How to Have More Interactive Meetings (When You Don’t Have Time)

Many planners would like to incorporate a team building event into their meetings. After all, people are taking the time to be together away from work, so you should take advantage of this rare opportunity and do what you can to have them interact, get to know each other better and bond as a team.  Unfortunately, a packed agenda often makes it difficult to find the time. Here are some things you can incorporate right into the meeting to create interaction and also help improve the meeting content.

  1. “Group Questions”

A speaker always asks if there are any questions, and sometimes people either can’t think of one or they are too shy to raise their hand and ask. After a speaker has finished his or her presentation, ask each table to talk amongst themselves for a couple of minutes—and come up with at least one question for the speaker. If the group is large and time is sort, just call on a few tables (who really want to ask their questions). Everyone else should write their question(s) on a card and these will be collected and handed to the speaker. These can be addressed later or even in a meeting follow-up. This gets people talking to each other and discussing the content.

  • “Presenter Feedback”

After each presentation, ask each table to write on a 3 x 5 card some concise feedback for the presenter. The two questions they should answer: 1) Would did you like about the presentation?; 2) What could the presenter have done to make it more effective? Presenters should not feel uncomfortable about this. It is done so that we all learn from each experience. Additionally, this gets people at each table to talk to each other about the meeting content.

  • “Common Bonds”

Before the meeting commences tell the participants to introduce themselves to the other people at their table. If seated in classroom or theater style, it is more difficult, but you can still do this. During the first day of meetings, they need to find out one rare or interesting thing that everyone at their table has in common.  The more rare the better. At the end of the day, they have to write this down on a 3 x 5 card—with all their names at the top. The best ones will be picked and read the next day. You can even give a prize to these “teams.”

The idea is that you get people talking to each other. You can see there are simple ways to incorporate it right into your meeting—without having to set aside a substantial period of time. No, it doesn’t take the place of a great team building event, but at least it is more than having people just sit and listen to speaker after speaker—without any interaction among the attendees at all.

Boost Team Performance and Morale- in Minutes

Remember this simple tip and make a big impact.

I had a boss that used to talk about the importance of “Psychic Income.” This is the simple act of recognizing people’s contributions. Unfortunately, many team leaders fail to recognize its incredible impact. There tends to be more focus on what needs fixing, what went wrong, how we can improve. But we need to remember and publicly acknowledge what went right and those individuals who contributed to the success. What does this cost? Absolutely nothing except some thought and time. What does it gain? People appreciate recognition—and the positive mental boost actually improves individual and team performance. Here are two examples of this effect…

The communications department of a large firm did its job without fanfare. Many of the other departments received recognition for scientific breakthroughs and other innovations, but Communications never got this kind of recognition. Moral was ok but not great, and turnover was higher than other departments. Employees worked alone on their various assignments; making deadlines 78% of the time. Results were reliable but unremarkable. Then, one day the vice president of the company gave a speech and during his comments mentioned the work of the communications department and how vital they had been in the success of a new product. People in the audience applauded their effort. The manage of the department made mention of this again and the next team meeting—and thanked the individual by name, taking a few extra moments to recap specific contributions. Just this little bit of recognition created excitement, energy and a spark to the entire team. The very next month, the group made 100% of their deadlines. Additionally, they started helping each other to make this happen. In the process, they became a more cohesive team.

In another case, a volunteer for a large park district was getting ready to resign from the Mounted Patrol—in which she had served for over 15 years. Not only had she patrolled large areas of the regional parks for them, she had also served as the group’s Secretary. This included taking minutes at monthly meetings and distributing them to the membership. She did all this aside from a full-time job. She was resigning because she was moving away from the area. She sent the manager a nice letter of resignation, saying how she had enjoyed the volunteer opportunity. She attended her final meeting with the patrol group in December—also their traditional holiday potluck. Upon arrival at that gathering, she was asked if she had brought her ID card and patrol shirt to turn in. And that was it. No thank you or farewell remarks—at all. She left before the party ended—feeling invisible. How simple it would have been to say “thank you for your years of service.”  This dedicated volunteer will probably not have great things to say about this organization and left feeling demoralized.        

