Doing Double Duty

By Heather Baldwin

In these challenging economic times when almost every company is struggling to make its dollars go further, you can make several aspects of your meetings do double duty, suggests Mary Jo Blythe, president of Masterplan, Inc., a leading provider of global meetings and event management in Clarendon Hills, IL. If you’re going to spend money on an activity or a decoration, she says, think about what additional purpose it can serve to save you money elsewhere.

Not long ago Blythe organized a meeting with a teambuilding exercise that tested employees’ creative talents. She took the group to a stunning look-out point outside of Santa Fe, NM, divided them into teams of four, outfitted them with canvases, brushes, paints and other artwork supplies, and then instructed them to paint the scene. Whether the group had thought themselves artistic or not, they had a great time and created such amazing work, says Blythe, that the CEO decided to hang the paintings in the hallways of the corporate office. “This was a low-cost event that built morale and self-confidence, promoted teamwork and was just plain fun,” says Blythe. Not to mention it saved the company from having to purchase expensive artwork for its offices.

Need another idea? Complete a teambuilding exercise and get your centerpieces for dinner that night from the centerpiece-building competition. Pile several inexpensive items in the center of tables. Turn those sitting at each table for dinner or lunch into a team and instruct each team to build something with those items. Let their imaginations go wild and see what they come up with. Or make it a challenge similar to the one faced by the ground crew of Apollo 13 – tell them exactly what they need to create using only those items on the table in front of them. It’s a great exercise in problem solving and teambuilding all at once. Plus, at the end of this inexpensive, high-energy event, says Blythe, you’ve got centerpieces and don’t need to spend money on expensive floral arrangements.