How We Retreat: Team Sparkspace’s 3 Necessities for the Perfect Staff Retreat

So how does team sparkspace retreat? Over the past 17 years in business and hosting thousands of meetings we’ve learned lots of best practices but it’s really our own personal experience meeting as a team that we’ve discovered the must-haves for staff retreats.

Here’s sparkspace’s top 3 necessities for creating the perfect staff retreat.

We find the perfect location:

Yes, we have an amazing facility. It’s actually a perfect space for a retreat but we as a team take our own advice seriously: go offsite for a retreat! Staying on-site is not conducive to a distraction-free, fresh, new environment, so we look for another location. Our owner has a cabin on a lake only about an hour away, so that’s a perfect spot, and we’ve also used nearby hotel suites. We make sure any space has natural light, comfortable seating, and is advantageous to creative thinking.

We involve everyone ahead of time:

Pre-work and an agenda is a must for a staff retreat. We think back over the past year on what has worked out? What can be improved? What were our biggest successes? We then kick-off our retreat with each person sharing the top 3-5 biggest successes in their role over the past year. This not only starts the retreat on a positive note but creates an open environment where we’re all comfortable participating, sharing ideas, and brainstorming throughout the day.

We end the day with a fun activity:

We’re kinda big on the whole team bonding thing, so it’s no surprise we incorporate a team activity. We have taken Segway tours, gone to Cirque de Solei, grabbed dinner and walked through the zoo lights with our families, participated in charity work, baked and decorated cookies together, participated in an Escape Room, etc. Our team bonding experiences have ranged in budget, but were all equally fun and energizing!

team sparkspace on a staff retreat

Be the Meeting Hero!

We’ve hosted thousands of meetings over the past 17 years here at sparkspace and throughout the years, we’ve seen what makes certain meeting planners stand out. The thing is, what the rockstar meeting planners do isn’t super complicated; anyone can do it! They do five very simple yet impactful things that make their meetings effective and elevate them to “meeting hero” status.

Here are five things that will transform you into a meeting hero:

Prepare an Agenda
Agendas keep the facilitator and team on track and ensure everyone is prepared for the meeting. In order for the agenda to be useful it needs to be prepared and sent to the team at least two days prior to the meeting. This way the team is aware of materials, reports, and discussion topics in advance.

Schedule Frequent Breaks
Sounds juvenile, but you would be amazed at how infrequently teams break. If attendees continually keep getting up during the meeting it’s a sign that your team needs a break! Short breaks should be scheduled every hour in order to keep the team energized, focused and engaged.

Communicate with Meeting Facility
Communication between the facilitator and meeting facility is crucial to the success of the meeting. You’ll want to communicate the room setup and meeting materials needed prior to the day of the meeting. Having AV equipment, office supplies, and materials prepared and ready ahead of time will save headaches the day of meeting.

Order Yummy Food
Food is often the most anticipated part of the meeting so don’t disappoint your team! Keep the food fresh, healthy and abundant. If you’re meeting all day, don’t skip breakfast and make sure to have an afternoon snack. The dreaded 2 o’clock hour is the perfect time to reenergize with a fresh fruit bowl or a Mediterranean platter. This secret can definitely impact your “meeting hero” status.

Create an Action Plan & Follow Up
Specifying actionable items or tasks is imperative to the success and outcome of your meeting. Once the action plan has been set, schedule specific dates with your team to follow up. Using the last hour of your meeting to create an action plan and follow up dates will make everyone feel like there was purpose for the meeting.

3 ways to create a memorable meeting experience

Why is creating an “experience” so important anyway?

We remember experiences. Studies have shown that we are more likely to recall information when it is attached to a sense, whether it’s touch, sight, smell, taste, or sound. We all know what it’s like when a certain smell or song sends us right back in time to memory from our childhood or past event in our lives. So what better way to create a meeting experience than to include one of our five senses?

Here are 3 ways to create a memorable experience during your next meeting:

 

Encourage Doodling & Play

Creating a playful environment is one way to generate a memorable experience. Not many meetings include hands-on materials like play dough, crayons, markers, construction paper, and pipe cleaners on the conference table. Go ahead…encourage your team to doodle/fidget during your meeting and watch their reactions.

By simply allowing, “play” and “doodling” during your next meeting your team has the potential to retain up to 30% more information presented. Don’t believe me? Check out this article and book by Sunni Brown. She’s is a doodle expert!

 

Provide Food, Food, and more Food

Smells are one of the strongest senses tied to memory so food can be key to a memorable experience. Plus, it’s the best part of the meeting, right? Now, a plain deli tray may not awaken our senses, but a hot Korean BBQ bowl with sautéed veggies, colorful toppings and a variety of sauces is another story. It’s making me hungry just typing it up!

Food bowls are very trendy right now and the presentation is amazing so try one at your next meeting. Sundae bars with tons of toppings, Detroit-style pizza, and Pastry/Bakery treats are all very popular this year. Using food to create an experience is always a win!

Seasonal Meeting Catering

 

Participate in a Team Bonding Activity

This is an easy one. No matter what team bonding experience you choose whether you’re volunteering, taking a food tour, or bowling, your team is likely to remember this type event. Especially since they’ll be engaging all their senses.Escape Room Team Building Activity

If you’re looking for a team bonding experience we have several options here at sparkspace including our summer exclusive with Kingmakers. Kingmakers is a board game parlor with game “sommeliers”. We also have our escape room (pictured above) and our North Market Foodie Adventure. For more information on our team bonding experiences click here.

 

3 Little Meeting Room Touches to Impress Your Clients

The environment during a client presentation can make a big impact on how your company is perceived. When you google “how to impress your clients during a meeting” every article and blog are the same. Know the client, know the company, be prepared, and have an agenda. Not one article mentions the meeting room itself, but it can make a huge impact on a client’s impression. Whether the presentation is in your home office or a creative meeting facility, adding small touches to the space is a sure way to impress any client. Here are 3 little meeting room touches to impress your clients.

