You can’t tame a unicorn, and you can’t bottle lightning. But if you play your cards right, you might be able to manufacture some elusive creativity.
Because as we all know, meetings are inevitable, so you might as well make the most of them.
In this guide, we’re going to give you our top tips to foster creativity in the meeting place.
You’re not obliged to use them all – or any. They’re here for you to pick and choose what you like. So have a read, and lift what works for your team.
1. Foster Communication
If you’re not going to be communicating, then why call the meeting at all? Why not send people to work individually. Think of this section as an athlete warming up.
At Spacehuntr we swear by our creative ice-breakers that we’ve cultivated in the last couple of years. They’re effective, and more importantly, they’re fun.
Despite being a cliche you foist on strangers at corporate events, these games are worthwhile, even if your team knows each other really well. Why? Because they inject pace and joy into proceedings.
If you’d rather not dive into our ice-breakers, even taking 15 minutes to have a tea or a coffee together before you begin can do wonders!
2. Setting Goals
Creativity is endlessly romanticised. Like an ethereal creature that is hard to muster on command. But ask any creative, nothing shifts them into action by giving them a deadline, and give them a task.
A concise problem definition is essential. It saves time working on ideas – however nice they are – that is doomed for the bin.
It also pushes you to focus. An idea could be to give people individual tasks or split them into groups at some point instead of one collective.
3. The Venue
There are several places to hold a meeting. If your office space has adequate breakout rooms, there’s no reason why you can’t do this in-house.
Do you have a sociable team that likes hanging out? There’s nowhere in the rulebook that says you can’t hold your meeting at a bar or restaurant. With a beer or a coffee in your hand, hip music playing in the background, it might just be the perfect setting to cultivate a more open and creative session.
Or for the free spirits among you, why not have class outside like the old Hollywood cliche? Who’s to say a casual stroll along the river or through a park with your team couldn’t be a fabulous way to start thinking outside the box.
But more often than not, you want a professional, sleek, corporate meeting room that’s been specifically designed for productive and creative meetings. You can check out somewhere like Labs to see what a full service looks like.
4. Make a Scene
This piece of advice might seem over-zealous. But hear us out. Add a bit of rhythm to your event. It could be music, sweet music. But what kind of music? Just check out our guide on how to make a playlist for work. Music makes people happy and helps them concentrate. It’s as simple as that.
You could take advantage of vision boards too. Alternatively, why not task your team to bring in an object: something they can’t live without or something orange? Be creative. Or, to be really out there, why not learn how you can use augmented reality at meetings.
In short, if you make a place and a time feel special, your team will respond to that. Ask them to dress up, bring plants, let your inner creative event planner create something unique.
A good break can do wonders for a hard-working brain. Being sat in the same space doing the same thing causes fatigue. But there are different kinds of breaks, as we’re about to establish. Short, sweet, and aimless, or long and concentrated.
We like to break out events into three types: a traditional break for a breather and refreshments, micro-events, and fuel breaks (catering).
Everyone knows the famous example of Albert Einstein working as a patent clerk while he independently produced his theory of relativity. While his boss at the office might not have thanked him, the world certainly appreciates how he did his science while he should have been attending to patents.
But both research and anecdotal evidence suggest that if you give yourself a break – or something else to focus on – you’ll work better at solving a problem.
Offering fun micro-events could be the key that unlocks a precious idea that changes everything. It could be fun games like table tennis, cornhole, quizzes, or something more elaborate like gaming team-building.
7. Fuel (Catering)
I don’t think we’re exaggerating when we say that food is the most important thing in the world. There are different philosophies on how to do it effectively for a creative meeting.
The sensible road is to use ‘brain foods’: lentils, vegetables, and the like; healthy food that slowly releases energy throughout the day.
Alternatively, you have the rock ‘n’ roll road. Loud and classic comfort food that makes people happy. Not exactly healthy, but sometimes doing the wrong thing is the right thing. We’re here to tell you there is no wrong answer.
What is essential, though, is effort. If you don’t provide foot at all or provide some lousy sandwiches, it’s not going to inspire anyone.
This can be achieved through private catering brought to the site or an adventure to a hot local eatery. But either way, show your team you care, and they’ll give you it back.
8. Going Online
In the advent of COVID-19, hybrid and virtual events boomed; a whole load of us were sent home to work from our laptops. Now that COVID-19 is – fingers crossed – becoming a thing of the past, however, hybrid and virtual working aren’t going anywhere.
So if you want to engage your remote attendees, you need to make them feel part of the meeting instead of passive viewers. Easier said than done, though. Well, that begins with getting the right tools…
Having the essential tools is a crucial jumping-off point.
Video conferencing + webinar software: Zoom
Presentation Software: Google Slides and Keynote
Whiteboarding: InVision Freehand
Forms: Google Forms
For a more detailed breakdown of what’s possible, check out our guide to the best tools for engaging virtual attendees at hybrid events.
And as for AV equipment for your in-person team, most venues supply you with basic stuff such as TV’s, projectors, whiteboards, WiFi, and so on. So if you’re meeting externally, be sure to double-check you have everything you need.
And don’t forget the classics. Pen and paper were here before the internet, and they will be here after. Another thing to remember is that everyone loves stationery. So buy some nice pens and big blank drawing pads and ignite the creative imagination with a blank canvas for every member.
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10. Good Leadership
Being a good leader is about getting the best out of your team. That much is simple. However, the complicated thing is that individuals are motivated in different ways. So as well as cultivating a team spirit, you need to manage different brains simultaneously.
That’s why many make it to management, but not so many become leaders. But what is the relevance for fostering creativity in the meeting place, you ask?
When someone wants to shine and to take control, it’s good to harness that and let them – so long as they don’t overstep their mark. That’s straightforward enough. Those team members are a gift.
Sometimes there’s a member who just needs a slight nudge – a word of endearment – to get them to open up and get that beautiful brain of theirs working.
Other times a bit of tough love is required. Some of us respond well to negative criticism, to being challenged: “Hey, Jamie, you’re quiet today.”
But be careful. Although some are motivated by a prod, it can be very damaging to others. Because sometimes, good leadership is about knowing when to let someone be a wallflower.
You can make your life easier – and your team stronger – before you even step into the meeting room by checking out and actioning this ultimate guide to team building because even the best leaders are still learning new things about leadership every day.
11. Use Incentives
Of course, you want your team to be motivated by the task at hand in and of itself. But don’t forget that everyone is motivated by free stuff and prizes.
Float the idea of free drinks or free pizza to your team if they get this job done right; offer a prize to the wackiest idea; in short, incentivise them with something shiny.
12. In Conclusion, What Comes After?
So there you have it, our top tips to foster creativity in the meeting place. It turns out there are many little things that you can do to bring out effective creativity after all.
But our final point is this, what about after the meeting? All of this cool stuff is a massive waste of energy if it doesn’t mean something? This is where your set goals from early come in handy.
But most importantly, it’s good to keep track of what worked and what didn’t. Which of our tips will you be desperate to take into your next meeting? Which are you happy to leave to the side?