Henry Ford would have loved producing our current day meetings the way he produced his cars.

His famous ‘any colour – so long as it’s black’ would have marvelously fit the numerous meetings that are being churned out worldwide. A meeting room is a meeting room and a meeting is a meeting. All black, all the same. There’s just a slight variation in black because they’re not all being produced by the same firm.

Adding some colours - copyright Ruben van der Laan

So here are 49 ways to spice up your meetings and make them fun and colourful. And by the way: fun usually means also more effective (and no, I did not say efficient, that’s a whole different story).

So which ones are you willing to try?

4 ways to spice up your prep work

  • Prepare no agenda
  • Let each participant bring a song that makes one happy. Between each agenda item listen to one of the songs.
  • Prepare agenda items with at least 2 participants
  • Make a list of the participants you need, then shorten the list by half

6 ways to time your meetings colourfully

  • Schedule it in the middle of the night
  • Don’t have the meeting
  • Shorten the meeting by half
  • Split the meeting in two parts: one in the early morning and the second in the late afternoon
  • Assign speaking times and have a huge clock to keep people stick to the time
  • Schedule the meetings only in the afternoons, never in the mornings

5 ways to play with meeting roles

  • Let the note-taker be the leader of the meeting and the leader the note-taker
  • Present someone else’s presentation or comments
  • Have one chair less than participants, the one without the chair is the only one to speak. That participant is also the one that can choose the next speaker
  • Have only one chair, the one person sitting on that chair is the speaker. Once the chair is empty someone else can choose to sit
  • Ask the most junior person what agenda item is most important to him or her, start with that agenda item.

11 ways to communicate with all your senses

  • Don’t use words in the meeting, communicate with doodling and drawing
  • Don’t take any notes during the meeting
  • Say ‘yes, and’ to every suggestion someone makes
  • Communicate only by whispering into the ears of the participants next to you
  • Communicate between participants only by writing
  • Ask questions only by writing them down on a post-it and hanging them on the wall
  • Always let someone else speak your thoughts and concerns
  • Let the highest in hierarchy always speak last
  • Let the participants sit in a circle with their back to each other. This will make them listen carefully
  • Only let participants react in pairs
  • Let others present each others presentation

8 ways to spice up your space

  • Remove the table from the meeting room
  • Have nice sofa’s, comfy chairs and a glass of wine for the meeting
  • Play Mozart on the background
  • Organise a walk and have the meeting outside
  • Let every participant take off their shoes before entering the meeting room
  • After each agenda item change places
  • Have the meeting in the car park, the commuter train or in the café
  • Have the meeting around the desk of the most junior participant. Thus you’ll need to be short in order not to disturb other persons.

10 ways to spice up your decision-making

  • Let one random participant make the decisions and then discuss about them
  • Make a list of all items that need discussion, throw the dice and discuss not more than the number of dots on the dice.
  • Make a list of all items that need discussion and flip a coin for each item. ‘Head’ = will be discussed now, ‘tails’ = not this meeting.
  • Don’t make any decisions, discuss only the issues and then leave
  • Organise a greek chorus: have a random participant comment personally after each closed agenda item. This person can do it the way he/she wants
  • After each decision ask: ‘what’s the fun part of this decision?’
  • Do a round of ‘what do you really think?’ after each decision, keep it anonymous
  • Only make decisions that affect everyone, if it affects a subgroup or a single participant leave the decision out of the meeting room
  • Vote one participant out of the meeting after each decision made. The person voted out is the least relevant for the following agenda items
  • Do a round of drinks (coffee / tea) after each decision made, as a way to celebrate them

5 ways to follow-up differently on meetings

  • Only allow participants in the meeting if they’ve done their actions agreed from the previous meeting
  • Schedule the next meeting only when every item on the to do list has been done
  • Take 5 minutes to draft the meeting notes at the end in the form of a graphic visualisation. No other meeting notes are allowed
  • Let another participant sum up your action notes and then let him/her ask regularly about your follow up.
  • Make a list of all the decisions at the end of the meeting, cross two from that list by asking participants to vote for the ones they like least and don’t follow-up on these two.

Ruben van der Laan

Ruben van der Laan

Ruben van der Laan brings your group into flow to unleash creativity, build engagement and organise expediency. He relentlessly seeks to create the best meeting. As facilitator, he uses a vast array of creativity techniques, improvisational games and participatory methods.

Grown up in Europe and Africa, working with highly diverse groups, he feels at home in many cultures. He is fluent in Dutch, French and English. Ruben is working worldwide for many organizations in the profit and non-profit (United Nations, BBC, Akzo Nobel, ABN AMRO, etc…).

Ruben currently lives in the Netherlands missing the food and weather of his former home Thailand.

For more information visit: www.rubenvanderlaan.com