1. Welcome Your Clients

A welcome sign may sound elementary but it is a subtle way of letting your clients know you are excited for their arrival. Kind of similar to getting off the airplane and walking through the terminal to find someone standing at the gate with a sign welcoming you to their city. It’s never happened to me, but sounds amazing, and I would definitely feel like a VIP.

 

2. Enhance the Atmosphere

Adding fresh flowers, artwork, or a bowl of candy to the meeting room enhances any atmosphere, especially if it’s your client’s favorite retro candy. Music is also something that is often overlooked when designing the atmosphere of the room. Walking into a silent room is the worst. I realize that having blaring music may not be professional, but background music is a must for any meeting space. Knowing your client’s favorite band also helps.

 

3. Impress with Food

We all love food. So using food as a fun element of the meeting will surely impress your clients. Whether you’re having a quick “get to know you” meeting or a full day brainstorm, food is a must! Try something new and trendy like a pho bar or appetizer samplings from a local restaurant. We love the seasonal menus from Two Caterers for inspired, locally-sourced food that will make a statement.

Investigate your client as well. A health based company may not be excited about an ice cream/sundae bar, but a sample of sushi from a nearby restaurant would be a hit. Food is one of the biggest parts of a meeting, so be sure it represents how you want the client to perceive your company.

 

Remember, adding small touches to a meeting space pack big results when trying to impress your clients. Welcoming your clients, enhancing the atmosphere, and impressing with food are 3 simply ways to change the environment and leave a lasting impression.

 

 

Simplify the Meeting Planning Process for Out-of-Town Venues

Planning an out-of-town event can be overwhelming. Researching hotels, organizing evening activities, and finding the perfect restaurant is a daunting task. So why not ask for help? Most hotels and conference facilities have coordinators or a concierge service to simplify the planning. We say take full advantage of this service! Your venue partner should be used for every aspect of your meeting. Using your venus as a resource will make your life easier!

Here are 5 easy steps to help simplify the meeting planning process for your next out-of-town event:

  • Step 1: Ask the venue for hotel recommendations. This saves you the hassle of researching nearby hotels on your own. The venue most likely has partnered with hotels, which could lead to discounted pricing.
  • Step 2: Ask the venue if they can arrange for a car service or transportation. This could be used during your event or to and from the airport. If they do not provide this service they will be able to recommend local transportation companies.
  • Step 3: Ask the venue about all-inclusive packages. The all-inclusive packages are typically a better deal and save you the headache of having to choose catering options. These are definitely the easiest option when planning out-of-town events (and yes, sparkspace does have an all-inclusive option that includes catering, parking and room rental all in one price!)
  • Step 4: Ask the venue for local restaurants and evening activity ideas. Every town has hidden-gems so asking your local facility for recommendations may be the only way to found out about these amazing places. The facility can setup reservations for dinner or book your evening activities. This is something the Guest Happiness Team at sparkspace is always happy to help with!
  • Step 5: Ask the venue about shipping materials. If meeting materials can be sent prior to the event, this saves you the hassle of traveling with extra baggage or the potential of losing materials. The facility staff may even be able to setup materials beforehand.

Remember, maximize the resources and expertise of your meeting venue. It could save hours in planning and researching!

4 Quick Activities to Encourage Cross-Functional Collaboration

Cross-functional collaboration is a big portion of the meetings we see at sparkspace. Sales & Marketing, Marketing & Finance, Finance and IT. We especially see these type of meetings with Columbus’s many fashion retail home offices like Abercrombie and Fitch, Victoria’s Secret and DSW.

Collaboration between these departments is frequent, although people work better together when they feel comfortable with one another. So how do we quickly break down the barriers of communication?

Below are 4 quick activities to encourage cross-functional collaboration during your next meeting.

  1. Assign seats. Assign seats prior to the groups arrival. Attendees will be encouraged to make new connections. Another version is to allow attendees to sit down where they’d like, but are then asked to move seats right before the day begins. It sounds very “fourth grade” but all teams have cliques which will need to be eliminated to fully encourage cross-functional collaboration.
  2. Break the ice. Opening up the meeting with an icebreaker is the go-to activity to break down barriers. Learning and sharing something personal opens up communication between people that may not have happened otherwise. Finding connections enables team members to create a quicker bond. One of the most popular items at sparkspace is the thumball. It’s an easy tool and quick icebreaker for any meeting.
  3. Do some bonding. What’s the perfect way to get employees communicating, collaborating? Team bonding. There are many activities to choose from but selecting a team bonding experience that lasts about an hour is the sweet spot for quick collaboration between departments. sparkspace offers two (1 hour) team bonding experiences that encourage communication and collaboration. Click to view our Team Bonding Menu
  4. Get out. A quick team outing example is to split up team members from each department into groups of 2 to 4 and send them out to grab a cup of coffee or breakfast together. Being encouraged to share a meal with someone breaks down the barriers quickly. This is a great, simple way to start a meeting off with building new connections.

Cross-functional collaboration has big benefits. It promotes new ideas, yields different perspectives, challenges old ideas, and encourages teams to learn. These 4 quick activities will have your company collaborating across all departments.

 

4 Easy Hacks to Beat the Winter Blues at Work

Are the winter blues starting to sink in at work? This tends to be that time of year when energy levels go from high to zombie-like low. And why is this? Our theory is that when you get back to the office from the holidays in January, things feel fresh and you are rejuvenated to work. That tends to wear off by February when every day is cloudy, freezing and you don’t see the sun for weeks at a time. Hello, cabin fever!


We still have a lot of winter left to go. So what to do to combat the winter office blues?

