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meeting formats

Unconventional Meeting Formats

Type “meetings are” into Google. Hit your space bar. The autocomplete will show you the most popular endings for that phrase: “…a waste of time,” “toxic,” “useless,” “bad,” “unproductive” and “pointless.” Here at ESG, we’re here to rewrite that script. We believe in person meetings still have unlimited potential to connect, inspire, and motivate.

The antipathy towards meetings, combined with advances in technology have increasingly shifted them online. While online meetings reduce friction and enhance utility, they are not without their problems. Technology glitches. People play minesweeper. Java wants to update for the sixth time this week.

In addition, there are some things only offline meetings can provide. They are conducive to vibrant interactions among teams, helping to convey messages with verbal and nonverbal cues, allowing employees to build trust with their colleagues and increasing productivity.

With the ease and functionality of online meetings, offline meetings have to be different. These meeting formats must offer something unique and valuable over their online counterparts. Novel meeting models turn employee expectations on their head, encouraging meetings that are useful, productive and a great use of time.

Flipped classroom meeting format

A little over a decade ago, two chemistry teachers pioneered a new format for classroom learning called the “flipped classroom.” The model involved giving the students pre-recorded lectures to listen to on their own time.

In class, they would discuss the lectures and work through homework together. The philosophy behind the model is that you should keep content delivery to a minimum, and dialogue should be at a maximum.

The flipped classroom model transfers easily from the classroom to the conference room. You can distribute presentations in advance, so attendees can come to the meeting knowledgeable and ready to discuss.

The flipped classroom model leads to meetings that are stimulating, engaging and fun, as well as often more exploratory and future-focused than normal meetings.

Long table meeting format

The long table model does not so much flip meetings on their head, as it dispenses the idea of meetings entirely. The model is part choreographed theatricality, part free-flowing dialogue. An agenda becomes a single designated topic of discussion.

The conference room table becomes open for anyone in the audience to sit at. Rules are codified in an “etiquette sheet.” Meeting notes are exchanged for a paper tablecloth. Pens – well, they stay as pens.

The result is an intimate discussion devoid of office politics or hierarchy that is free to explore areas without fear of repercussion.

As attendees of the culture conference found, long table discussions create an unparalleled experience of learning, participating, having fun and even improving mental health in the context of community.

Gamification model

One of the easiest ways to keep attendees from thinking a meeting is useless is to gamify it. The gamification process is simple:

  1. Define the objective of the meeting. Do you want more people to attend? The team to work together to solve a problem? Enhanced cooperation among team members?
  2. Define a prize for meeting that objective. Prizes could be as simple as verbal praise, as cheap as company swag, as mundane as monetary bonuses or as extravagant as a mini-vacation.
  3. Distribute the prize when the objective is met. Your reward will be increased participation in the meeting and a guarantee that you will achieve your objective.

Multi-sensory meeting formats

The more senses an event impacts, the more memorable that event will be. So, when an attendee is leaning back in their chair, hands clasped behind their head, eyelids shut, listlessly listening, they will forget what is being said – if they even hear it in the first place.

Meetings filled with sensory experiences, though, increase topic recall, engagement and participation. Augment the sense of sight by projecting onto the walls and ceiling, surrounding the audience with the presentation.

Wrap movement into the meeting by encouraging the audience to lift their hands, sit up, stand up and walk around. Smell and sound are more difficult to integrate, but also more impressive when executed well.

Walking meetings

Steve Jobs infamously cherished walking meetings, which are good for short-form meetings or presentations. So does Mark Zuckerberg, who takes prospective executive hires on a walk before pitching Facebook to them. As does Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter; Barack Obama, former U.S. president; and Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. Why?

The most obvious answer is that it enhances creativity. Dorsey, for example, favors ocean views while talking for their inspiring beauty. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology by two Stanford researchers in 2014 found that walking increased the creativity of 81 percent of participants.

In addition, walking reduces the hierarchy of a conversation by removing the desk between speakers, and also gives time to process by reducing eye contact and allowing for gaps in the conversation.

In conclusion

At ESG, we believe that an effective meeting experience has three key pillars: value, meaning and engagement. So we add fun to your meetings. Not because we want your event to be silly – but because life is short, so why not?

Planning for the fun requires innovative ideas, outside-the-box thinking, taking advantage of avant-garde trends and working to keep things engaging and exciting. Never sit through a boring meeting again.