Nonmeeting Meetings

By Heather Baldwin

Given a choice between attending a meeting or playing a round of golf, odds are your sales reps – even the nongolfers – would choose the round of golf. The same goes for the choice between a meeting and a meal at a nice restaurant, or a meeting and doing just about anything else. So next time you need to impart critical information to your team or get the team involved in a brainstorming session, try one of these meeting alternatives suggested by Susan Friedmann in her book Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies (Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2003).

Be a sport. If your sales team enjoys golf or some other sport, organize a sporting activity that brings everyone together. The physical activity heightens creativity and energy levels. Add some good food and drinks to the mix, says Friedmann, and “creativity could soar exponentially.” Try using the gaming activity as an analogy to help solve a particular business challenge.

Include food for thought. Have breakfast, lunch or dinner with your entire team or with individual team members. Pick a setting that allows reps to relax and socialize as well as conduct business. When your aim is to build relationships and loyalty with team members, a meal with individual reps is a great way to accomplish that goal.

Hold a one-on-one session. Even if you choose not to buy a meal for individual reps, a one-on-one session is still invaluable for getting their personal points of view, which they might be reluctant to share in a larger meeting environment. You’re likely to get more thoughtful insights to a business problem when the distraction of co-workers is removed. At the same time you have the opportunity to build a better working relationship, especially when you’re an empathetic listener and give your team members the opportunity to talk. Just remember to pick a neutral environment; your office might seem intimidating.

Make it a game. If your staff members loathe meetings, set up a competition for them to find creative ways to disseminate necessary information without having meetings. Offer meaningful prizes for their ideas. Then make sure you put their ideas to work.

Record a message. If your weekly staff meeting consists mainly of you putting out information while reps listen and take notes, consider recording that information onto an audiocassette tape or CD. Your team can listen to the information as they commute to and from work.

Burst into song. Friedmann acknowledges that this one is a little wacky, but when you’ve got a really critical message to impart you need to make it memorable. One way to accomplish that, he says, is by delivering your team a singing telegram. Odds are they won’t forget it – ever.