 
4 Easy Ways to Not Hate Your Office In the Winter

  • Sit near a window. Vitamin D does wonders for the body. Even if the sun isn’t shining, simply seeing the sky can help boost your mood and energy. If your desk isn’t near a window, is there a common area or an open conference room that you can camp out in for a bit?
  • Strategically select your playlist. If you are allowed to listen to music on headphones at work, select music that personally makes you feel good. Just yesterday we decided to play music in the lobby that reminded us of a beach vacation (the Bob Marley station on Pandora is amazing for this!)
  • Walk outside. Yes, we said it. Walk outside. A brisk walk even in cold temperatures will wake you right up. A favorite “hack” is to walk outside to the parking lot, touch your car, turn around and go back inside. It’s that easy!
  • Bring in a treat. While treating yourself feels good, treating others feels even better. Bring in something homemade like your famous cookies or surprise everyone with coffee from a nearby local roaster. The key here isn’t to spend a lot of money but to feel good by making other people smile.

 

And sometimes, all the sunlight, happy music, quick walks and baked goods just won’t do the trick. For upcoming meetings that matter, consider taking your team offsite or pitching the idea to your boss. Important meetings during the long stretch of winter risk participants being disengaged and just plain grouchy. The colorful decor and upbeat environment at sparkspace can perk your team right up!

 

 

Are You Prepared to Meet Differently?

You open up your calendar on Monday morning and you see that the colored blocks that dictate most of your day are meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.

You sigh, grab your notebook, head out the door and into the mass of meetings that await you. You’re not sure why you’re going to half of them. You’ll be distracted through the other half of them with email or texts. You didn’t read the pre-meeting documentation for one of them. Your project and the resources you need to complete it depends on the other one.

Sound familiar? Even a small part of it?

I thought so.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you are the leader of the meeting or one of the meeting attendees, YOU have an opportunity to be better prepared and get better results from the investment of YOUR time and talent.

Here are some quick tips for being better prepared to lead and attend your next meeting!

 

FOR MEETING LEADERS

Ask WHY. Why is this meeting being held? What’s the purpose of the meeting?

Ask WHAT. What are your desired outcomes for the meeting? What are your expectations for the meeting? Are there decisions to be made? Actions to be taken? Tasks & Projects to be delegated?

Ask WHO. Considering the purpose of the meeting AND your desired outcomes and expectations – WHO needs to be in the room? WHO doesn’t?

Ask WHERE. Where is the BEST place to conduct this specific meeting?

Ask WHEN. When is the BEST time to conduct this specific meeting?

Ask HOW. HOW can we BEST accomplish the desired outcomes and engage attendees effectively? What is the best method for this meeting – virtual, face to face, with video, etc.?

 

FOR MEETING ATTENDEES

Ask WHY. Why are you attending this meeting? What is the purpose of the meeting?

Ask WHAT. What are your desired outcomes and/or expectations for attending the meeting?

Ask WHO. Who can you reach out to if you have questions about the meeting, about the purpose and expectations? Who will be in attendance?

Ask HOW. How can you be of the greatest service to yourself and others at this meeting? How can you contribute? How can you benefit?

What impact might it have if you devoted even 5 to 10 minutes of preparation time before your next meeting?

I challenge you to give it a try this week and let me know your results!

 

This blog post is brought to you by our dear friend Whitney Bishop. Whitney is a Change Agent who creates transformative experiences for people who are ready to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others. In her work with teams and private clients, she offers guidance, encouragement, accountability and support. Are you ready to discover the power of possibility and make breakthroughs that will change your life? Visit whitneybishop.com to begin your journey.

 

 

How to Design a Memorable Staff Retreat

Designing the perfect staff retreat can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve provided 4 simple guidelines that will keep you on track when designing the best staff retreat ever!

Location: Choose the Right Space

In order for teams to truly disconnect and be fully engaged retreats need to be held off-site. No one will be talking about the “office conference room” retreat in 10 yrs 😉 Finding a space with lounge seating and comfortable furniture is important. A relaxed, creative setting encourages teams to open up and is the perfect setting for connecting, reflection, and brainstorming.

Agenda: Write an Effective Agenda

Design the retreat to ensure each team member is involved in every conversation. This means agenda topics must be relevant to the entire team. Take all other discussions off-line. To maximize the importance of the agenda topics, write the topics in question form. Instead of writing “Discussion on Budget” try “What are some ways we could reduce spending?”. This way your team is prepared with ideas and possible solutions before the day even begins.

Breaks: Schedule Frequent Breaks

Frequent breaks are a must! Make it a point to break every hour and add it to your agenda. Breaks need to be short (7-10 minutes) and efficient. Ensure the team knows the meeting is starting back promptly. Having frequent, shorter breaks keeps participation level higher and distractions lower. Breaking frequently also energizes the team.

Action: Ensure an Action Plan is in Place

If there is no action plan, follow up, or accountability after a corporate retreat, don’t put the effort in to plan one. This is critical to maximizing the results of all the discussions, future plans, and ideas you’ve generated during your retreat. Before the end of the day create deadlines. Discussing progress and holding each other accountable is the best way to see direct results from your retreat.

 

Oh and here’s a BONUS TIP! I’m sure this goes without saying, but FOOD is also a key part of any day-long retreat. The winning combo is having a variety of food and a lot of it! Use these simple guidelines when planning your next staff retreat and it’s sure to be memorable.

 

The #1 Thing to Remember About Your Next Team Retreat

How would you like to know the best kept secret to conducting the most successful staff retreat? Are you ready? Do you have your highlighters out?

The #1 thing to remember is: You can’t do it all in one retreat

There is not one magical team experience, team building activity, or retreat that can solve all your organizations problems, challenges, or budgets in one to two days. If there were an all-inclusive, magical team experience I’m sure we all would have heard about it by now. You can’t do everything in one retreat, so stop trying, and let yourself off the hook.

Now this does not mean you can just throw caution to the wind and wing it. Let’s be honest. That’s not going to be productive. You still need to determine the goals and the objectives. There needs to be an agenda, specific discussion topics, and an action plan. However, by understanding that you can not do it all takes the pressure off you and your team to try and solve every challenge in the organization.

