Saturday, May 6, 2017

10 Must-Try Meeting Innovations

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race
has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential,
that word would be "meetings."

― Dave Barry

Why must attendees―and the rest of our species―stultify, when great meeting designs abound?

Meeting Design, Adrian Segar outlines 10:


An "elementary" meeting maps a familiar event onto the meeting. The familiar event―for example, a holiday dinner, a wedding, a court trial, an autopsy, a science experiment, or a club outing―functions like a metaphor.


A participant-rich meeting substitutes experiential learning for the "expert broadcast." Attendees interact with each other, rather than listen to a speaker. Popular variations include the affinity group, roundtable, fishbowl, pair share, seat swap, guided discussion, and World CafĂ©.


A participant-driven meeting lets attendees pick topics. Post-Its are distributed during breakfast that let attendees "crowdsource" topics. The impromptu approach may feel chaotic, but 25 years of research has shown over half the topics offered at conferences are irrelevant to attendees.

Small niche

The small niche meeting―the opposite of the industry convention―connects 100 people or fewer through a "micro event" where they don't waste a moment's time navigating crowds of strangers, or listening to motivational lectures they won’t remember in a week.

Short plenary

The short plenary is a TED-style or "lightning” talk. The format is doubly effective when paired with a follow-on breakout (or breakouts) with the speaker.

Learning and action

Adding a facilitated, end-of-day roundup to a meeting improves outcomes. It lets attendees recap what they learned, deepen connections with others, and find out what they missed. Popular formats include the "personal introspective" (attendees reflect on the changes they want to make as a result of what they learned) and the "group-spective" (attendees publicly evaluate the event's content and discuss next steps).

Sensitive topic

While a large meeting isn't a safe place for confidential discussions, small peer-groups can be convened to explore sensitive professional topics. Everyone must commit up front to the statement, “What we share here stays here,” and agree others have the freedom to ask questions and speak their minds.


Ten minutes of sitting slows blood-flow to the brain. Letting attendees move around mitigates the bad effects. Meeting facilitators can lead attendees in fast, frequent stand-in-place exercises; or conduct entire sessions standing up; or lead strolls around the room―or, better yet, through a beautiful spot outdoors (provided it's ADA-compliant).


A meeting where significant parts of the program surprise attendees will have better outcomes. That's because they're instinctively wary of new formats and may opt out of experiential learning. By surprising them, they'll discover rewarding new ways to learn and connect.

Solution room

A "Solution Room" runs 90 to 120 minutes. After an intro, attendees are asked to describe a personal challenge for which they'd like peer advice. They then gather at small roundtables and mind-map the challenges on paper. Seat swaps allow each attendee to get―and give―advice. At the start of a meeting, Solution Rooms help groups of six to eight people connect, and are good for introducing new attendees into a community.

Meeting Design is free―and well worth a look.
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