Creative Meeting Ideas

By Heather Baldwin

Stuck in a meeting rut? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that about 53% of all meeting time is wasted for various reasons, one of which is that groups tend to follow the same meeting patterns week after week. If your one-hour Monday morning coffee-and-doughnuts meetings aren’t getting the results you want anymore, Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Energize Employees (Workman Publishing, 1997), cites the following meeting practices as examples of ways you can put some energy and creativity back into your meetings.

  • Solar Communications in Naperville, IL, closed down its printing operations for a day and brought all 320 full-time workers to a local community college for an all-day brainstorming retreat. After a series of energizing speeches and introductions by top management, the workers broke into departmental groups to discuss staffing problems, production bottlenecks and other issues. By the end of the day the groups had created a list of 50 key problem areas to be addressed by an employee task force.
  • At Maniker-Leiter & Assoc., a management and organizational development consulting firm in Los Angeles, employees participate in a 10-minute stand-up meeting at the beginning of each week to discuss each individual’s focus for the week. Associates are energized by the opportunity to talk about their projects and the progress they have made.
  • Don’t have the budget for an off-site meeting? How about having everyone donate half a day’s pay to cover the costs? That’s what the doctors and staff members at Linda Miles and Associates do. Employees at this Virginia Beach-based dental consulting firm donate half of one day’s earnings each month to a trip kitty that pays for their travel to major off-site meetings and office retreats. Staff members feel the small sacrifice is worth it for the energy and motivation they gain from taking a break from the normal office routine.
  • Owens-Corning Fiberglass in Toledo, OH uses open-space meetings that have no agenda, no planned sessions and no scheduled speakers. Instead participants begin the meeting by sitting in a circle. Anyone willing to lead a breakout session steps into the center of the circle to announce his or her name and topic. Then the topics are posted on the wall and everyone participates in as many breakout groups as they wish.
  • At GE’s Bayamón, Puerto Rico, lightning arrester plant, employees are organized into teams made up of people from all parts of the plant. These teams of hourly workers run meetings on their own to discuss how suggested changes might affect their part of the operation. Managers intervene only at the request of the team. The strategy is working: A year after startup the plant’s employees’ productivity measured 20% higher than their closest counterpart in the mainland United States.