A retreat, by definition is “designed and organized specifically to facilitate the ability of a group to step back from their day-to-day demands and activities for an extended period of concentrated discussion, dialogue, and strategic thinking about the organization’s future or about specific issues”. Nowhere in this definition does it mention conclusion, decision, outcome, or completion.

If you are walking into your corporate retreat stressed, anxious, or worried about the outcome of the day, you are starting your retreat off on the wrong path. Remember, when planning your next team retreat, let go of crazy high expectations and preconceived thoughts. You can’t do it all, but you can focus on the present moment. That focus will help you have the best staff retreat ever.

Well, this is it. You made it through all 52 tips! An entire year of reading the Best Meeting Ever Blog. As a THANK YOU I’ve compiled all 52 tips into one location for your convenience. Please use this resource for your own personal use, or share a tip a week during your weekly team meetings. You could also pass it along to someone looking to book their best meeting ever. Thanks again, and always feel free to send me an email with any meeting questions. I’m happy to help you plan your Best Meeting Ever!

 

Tip #1: Have An Agenda

Tip #2: Re-Energize Your Team

Tip #3: Improve The Atmosphere

Tip #4: Make Catering Easy

Tip #5: Be Tech Ready

Tip #6: Re-Think Your Room Setup

Tip #7: Meeting Communication

Tip #8: Schedule Frequent Breaks

Tip #9: Talk to Your Facilitator 

Tip #10: Creative Meeting Space Directory

Tip #11: How to Write an Effective Agenda

Tip #12: Need a FREE Meeting Agenda Template?

Tip #13: How to Take Meeting Minutes

Tip #14: Ensure Action After a Meeting

Tip #15: Guidelines for Choosing an Offsite Meeting Venue

Tip #16: Looking for an Icebreaker for your next Meeting

Tip #17: Breakout of your “Comfort Zone” 

Tip #18: Don’t get Caught Off Guard

Tip #19: Meeting Catering Ideas

Tip #20: Powerpoint vs. Whiteboards

Tip #21: Business Meeting Gift Ideas

Tip #22: Benefits of Booking an Offsite Meeting

Tip #23: Simple Green Meeting Ideas

Tip #24: Free Meeting Spaces

Tip #25: Top 3 Things that could Make or Break your Meeting

Tip #26: Personal Development

Tip #27: Meetings you Should Always Hold Offsite

Tip #28: Offsite Meeting Checklist

Tip #29: Top 3 Things Teams Hate about an Offsite

Tip #30: Top 3 Meeting Mishaps that can Easily be Avoided

Tip #31: Celebrate the Small Wins

Tip #32: Food & Beverage Trends

Tip #33: Technology Etiquette 

Tip #34: Who Should Attend your Meeting?

Tip #35: Meeting Laughs

Tip #36: Shut Down the Meeting Chatterbox

Tip #37: How to Stay Positive During “Not-So-Positive” Meetings

Tip #38: Team Bonding Activities your Team will Love

Tip #39: Team Bonding vs. Team Building

Tip #40: Two Big Benefits of Video Conferencing

Tip #41: Need An Assistant? 

Tip #42: Encourage Doodling in Meetings

Tip #43: DIY Team Building Exercise

Tip #44: DIY Icebreaker Exercise

Tip #45: Have a Plan B

Tip #46: Do you Have a Plan A

Tip #47: How to Encourage Meeting Participation 

Tip #48: Benefits of Walking Meetings

Tip #49: Top 3 Things to Never Leave a Meeting without

Tip #50: Top 3 Things the Best Facilitators Always do

Tip #51: Motivating TED Talks for Any Meeting

Tip #52: How to Have the Best Meeting Ever

 

Best Meeting Ever Tip #52: How to Have the Best Meeting Ever

The cold hard truth about meetings is that “bad” meetings can actually impact our economy. Unproductive, boring, irrelevant meetings cost companies lots of money and suck up everyone’s time. Don’t believe me? Check out the link below which shows the mind-blowing impact of bad meetings on our economy. It’s shocking.

The Economic Impact of Bad Meetings

What can we do to stop this wastefulness? Well….we can stop having bad meetings. I know, I know, easier said than done. But if all meetings were centered around what makes an awesome meeting, then we should be on the right track. Below are the key factors in having your best meeting ever, so make sure to use this checklist the next time you’re planning a meeting.

In order to have the Best Meeting Ever your meeting needs to be:

Relevant: Do not have a meeting to discuss topics that can be sent through an email. Discuss relevant topics that need solutions now. Invite only the people that are relevant to the topics you’re discussing.

Productive: Decisions need to be made and set into motion or you’re not having a productive meeting. If you’re not leaving your meeting with a decision, an action plan, and a scheduled follow-up re-evaluate your meeting.

Facilitated Properly: Having someone who knows how to facilitate makes all the difference. They know the flow of meetings, they are prepared, they stick to the agenda, they take breaks, and they make sure action is set into motion.

Not Boring: The facility and atmosphere play a huge role in having your best meeting ever. You could have an absolutely amazing facilitator, but if you’re hunkered down in a dim, windowless room it will suck the life right out of the meeting, regardless of who is speaking. Keep the facility in mind when planning your best meeting ever.

I can’t really help you on the relevant or productive aspects of your meeting, but I definitely know a space that takes care of the “Not Boring” part of planning your best meeting ever. (CLICK HERE to book a not-so boring meeting.) I’ve really enjoyed sharing ideas and tips with you this past year and I’m always available if you have any meeting planning questions. Talk to you soon!

 

 

Best Meeting Ever Tip #51: Motivating TED Talks For Any Meeting

Managers, leaders, supervisors, etc… are always trying to find ways to motivate their teams. We are constantly asked “do you know someone who speaks on motivation?”, or “Do you have any motivating webinars or videos?” Well, I’ve researched dozens and dozens of TED Talks and have packaged up a handful of the best “motivating” TED Talks, in my opinion, all right here in this blog post. There are many I could have added to the list, but the ones below are not only share awesome ideas and concepts, the speakers are good at what they do and are entertaining. This could be a great resource the next time you’re struggling to find that perfect addition to your next meeting.