As members of many different “teams” throughout our lives, please remember to share your positive thoughts about others either publicly or individually. It does much more than you know.

New from Corporate Games: Game of Crowns

If you’re a fan of “Game of Thrones” and seek an adventurous team competition, this is the event for you. Control the fate of your house by using your forces to diminish the armies of others. Teamwork, wit and creativity will allow you to tame dragons and win this spirited competition. Game of Crowns provides extraordinary group problem solving challenges to which there are multiple solutions. Can you “Escape the Dungeon,” “Rule the Nightwalkers,” or “Protect the Castle?” These are just a few of the creative challenges found in this entertaining and meaningful series of events. Winter may be coming, but it is always summer in Corporate Games’ Game of Crowns.

Innovations in Team Building- Turn Preconceived Notions Upside Down

You’ve done Boat Building, Team Olympics, a Scavenger Hunt, Cooking, Bocce Ball, Ropes,  Murder Mysteries, Escape Rooms and more. So what now?! Yes, most team building providers still offer these options, but the most creative and forward thinking companies are moving beyond the standard offerings. Here are some of the latest ideas and possibilities:

  1. Make team building fit your meeting schedule by doing short team challenge breaks rather than one 2-3 hour event. Things that offer a series of challenges that are either stand-alone or build upon each other are great. An excellent example is “Engineering Minutes-to-Win-It”—a series of fast-paced design and construction activities. Each one takes about 15 minutes, and includes constructing things like a Table Top Hover Craft, a Rocket that will fly over 100 feet in the air, a Ping Pong Catapult—and many more. These are great energizers, and can easily be accommodated into any agenda.
  2. Escape Events—they are not limited to small groups and to brick and mortar escape rooms. These can be done anywhere for any number of participants and in any time frame. The essence of an escape room is figuring out a number of puzzles and the meaning of various objects in order to open a lock and “escape” a room. This sort of scenario does not need to last an hour and can be recreated in any meeting space. This means your group could experience an “Escape Break” that lasts for 15 minutes. Or, if you have more than 200 participants, they can all experience an Escape activity together. They don’t need to be broken into small group.
  3. Company Trivia Challenges– not Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit, but a series of interactive competitions that rely on company or meeting information in order to win. The series may use familiar game concepts like Pictionary or Charades, but all require specific company knowledge. For example, in Company Pictionary– instead of telling people what to draw, we ask them a question. The two people doing the illustrating for their team—must know the answer and draw it—hoping to get their teammates to say the answer. Corporate Games offers a series of six different Company Challenges like this. Great variety, fun, and a learning event too.
  4. Don’t just paint. There are plenty of places where your group can go to paint already-illustrated canvases—and color them in. But that’s not very interactive nor is it really a team exercise. Consider a “Collaborative Team Painting” event instead. Starting with a blank canvas, each team of 3-4 people needs to actually paint part of a scene. This is usually a landscape or still-life. The canvases from all the teams will eventually be one large painting.  There is an art lesson before each team decides what they will paint, how their canvas will match up with the team’s canvas next to theirs, and what color palette will be used. Team must talk to each other and coordinate their efforts in order to make this happen. Many unique twists include having teams leave their painting halfway through the activity—and  finishing another team’s canvas.
  5. Make better use of a unique venue. If you are holding your meeting in an interesting place, like a ship (for example, USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier), an amusement park, an art gallery, or museum—do more than just walk around and look at it. Yes, there are tours and things to see, but many creative team building events can utilize the unique features of the venue. Scavenger hunt types of events are a great way to explore these venues, but you can also do Mysteries, Escape Events, Creative Movie Making and more. We’re only limited by our imagination.

Find Out How Your Team Is Doing

Every so often (every 12- 18 months), it’s a good idea to assess how your team members feel about the team’s effectiveness. Here’s a very good survey to use in order to determine this. Copy and distribute or email to each member of your team. Ask them to complete it and send it back by a specific date. Remember that if you don’t ask, you will never really know.

