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Inc. writer Patrick Sauer suggests 15 ways to make meetings more productive, creative and fun in his May 2004 feature, "Escape from Meeting Hell." Here, he offers two more strategies for keeping boredom out of the conference room.

"It Takes Up Too Much of My Time"/ Hey Bud, Let's Party

As Ridgemont High's resident philosopher Jeff Spicoli astutely pointed out to Mr. Hand, if you're here and I'm here, than isn't this our time? One of the oft-overlooked benefits of meetings is that it's the only definitive time all members of an organization can call their own, AKA our time (and Spicoli's dead-on that a double cheese and sausage pizza is brainfood). At Parker LePla, a branding firm in Seattle, it's a fundamental tenant that the two-hour Tuesday afternoon meeting is for bonding as a company. It's a mixture of strategy, housekeeping, reviewing open-book financials, sharing the pain of mistakes, pressing business issues and astrology readings. "We read them aloud from The Stranger {a weekly Seattle newspaper}" says co-founder Lynn Parker, "they're quirky, fun, and we can tease each other, but they're actually an insightful and useful way to showcase everyone's role in the company." Silly perhaps, but it's a small part of Parker LePla's way of ensuring their meetings foster camaraderie and a congenial, team-oriented atmosphere and let one another know they're all working toward the betterment of the company even when the other 50-plus-hours-a-week are with clients. If it sounds inefficient, Parker says the employees felt disenfranchised when they had to put them on hold during a point of survival mode, so they quickly brought them back. "I think morale-rallying works," she says, "it helped keep business afloat during the dot.com bust when most of our competitors went under."

"Staring at This PowerPoint is Giving Me A Migraine"/ Go Low-Tech

After years of research and experimentation, George Pattee, CEO of Parksite Group, has found the key to unlocking the shackles of oppressive meetings?the colored Post-It note. During strategy sessions, Pattee likes to set up the equivalent of a NFL draft-day war room, with a large whiteboard designating four categories: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. He brainstorms beforehand and comes in with a stack of thoughts on Post-It notes, which are put up on the big board. Each attendee has their own color-coded Post-Its to jot down and slap up their impressions. Over the course of the two-hour meetings, Post-Its are mixed and matched, shifted back-and-forth, debated upon and winnowed down to a manageable number of workable plans. The simple low-tech feel gets everyone involved, both introverts and extroverts, and its collaborative nature makes it more like a rousing game of Cranium than yet another conference room slog. "We're all looking for a little edge," says Pattee, "and this system not only keeps ideas from getting lost, but it physically allows us to roll up our sleeves and get to work."

Last updated: May 1, 2004




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