WARNING:These videos contain information that scientifically proves that people are NOT motivated by money. 😉

DAN PINK: The Puzzle of Motivation

TOM WUJEC: Build a Tower Build a Team

SIMON SINEK: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

SHAWN ACHOR: The Happy Secret to Better Work

Ok, I also stumbled across a few others that are not completely focused on motivation, but were awesome enough I felt I needed to share:

AMY CUDDY: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

NIGEL MARSH: How to Make Work-Life Balance Work 

MEL ROBBINS: How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over

TERRY MOORE: How to Tie Your Shoes

I’m sure there are so many more TED talks or videos that are motivating or inspiring, but I only have so many hours for research so PLEASE share what motivates or inspires you by leaving a reply below!

 

 

Best Meeting Ever Tip #50: Top 3 Things the BEST facilitators ALWAYS do

We definitely see a wide array of meetings here at sparkspace, whether it’s a yearly retreat, a team building event, a personal development day, or a problem solving meeting. With such a wide variety of meetings we also see quite a range of facilitators — from the facilitator who is facilitating their first meeting to those who facilitate for a living. Since we’re around meetings everyday we’ve learned to pick-up on certain traits which, 9 times out of 10, lead to wonderfully smooth meetings and confident facilitators, so I’m going to share the top 3 things the best facilitators ALWAYS do:

  1. Ask Questions
    Facilitators that have been in the game for a while always know the right questions to ask. They’re in contact with the facility, they know where they’re going, they know what the room setup will be, they know what type of materials and equipment are available. This is all because they have asked questions prior to the event. Have you ever gotten to a facility and when you arrive you realize there’s no flip charts, or no speakers for your YouTube clip? How about adaptors, are there any available? Make sure you have a checkoff list of questions to ask your facility. If someone besides the actual facilitator is booking the offsite make sure they know what items are needed, setup requirements, and any special request from the facilitator.

  2. Arrive Early
    When guests are arriving before the facilitator it’s normally not a good sign, ever. Now, everyone has someone on their team that rises with sun and loves to get to wherever they’re going before everyone else, this is not who I’m talking about. If the meeting is scheduled to start at 9, and the facilitator is showing up at a quarter ’til 9, then that is what we’re talking about. The most calm, cool, and collected facilitators are the ones who have arrived early, have all their materials and equipment are setup, and are confidently waiting the arrival of the participants.
  3. Stay On Schedule
    If you’ve hung in with me so far, than you’ve likely read a couple of my past posts on the importance of agendas. So you probably know that you should have one prepared for your next meeting, right? 😉 Well, having an agenda is a great way to stay on track, but it can also backfire if you don’t stay on track. The entire team now knows that “xyz” was suppose to be wrapped up by 2pm, and it’s now heading toward 3pm, and you have 3 more topics to cover! I know it can be difficult to stay on point, but great facilitators are able to do this well. Keeping side conversations out of the discussion by circling back around after the meeting, knowing how to silence the “talkers”, and knowing the material and presentation well are all ways to stay on schedule.

 

Are you a facilitator that is always prepared? Do you know an awesome facilitator? Please share what makes this facilitator the BEST. What do they do to create the Best Meeting Ever?

 

 

Best Meeting Ever Tip #49: Top 3 Things To NEVER Leave A Meeting Without…

We can have meetings all-day every day, but what is the purpose of all these meetings if we’re not taking anything away from them? How’s your team being held accountable? Make sure your next meeting is the best meeting ever by including the top 3 things to NEVER leave a meeting without.

 

(1) A DECISION:

There are a dozens of topics you could be discussing during your meeting, whether it’s employees, budgets, office culture, marketing, policies, or the upcoming week. One thing that they all have in common….concluding with a decision. Will there be budget cuts? Will Sally get the promotion? How will we set this week’s room setups? How will we promote a positive culture? What are the next steps? You get the picture. If you’re not making decisions, perhaps your meeting would be more efficient through an email.

 

(2) AN ACTION PLAN:

The action plan puts the decision into motion. This would be a list of items/tasks that need to be accomplished in order for the goals to be achieved. All tasks need to be assigned to a team member and they are responsible for the task completion. There also needs to be a specific date the task items need to be completed. Be specific! Saying “the end of August” is definitely not the same as “due on Friday, August 21st”. Make sure the date is clear.

 

(3) A SCHEDULED FOLLOW-UP:

Putting your “accountability” date on the calendar is a must! If team members leave a meeting without the follow-up date it becomes very easy for the tasks to fall by the wayside. This may not be because the team is not motivated or doesn’t care about achieving the goals, but it’s easy to become distracted by other obligations and responsibilities. Make sure to schedule a follow-up meeting where each team member reviews their tasks and accountability.

 

Check out the link below for some great, FREE, Action Plan Templates to get your next meeting in motion after everyone has left the board room.

Action Plan Templates

 

 

Best Meeting Ever Tip #48: Benefits of Walking Meetings

sparkspace is located downtown Columbus and in the past couple years we have observed an increasing amount of outside walking meetings. Men and women in their business attire and tennis shoes briskly walking in a group down the sidewalk in the midst of a conversation is becoming the norm on sunny days. I’ve also seen indoor walking meetings while in some of the larger corporate offices here in downtown Columbus. What an awesome concept. While not all meetings are designed to be mobile, there are multiple benefits for the smaller groups that are able to get out of the conference room and hit the pavement (or hallways).

 

Here are just a few of the benefits of walking meetings:

Your Team gets Moving: Most of us sit the majority of the day, so getting your blood flowing and legs moving is definitely a benefit of walking meetings that is not to be taken lightly! We all have busy lives and sometimes it’s difficult to get the recommended amount of exercise in every day, so discussing your weekly budget while getting in a 30-minute walk, now that’s a win, win!