Team Performance Survey

Best New Year’s Resolution part 2

All about team building—and more…

LISTEN—fully and with intent to understand. This is one of the hardest parts of communicating. Normally we listen only partially, because we are thinking about so many other things. Or—we listen with intent to respond. This also takes away from our ability to fully understand, because we are listening with a “filter”—formulating what you will say next—not concentrating on what is being said. Active listening seeks to comprehend and empathize with the speaker. This means trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and allow their point of view to be validated—no matter what your own personal feelings on the issue. It does not mean we will agree in the end, but hopefully that both sides will have an opportunity to share –without emotion—very different perspectives. In doing so, you may surprisingly find some commonalities.

This is not easy to do if the person you are listening to is combative and passionate. But allow them to speak without interruption and usually, the rhetoric and tone will eventually start to be less argumentative. After all, an argument takes two people. If you are listening without responding, there can be no argument.  Here are some tools that can help:

  1. Think of the other person as your “friend” who is willing to share their ideas with you. You may not feel like it, but put on a pleasant face and smile. A wise person said that “Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the absence of physical (or emotional) aggression.” Conflict is actually something that can move us forward.
  2. Intermittently use understanding words. This will encourage the person to keep conversing. These are words like “ok” or “sure” or “I see.” Again—not combative, but demonstrating an effort to understand and empathize.
  3. If the other person does not ask for your point of view, don’t launch into a counterpoint speech. Instead, ask if you can share your view also. You might hear “There is really no point. We can’t change each other’s minds.” Then say, “But it would be good to talk and have the conversation. Non-communication is what gets us (and indeed the world) into trouble, because then we are just guessing and making up what someone else thinks.”

Watch for “Talk like Spock” in our next post.

The Best New Year’s Resolution –does not cost a thing.

Resolve to improve your communication skills and reap wonderful, positive results in personal and business relationships. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and everyone around you.

The past year has uncovered unfortunate divisiveness in our country and even among friends and family. For some, it has gotten to the point that people who had good relationships just avoid conversation –or each other. Name calling, bullying and telling people they are wrong is counterproductive. Nasty tweets, yelling and fighting will solve nothing.

We are all Americans and want our country to succeed. We want our businesses to thrive and our personal relationships to be rewarding. We must talk to each other in order to move forward. And it all comes down to good communication skills.

Where do we start? First, learn to reach out without malice. This means asking for other people’s opinions and honestly wanting to hear them. There may certainly be some reluctance from others to share, but if people don’t think you are just waiting to pounce and bite their head off, they may start to open up. If someone just says “no” and puts up a wall, it is ok. But explain that you are interested in knowing what they think—and that is all. Don’t let a conversation escalate into something negative. Will cover some tips on how to do this in our next post. In the meantime, think about and practice “reaching out.”

Quick Easy Ideas to Liven Up Your Holiday Party

This was in our newsletter a couple years ago, and people have asked us to share these fun ideas again. Happy Holidays!!!

You have the facility, the food and the drinks, and lots of people coming for fun. How can you make the holiday party more interesting, fun and memorable—without having to spend a lot of your time getting ideas and materials together? Here are some quick, easy ideas to get the party going…

  1. What’s My Hobby? Give each person a 3” x 5” index card, a pen and tape or a straight pin. Each person will write their name at the top and list their hobbies on the card –and pin or tape it on their shirt. This is a great way to break the ice and give people something to talk about during a cocktail party.
  2. Lego party—put a bunch of Legos or other building blocks on a large table. Ask people to help build a replica of your company logo.
  3. Theme/costume—it’s always fun to dress up, and costumes always make mingling more fun and spirited. Announce the theme when you send out the invitations. Ideas for themes: Middle Earth Holiday; Victorian Holiday; Scrooge; Ugly Christmas Sweater; Holiday Characters (Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, Elf, etc.)
  4. Cocktail Concoction- Have a contest for making an original Holiday Cocktail or Mocktail.
  5. “White Elephant” Gift Exchange- Have each person bring a wrapped “gift” they have never used and don’t need. The value of these should not be more than $25. Everyone draw a number from a hat. When a person’s number is called, they may pick a wrapped gift from the pile or “steal” a gift from someone who has already picked and unwrapped a gift. An item may only be taken 3 times, and you may not directly steal a gift back from someone who has just taken it.
  6. Toy Drive- Have people bring a new, unwrapped toy. Ask a representative from a local charity to come and give a short speech about how the toys will be distributed.
  7. Prizes for oddball things: “Most unusual earrings.” “Hat contest” “Most unique tie.” “Hairdo- both men’s and women’s” “Shoes-both men’s and women’s” “Best Holiday Manicure.” You should announce that there will be prizes for these categories BEFORE the party, so people will come dressed appropriately. Give everyone a ballot to determine the winners—or have a small committee who decides the winners.
  8. If you have a small group of about 20 or less, you can have a Bunko Tournament after dinner, or consider playing one of these fun team games: CatchPhrase, Outburst, Cranium, Pictionary. Make up your own Minute-to-Win-It challenges.

