise involves the embracing and heightening of ideas. Every idea is treated agreeably and encouraged for a brief time as if it�s the best idea of the day. You actually start each comment with the words �yes, and.� This is done with high energy to expand on the idea offered. A little playful exaggeration is useful here, it pushes the envelope. Once you have these exciting ideas on the table, you can do the more serious work of analysis. You will likely be surprised at some of the points that came out of the game. I�ve seen incredibly innovative and advanced ideas come out of this technique. It�s much more adventurous to go too far than it is to inch forward timidly. Your analysis skills are better applied after the brainstorming, not during. Our analytical mind gets �worked out� plenty on the job already, it�s the agreeable and accepting parts of our minds that need to be purposefully exercised.

Ideally, business meetings should be positive community-building experiences that would include some fun along with the hard work. Your next meeting doesn�t have to bring back your boring memories of why you hate them. Introduce some of these light and humorous ideas into your meetings and pretty soon people will demand the opportunity of attending meetings.

c) 2004 Terrill Fischer, All rights reserved.

TERRILL FISCHER is the Chief Entertainment Officer of In the Moment Productions. They make training stick; corporate meetings sizzle, and leave audiences laughing. Contact him at [email protected] or

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