Your Team gets Creative: Anytime you take someone out of their comfort zone they become more aware of their surroundings and creative thoughts are sparked. Different sounds, smells, and visuals are all great ways to get your creative juices flowing and what better way than to step outside on a sunny day.

Your Team gets Energized: I don’t know about you but just looking out the window on a bright, sunny day is energizing (especially in Ohio)! So soaking up some Vitamin D is a great energizer and makes your team happy. Even if you’re walking through the office hallways you’re up and out of the conference room, which is also energizing.

 

I actually found a great article titled 7 Powerful Reasons to Take Your Next Meeting for a Walk. This article touches on the above benefits of walking meetings, plus a few more. I encourage you to take a look. The article also discusses ways to get larger teams involved in the action.

Have you ever had a walking meeting? I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic….

 

Best Meeting Ever Tip#47: How to Encourage Meeting Participation

It’s every facilitators dream to have full meeting participation and engagement. Is this possible? Is this something we have control over? YES! You set the tone and expectations of your meeting, and you have more control of participation and engagement than you think. Below are a few techniques that are sure to get your team involved and sharing during your next meeting.

 

How to Encourage Meeting Participation:

 

Set the TONE at the beginning of the meeting

Why not start the meeting off with a great icebreaker? Get everyone involved right from the start. This lets your team know right away that there won’t be any slacking or team members hiding in the back row. Setting expectations before the meeting begins will set the tone for the rest of the day. Ask them to participate. Ask them to share. Ask them for their ideas. When your team knows meeting participation is expected they are a little more willing to engage and share. No one likes to disappoint! Need some help with finding an icebreaker? check out a couple of my previous blog post tips:

Looking for an Icebreaker for you next meeting? or DIY Icebreaker Exercise

 

Provide ALTERNATIVE ways of participating

Not everyone responds well to being “called-out” in front of their peers, so try using different techniques to get your team open to communicating. Some great alternatives to calling out others are brainstorming out loud, breaking the team into smaller groups and discussing within a smaller, less intimidating group, going around the table, or quiet writing which you can share at a later time. Changing up the way you encourage engagement is a great way to get others to communicate.

 

Pull team members aside during a break and REQUEST participation

This might seem a little direct, but if your team isn’t as engaged as you’d like try asking someone, in private, to speak up. This might just be your best move. This allows you to request meeting participation without calling-out someone during the presentation. You know your team members and the ones that bring great ideas to the table, or communicate well. Asking them to speak up could be the “nudge” others needed to feel comfortable enough to speak up as well.

 

Are there any techniques you use to encourage meeting participation and engagement? If so, please share! Your idea could help someone have their best meeting ever!

 

Best Meeting Ever Tip#46: Do you have a Plan A?

Last week I touched on the topic of having a Plan B prepared for your meeting, but do you have a Plan A?

That may sound like a silly question, but it happens. Are agendas created and sent out? Are materials printed? Are your ice breakers prepped and ready to go? When you have a Plan A, it ensures your meeting will be efficient, productive, and organized. Flying by the seat of your pants is not the approach you’ll want to take when planning a meeting. If it is….maybe you shouldn’t be having the meeting, until you’re prepared.

Here are a few things to consider in your Plan A planning:

#1–Prepare An Agenda: Agendas MUST be prepared ahead of your meeting. Agendas should be emailed out to your staff at least a couple days ahead of time so the team is prepared. How can the team come prepared if they don’t have an agenda, or know the topics of the meeting? If you’ve taken anything away from my blog, it’s to always have an agenda! For more details on this topic check out my blog post, Have An Agenda.

#2–Prepare Your Materials: Whether you have handouts, a powerpoint presentation, objects/materials for an icebreaker or breakout session, these materials need to be prepped before hand. Don’t wait until the morning of the meeting to gather all the materials. You’ll be rushed and unprepared. Looking cool and collected when your team arrives gives off a much better vibe than being frazzled and disorganized.

#3–Be Tech Ready: Maybe you have a YouTube video to show, a video conference to set up, a laptop to hook up for a presentation, or just an mp3 player to turn on for some background music. Whatever technology you’re setting up it’s best to be prepared. Bring adaptors, an extension cord, power cord for laptop, extra USB with your presentation; always be ready! Checking with your facility is also a great way to be prepared. Here at sparkspace we provide all of the above, but not all facilities will have these items easily available. For more on this subject check out my blog post called Be Tech Ready.

#4–Arrive Early: Know where you are going. Know where to park. If you are facilitating, you MUST arrive early to your meeting facility. This allows time for any technical issues that need to be worked out, extra copies that need to be printed, becoming familiar with your surroundings, etc. If you’re having trouble finding the space, or the parking garage this can cut into your prep time, so also make sure you know where you are going and you know where to park. 

There nothing that makes a stronger statement to your team than being prepared and efficient, so making sure your Plan A is in place is critical for having your Best Meeting Ever.

What do you always include you YOUR Plan A? Drop a comment below and share your ideas!

 

Best Meeting Ever Tip #45: Have A Plan B

When planning a meeting, having a Plan B is not something we always think about. We’re normally just so excited to have Plan A wrapped up and ready to go that we completely forget about “What happens if Plan A fails?“.  I’m here to tell you that having a plan B is a MUST! I’ve had lots of experience, not only from the meetings I see here at sparkspace, but also my own mishaps in not having a back up plan.

 

The top 2 issues that can disrupt any well planned meeting:

Unplanned Guests
This is something we see pretty often here at sparkspace: the unplanned guest. Leadership or management showing up unexpectedly, invitees that did not RSVP, or the attendee that invited another co-worker. This can present a problem with room setups, meals, printed documents, team exercises, breakouts, etc.