 

 

An Interactive Event for Theater Style Seating?

This was an interesting question posed to us recently. In this seating configuration, people cannot move except to stand up, sit down, and turn in place. However, you may have people seated in this fashion for a meeting, but need a quick energizer or two. Here are some great ideas that we formulated just for a group like this…

Ideas for Theater Seating Activities– This is a series of fun, energizing activities. Some are actual team competitions, others require the entire group to work together.

(Six) Team Competitions-  The teams are denoted by crepe paper streamers that are draped between and on the back of the seats. The area is divided into six sections (imagine two rows of three squares). Each area represents one team.

Beach Volley – 15 minutes– Each team is given one small beach ball. At the signal to commence, music starts playing and the balls must be batted into the air towards another team. The volleying continues until the music stops, and no one knows when that will happen. However many balls are within a team area when the music stops, that team gets a negative point. In the second round, another beach ball is added to each area (total now of 12 beach balls). Once again, when the music starts, teams must attempt to keep any beach balls out of their own area. There is a third and fourth round. Each time, another beach ball is added to each team area. In the final round, there are 24 balls being batted around. In the end, the team with the fewest points is declared the winner.

Clues- 15 minutes– Each of the six teams is assigned with the name of an animal (horses, lions, giraffes, etc.). A series of questions will be presented on the screen. These are trivia questions – whose answers will be one of the animals. Simple example: It’s the name of the NFL team from Detroit. A: Lions. When the question comes up, the team with the correct animal must stand and in unison, make a sound or movement like the animal they represent. If they are the first to do so, they get a point. Here is the tough part—if anyone from your team stands up and your group is not the correct animal, then you get a negative point. Additionally, for some of the questions more than one animal is the correct answer. Example: Which animal can run faster than 20 mph? That might pertain to more than one team, but the team that stands first gets the point.

Shapes and Outlines- 15 minutes– In this fun activity, each team will be asked to form a shape given by the facilitator and also shown on the screen. Each of the six teams must decide who will need to stand in order to form the shape for their group—depending upon where each person is sitting and what the shape is. A simple example is a Circle. People on each team need to stand and form a perfect, solid circle. A point is given to the team that is able to accomplish this first. The shapes/outlines start easy and get more complex. Finally, the last shape is their company logo (if that lends itself to this exercise). If the logo does not, then it might be the company initials.

Full Group Activity

Balloon Drop- 5 minutes (a Minutes-to-Win-It Challenge)– Balloons are held in a net above the auditorium. There are six colors of balloons. Each of the six areas is assigned to one of the colors. When the balloons drop, everyone needs to bat them away or try to collect them—in order to collect all the balloons that are of just their color. The idea is to have all the balloons sorted into the six areas in less than 3 minutes. The group must all work together to get this accomplished. If they are successful, everyone earns a point—AND the team that got all its balloons collected first earns an extra point (only if the whole group was successful in doing this under 3 minutes).

Card Stunts- 15 minutes– This is a take-off on the college football card stunts you have seen on TV. This can be done as a team competition or as a whole group. Every seat can be preset with a list of the card stunts (or you can try to have people figure this out by themselves). The list would state which card the person in that seat should hold up for each of the stunts. You can have them spell out words or company symbols, etc. There should be a live feed camera trained on the audience. This will allow them to see the finished stunt—or it will allow them to see what they are doing and figure it out (if you are not going to provide a stunt list for each seat). Great fun to see them form the words and pictures on the big screen. Many different ways to orchestrate this.

You’re only limited by your imagination and the time it takes to organize any of these activities.