If your traditional meeting recipe is becoming a little bland and boring, try spicing it up with one of our funky new alternatives.

For Quick Updates, Try a Military Theme
If you're meeting for a quick update rather than an in-depth discussion, try revamping your meeting as a military briefing session. The key is to keep it brief, focused and regimented.

Clear out the boardroom chairs and have participants stand at attention. People are less likely to be long-winded when they're not nestled in a comfortable chair.

Don't serve snacks. Some participants feel the need to drag the meeting out in order to justify their morning coffee break.

During round-table discussions, have the meeting leader do a roll call. If participants have something to add, they must do so in 15 seconds or less. If they don't, instruct them to just say "pass."
Put a 5-minute time limit on individual topics. Once the discussion goes over, move on. If the topic warrants further discussion, assign someone the task of scheduling a separate meeting.

Cut the Fat on Internal Discussions by Banning Formal Presentations
Before thousands of devoted PowerPoint fans start protesting, hear me out. Would-be presenters need to distinguish between internal discussions and formal meetings with outside participants. Computer-based presentations are a fantastic way of delivering information. But a complex presentation, complete with graphics and transition effects, often isn't necessary in a general discussion or strategy session. By banning formal presentations, you save time on preparation, equipment setup and delivery. Plus a lot of presenters feel the need to include comprehensive background information when they're composing their slides. If everyone in the meeting is familiar with the background this is a waste of time.

Sweeten up Your Brainstorming Sessions
In today's jaded corporate culture, it's often easier to criticize than to compliment. People tend to look for flaws in an idea rather than the merits. When this happens in a meeting, everyone wastes time arguing, rather than coming up with new ideas or strategies. To overcome this, have everyone say one positive comment before they criticize. If you're forced to focus on the positive, you might actually uncover a way that a particular proposal could work, instead of vetoing it because of a minor hiccup.

Use a Talking Stick When There's Too Many Cooks
This is an idea we've borrowed from Native-American Indians. The only person able to speak is the person holding the talking stick (feel free to substitute a tennis ball or stapler for an authentic talking stick). When a person has finished speaking, they pass the stick on. This is even more effective if you impose a time limit (e.g., participants have to pass the stick after three minutes). This ensures that everyone has their say and the meeting isn't dominated by one or two vocal participants. You'll also find that your meeting flows more smoothly when participants are forced to listen to one another instead of interrupting at will.

For a One-on-One Discussion Try Take-Out
For one-on-one discussions or updates, consider taking a walk instead of meeting in the office. If you're both away from the distractions of coworkers, phones and e-mail, you're more likely to concentrate on the issue at hand. If you've scheduled a half-hour meeting, walk for 15 minutes and then turn around. The fresh air will revive you both and the change of scenery just might get your creative juices flowing. If you think you may forget important points, take a tape recorder along and record your conversation.

Hopefully these suggestions will spice up your next meeting. Don't be afraid to break your routine. After all, the more creative your meeting, the more creative energy will be in the air!


Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.

 


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