Plan B Suggestion: Well, there’s really only one way to have a backup plan for extra guests, and that’s being prepared. ALWAYS have extra copies printed, extra materials, and a few extra seats available. As for meals, if you’re doing boxed lunches make sure your facility is able to order extra meals last minute. If you’re doing a larger buffet-style meal, you should be fine with last minute additions. Having a trusted facility to assist with the extra add-ons and meals can also be a great Plan B. 

Technology Problems
Definitely the #1 issue that pops up during meetings. This interrupts your entire meeting, and sometimes it’s out of your control. You lose internet connection, your video conferencing is a bust, or your powerpoint will not open.

First and foremost, plan on getting to your facility early! This is the best way to ensure Plan A will go smoothly.

Plan B Suggestion: When you are using technology there’s always a chance of something going wrong, so why not be prepared? If you are using video conferencing, always make sure you have a conference phone setup as well. In case something is not working, or the wifi fails, you at least have audio to finish the meeting. If you are using powerpoint, make sure you also have a copy of your presentation on a zip drive. If your powerpoint isn’t opening or you lose internet access you’ll still have a copy of your presentation that can either be transferred to another computer or printed.

Always think ahead.

Something could always go wrong. It’s not the problem your team will remember, it’s how the issue was handled that matters.

We could easily avoid many of the meeting mishaps by being prepared, showing up early, and always having a Plan B. In many instances just knowing things can go wrong, and having a plan when they do go wrong will eliminate worry, panic, and lengthy disruptions.

 

Here are a few of my past meeting tips that could assist with your Plan B planning:

Tip #5: Be Tech Ready

Tip #25: Top 3 things that could MAKE or BREAK your meeting

Tip #30: Top 3 meeting mishaps that can easily be avoided

Best Meeting Ever Tip #44: DIY Ice Breaker Exercise

Okay, so last week’s blog post on DIY Team Building Exercise was so popular that I’m doing one more…but this time it’s a DIY Ice Breaker Exercise. There are probably a million ice breaker exercises, but for some reason we have a hard time figuring out the best option for our teams. I’ve provided a very simple ice breaker that we have used during our team retreats and it always sparks intriguing dialogue and fun memories.

The definition of an ice breaker is “a thing that serves to relieve inhibitions or tension between people, or to start a conversation”. What better way to start a conversation than to ask a question? The ice breaker I’ve provided below is very simple, and can easily be modified for any team or gathering.

 

DIY Ice Breaker Exercise:

Step 1: Think of some intriguing questions.
Need some inspiration? Pick up The Book Of Questions or Table Topics.

Step 2: Write the questions on index cards or small pieces of paper.
I’ve provided a picture below of what our questions look like, and I’m not going to lie….I got the idea from pinterest 😉

Step 3: Throw the pieces of paper in a hat, bag, envelope, or whatever you have on hand.

Step 4: Ask the questions & enjoy the answers.
You can do one of two things: a) You can have each person pull out a different question, or b) You can draw one question and have everyone answer the same question before moving on to the next question. The latter option is best for smaller groups, but normally facilitates better conversation.

DIY ice breaker exercise

 

As you can see, the possibilities are pretty endless. There are a variety of questions you could choose to use for your team, whether you want to ask silly questions, deep/thought-provoking questions, family oriented questions, or work related questions. Although the point of the ice breaker is to get a little more personal, so I would steer clear of the work-centered questioning.

I hope this is a helpful resource the next time you’re looking for a quick and easy ice breaker. If you’re ever here at sparkspace we already have the cards available, so just ask! Have any fun “go-to” ice breakers you use for your meetings? I’d love to hear them, so click here to leave your comments.

 

Best Meeting Ever Tip #43: DIY Team Building Exercise

I’m consistently asked what team building exercises do we offer here at sparkspace? Now….we do provide some great tools, games, and resources, but most of our suggestions are ice breakers, not team building activities. Today I’m going to share a simple, yet powerful team building exercise anyone can facilitate. A Do-It-Yourself (DIY) team building exercise you’ll actually benefit from using.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #42: Encourage Doodling In Meetings

Have you ever had a boss, supervisor, or colleague encourage you to doodle during their presentation or meeting? I’m guessing…..probably not. Doodling isn’t one of those activities that’s looked on in a positive light, and it is certainly not encouraged. When I’ve spoken in front of a group of people and noticed someone staring at their paper while writing I haven’t been so keen on the activity myself.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip# 41: Need an Assistant?

I met with a group of seasoned administrative assistants today and when asked “If you had a magic wand that could fix, help, or eliminate one of your biggest challenges/tasks, what would it be“? , one of them cleverly said “I’d have my own assistant!” She wanted someone to handle the details and make her life easier.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #40: Two Big Benefits of Video Conferencing

With all the advancements in technology and the increased use of Skype, face-timing, and and other visual apps, why are we not using video conferencing more often? Is it a hassle to set up? Is it too much to ask of your team or clients? Is it too expensive? We’ve found that video-conferencing actually has multiple benefits, and with vast improvements in technology over the past few years it is becoming an integral part of running meetings. So if you’re not onboard with video conferencing yet, here are two big reasons why you should be:

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Best Meeting Tip #37: How to Stay Positive During “Not-So-Positive” Meetings

It can be hard to focus on the positive, especially when meeting topics are not always rays of sunshine and rainbows. There are meetings that are geared towards budget cuts, layoffs, decreasing sales, departmental decline, etc. These topics do not lend themselves to a “positive” vibe.  So how do you remain positive during the “not-so-positive” meetings? Well, here are a few simple techniques that can help keep the positive thoughts going even during your toughest meetings.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #34: Who Should Attend Your Meeting?

