Meetings can be deadly, especially if they feel unproductive. Listening to your boss drone on and on about things that don’t affect you just isn’t a smart use of your time. So how can you make your boring meetings more productive?
Research shows that increasing activity and creativity in meetings helps increase brain activity and alertness. Everyone’s happier when you make your employees and coworkers feel engaged and important to the meeting. Need help figuring out how?
Use these seven tips to add some punch to your office meetings!
We all doodle during long meetings. It helps kill the time and gives our brains a creative outlet. But doodling does more than just waste paper. It gets the creative juices flowing and improves your short-term memory functions.
Try this: Give every meeting participant a few sheets of paper and a couple of pencils and have them sketch out their ideas. It doesn’t matter what they sketch or how accurate it is — you’re not looking for fine art here — the simple act of sketching flexes their brains and helps them feel involved in the meeting.
Remember your elementary school teacher who’d call on people even if their hands weren’t raised? She had a point. If you force people to think of answers, it gets their brain working overtime. Nothing makes people feel more uncomfortable than being singled out and unprepared in a meeting. If they know they can be called on at any time, they’ll be more attentive and constantly thinking of answers to each of your questions.
Try this: When you make an important point during a meeting, ask for feedback. If no one comes forward, start calling on the most bored-looking person. “What do you think of this plan?” “Do you think it will work?” “How should we proceed?” They won’t just feel involved in the meeting — they’ll also be generating reactionary, spur-of-the-moment answers that can sometimes breed the best ideas.
We’re not talking your dad’s lame PowerPoint here. Slide after slide of numbers and huge blocks of text would put anyone to sleep. A good rule of thumb for any presentation: Show, don’t tell. There’s no point in just reading the words off a screen everyone can see — your coworkers are literate, right?
Try this: Limit the words on each slide to five or six, just enough to make your point. Use the rest of the slides to illustrate what you’re talking about. Use pictures, graphics, and even video to get the message across. Find images that will get a reaction from the audience, whether it be understanding, shock, or even humor. And use vibrant colors, such as reds and purples. The standard blues and grays are just too calming. Do you want to put everyone to sleep?
Don’t let your meeting get shut down by people shooting down each other’s ideas. If you think your ideas will be disregarded, you’ll be less likely to offer them up in the first place. Put every idea on the table without judging or criticizing, and then discuss which ones are the best. Everyone has to feel comfortable participating.
Try this: When brainstorming, give everyone a topic and have them start writing down random words and phrases in a stream of consciousness. Don’t pause, don’t over-think, just write. Then, have everyone go around and read five to 10 of their best words or phrases. Ideally, should trigger other, fresher ideas from the group as a whole.
There is a reason we gives young children games and toys to help occupy their time — it helps stimulate parts of their brains. Games help with problem solving and deductive reasoning and get creativity flowing. While it may seem silly, introducing toys and games into a meeting can actually help with the productivity of the meeting as a whole.
Try this: Hand out small Nerf guns, and every time someone has a great idea, they get to shoot one of the other participants. Or have everyone illustrate their ideas using Play-Doh. Or turn your brainstorming session into a game of Pictionary. Have people draw their ideas without speaking and have the others guess. Everyone will want to play and the ideas will come pouring out.
While donuts and brownies might be bad for you, in small doses they can help elevate your blood sugar during a long meeting and keep your brain active. Offering some kind of simple sugar like bananas, sodas, muffins, or candy will help perk everybody up.
Try this: If you think people will shy away from the doughnut method, bring a bag of mini candy bars in and hand them out whenever anyone participates in the discussion. It not only gives them a boost of sugar, but also encourages and validates their contribution to the conversation.
Most meetings don’t need to last more than an hour at the most. Keeping people in a confined space for longer than that is just going to make everyone shut down mentally. Not every person needs to be in every meeting. Think about breaking up huge, drawn-out meetings into smaller, quicker meetings with fewer people.
Try this: It’s up to you to make sure everyone stays on topic. Hit the key points. Keep brainstorming sessions to five or 10 minutes, since the best ideas usually come out within that time frame. And no matter you’re at when the hour is up, cut it off and plan to meet at a different time.