How to Un-Boring a Meeting

by Eva Niewiadomski, Catalyst Ranch
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Boring Meetings? Get Out the Water Guns” written by Emily Maltby. Here’s a short excerpt:

Heather Logrippo says her employees didn’t seem too enthusiastic at first when she handed out construction paper and crayons and told them to find a quiet place for 30 minutes.
The unconventional assignment—in which workers were asked to use the crayons and paper to brainstorm a customer-incentive program—was part of an effort to make staff meetings more efficient, says Ms. Logrippo, owner and publisher of “Distinctive Homes,” a monthly magazine based in Boston. Ms. Logrippo believed the tools would help employees come back with colorful suggestions to present around the conference table.
“This was a situation where you couldn’t just Google the answer,” she says. “They came out with great ideas.”
In the downturn, some small- business owners are looking for more creative ways to make conference-room time as efficient as possible, an effort they hope will ultimately trickle down to the company’s bottom line.
Many managers say fostering participation is a major challenge, particularly when the attendees with valuable ideas are too reserved or timid to speak up. Without their contributions, the meetings are less productive.
Dixon Schwabl Advertising Inc., in Rochester, N.Y., tries to lower the inhibitions of its 82 employees by arming them with water guns, which workers are instructed to bring to all meetings. Anyone who passes a negative comment at the meeting is bound to get wet.
“It helps them be more comfortable because no one will be criticized or scrutinized,” says Lauren Dixon, the marketing and advertising firm’s chief executive.
Anonymity can also help lower inhibitions. During meetings at cloud-computing firm Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., Jen Grant gives workers seven minutes to jot down as many thoughts as possible on Post-It notes, without having to write their names. When time is up, the suggestions are put on a wall for the employees to read and rearrange.
“I tell them to not think about whether the idea is dumb or too costly, which allows them to think as big as they can,” she says.

I’ve personally seen nerf guns used at meetings, various improv games and various silly energizers, all with the intention of breaking down barriers and encouraging participants to tap into their creative reserves. Inevitably, those groups come out of their meetings full of energy, rolls of flipchart paper under their arms filled with innovative ideas, strategies and lists of next steps.
What have you done at meetings that was non-traditional, maybe a little goofy, but highly effective in involving everyone and fostering a more productive meeting? How did you add fun to your meeting? Please feel free to share your success stories with us.
Here’s the link to read the full article.