Some of the typical things we think about when scheduling a meeting are: “What is the purpose of this meeting?”, “What topics will be discussed?”, “What solutions and/or decisions will be made during this meeting?, and “Who should attend this meeting?”. The latter of these thoughts, “Who should attend?”, is critical to the success of the meeting. The people in attendance will be directly involved in any outcomes of the meeting, and having the right people in attendance is crucial. Below are a few questions to ask yourself the next time you’re coming up with an attendee list for your next meeting.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #33: Technology Etiquette

I’ve been trying to come up with a post on technology etiquette and how to manage all the technology we see on a day to day basis. With all the smart phones, access to email, social media, and the constant urge to be updated, it has become a topic on everyone’s mind. How do we deal with technology and what’s the appropriate way to use technology in your next meeting?

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #31: Celebrate the Small Wins

We live in a society that loves to celebrate. We celebrate birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, holidays, etc., but what about work celebrations? Of course we have the boss’s birthday, promotions, and end of year celebrations, but what about celebrating the small wins, achieved goals, and team successes? Below are a couple reasons why we should take the time to celebrate the “small wins” during your next meeting and throughout the year.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #30: Top 3 Meeting Mishaps that can Easily be Avoided

We have a ton of experience with meetings. Which means….we have experience with meetings that run smoothly and meetings that do not run so smoothly. In our 16 years of helping plan meetings there are some frequent mishaps that can easily be avoided by some communication with the facility ahead of time. Below are the top 3 mishaps and how to avoid them at your next offsite.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #28: Offsite Meeting Checklist

Going offsite for your next meeting? Will the facility provide all your supplies and technology? What if you forget something? At sparkspace all the amenities and perks are already included in your room rental, but not all facilities have everything readily available if you’ve left something behind. Make sure you are prepared for your next offsite with this “Offsite Meeting Checklist”. There is a link at the bottom of the post to download a PDF version.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #27: Meetings You Should ALWAYS Hold Offsite

There are meetings for just about everything, from weekly “catch-up” meetings, budget meetings, forecasting, employee reviews, the list goes on and on. Although each of these meetings have their place and purpose we don’t need to go off-site for all of them. We should however, go offsite for a select few. Getting your team away from the office is important; whether you’re doing a team building event, going through a re-org, or revamping your entire brand, there are some meetings the should always be held offsite.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #26: Personal Development

Let me start off by saying this is NOT my typical meeting tip, but I believe that personal development is a strong component to being a better person, which ultimately leads to being a better team member, co-worker, boss, etc. Hopefully you find this tip on personal development useful and as a reference for improving yourself and/or your team. Maybe you could even apply one of these development tips to your next meeting!

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #25: Top 3 things that could MAKE or BREAK your Meeting

Our team here at sparkspace has been involved in setting up, planning, and participating in thousands of meetings over the years, and there are always aspects that can either MAKE or BREAK a meeting. After discussing with my team we’ve come up 3 key aspects that will either create a flawless, well-planned meeting, or send it into a downward spiral. These 3 simple takeaways can easily be applied to any meeting, which could lead to your best meeting ever.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #24: Free Meeting Spaces

Since I get to work at such a phenomenal meeting facility I’m obviously biased as to where you should hold your business meetings. That being said, I know there are times you may not have the budget to rent an offsite location for particular events. So, where do you hold these meetings? In other words, where can you find free meeting spaces?

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #23: Simple Green Meeting Ideas

Many companies are pro-active in doing their part in protecting our environment, and many are on the lookout for green meeting ideas. These companies are asking the right questions, and doing their best to “Go-Green”. I’ve listed 3 items to keep in mind, and questions you can ask yourself when booking your next meeting. By asking yourself these simple questions you are doing your part in keeping your company’s ecological footprint small.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #22: Benefits of Booking an Offsite Meeting

Okay, so staying onsite for your meeting is convenient and budget-friendly, but what about the overall productivity? Do you get the same energy and engagement from your team when you stay onsite, as opposed to offsite? I’m guessing the answer is no, but in case you’re not sure, I’ve listed 3 reasons why having an offsite meeting is more beneficial than staying in the office.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #21: Business Meeting Gift Ideas

We’ve all been to a conference or meeting that provided a thank you gift or “swag” right? I’m sure you all have appreciated and used these items on a regular basis…wink, wink. I, myself, have acquired quite the collection of mouse pads, plastic water bottles, and keychains over the past few years. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but these gifts are supposed to show appreciation and graditude, so let’s make sure that’s happening.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip#18: Don’t Get Caught Off Guard

Your meeting was a success! “Whew”, you’re so glad everything went as planned and the team is happy. Just when you start moving on with your day you see the “final invoice” from your meeting venue pop up in your inbox……WOW! It’s exponentially more than the original quote. Has this happened to you? It’s happened to me and it’s an unwelcome surprise.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip#17: Break Out of your “Comfort Zone”

BORING MEETINGS SUCK, as author & speaker Jon Petz would put it, and we’ve all been in a boring meeting, right? Why do you think meetings can be so boring? Too many power point slides, endless note taking, tiny-print spreadsheet handouts, and the same old boring room setup. Believe me, I’ve participated in my share of boring meetings, and maybe they wouldn’t have been so boring if we wouldn’t have been afraid to mixed it up a bit.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #15: Guidelines For Choosing An Offsite Meeting Venue

Do you enjoy planning offsite meetings, or is it something you dread? What do you do when your favorite “go-to” is booked? Whether you book an offsite monthly, or just the occasional two to three times a year it’s important to choose the right space for your team. I have three simple guidelines to follow when choosing an offsite meeting location.

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Best Meeting Ever Tip #13: How To Take Meeting Minutes

When checking Google searches one of the most searched topics on meetings was “how to take minutes at a meeting”. I guess I’ve always called this “taking notes”.

Taking minutes during a meeting actually has nothing to do with time in the sense of hours/minutes/seconds, but instead refers to “small” as in “minute” (my-newt). Minutes (or taking notes) means to condense, or make something smaller. Recording minutes at a meeting ensures all actionable items, decisions, votes, and solutions were recorded. In short, all the “important” stuff was captured.

I did some research, and after reviewing several sites and reading multiple articles here are my key takeaways and tips to recording meeting minutes effectively.

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