4 Tips on How to Prevent a Boring Meeting

Did you know that the average adult has an 8 second attention span?!? Wow! That’s an intimidating number when you think about keeping even one person — much less an entire team — engaged for a full day. Engagement is key to prevent boring meetings, however keeping a team engaged is much easier said than done. The good news is there are a few factors that you have control of that are guaranteed to increase engagement with your team. Here are 4 easy tips to prevent a boring meeting and maximize your team’s attention span.

(1) Be Prepared

Being prepared is a common theme throughout many of our posts because it’s crucial to the engagement of your team. If you’re prepared and have a well thought out structure to your day this will be noticeable to your team. Teams are less likely to be disengaged when they are meeting with someone who is prepared. Always create an agenda and ensure the agenda is sent out ahead of time so attendees come prepared with talking points. Show up to the meeting facility early (at least 30 minutes) to iron out any kinks in AV equipment or room setup opportunities.

(2) Be Intentional when Choosing a Location 

It’s easy to book a room in your office building or find the cheapest hotel conference room, but the space you choose will have a significant impact on how engaged your team will be throughout the day. The space you choose will set the tone for your entire meeting. It’s the “first impression” and first impressions are very important, especially when the goal is to prevent a boring meeting and have an engaged team. Look for spaces that are private and offsite. A space with comfortable seating, natural light, and some color will have the biggest impact on a teams impression and mood throughout the day. Also, a great meeting space doesn’t have to break the bank if you put some thought into the location.

(3) Be Proactive with Breaks 

Breaks are all too often an afterthought when it comes to planning a meeting. Of course lunch is scheduled, and maybe an afternoon break, but in order to maximize team engagement throughout the day frequent breaks are a must. Breaks create a space for teams to breathe for a minute, process what you’ve been talking about, check their phones (which they’ve been dying to check) and come back refreshed and ready to focus. Try to break at least once every 90 minutes  and keep most breaks to 15 minutes or less.

(4) Be Bold with Team Bonding 

In other words, “break the script”. Do something unexpected with your team. This is the tip that often gets overlooked due to timing or lack of planning, but it’s a great way to keep your team engaged. For optimal engagement use an outside facilitator for the experience. This will alleviate the leader from having to facilitate the activity and ensure an experience created to keep your team engaged.

It’s easy to get so focused on the content of the meeting that you overlook the logistics that have such potential positive impact. Keep these tips in mind when planning your next meeting to keep your team fully engaged throughout the entire day.







How to Have an Environmentally Friendly Meeting

We all want to be environmentally savvy. We recycle, we turn off the water while we brush our teeth, maybe some of us even drive electric cars. We want to do our part, but it can be hard to know exactly where to start when it comes to lowering our ecological footprint, especially at work. Here are a few simple tips on how to have a more environmentally friendly meeting.


The opportunity….Paper:

We have the convenience of being able to print whatever we want or need at any given time. I know I’ve hit “print” many times just to turn around and throw it away a day (or hour) later. One piece of paper isn’t much, but even one wasted piece of paper from every person in every meeting adds up to a lot of paper over time.

The Solution: Before hitting print on an entire powerpoint or document ask yourself “Will I need this entire document”? OR could you print just the one or two pages you need, or use a legal pad or journal to take notes. If you’re the facilitator, incorporate the agenda into your powerpoint presentation or print just a few copies of the agenda to share.


The opportunity…Meals: 

Boxed lunches have been a staple for meetings for decades. They’re easy, they can be labeled and individualized, but just take a minute to think about everything used to put together a boxed lunch. For just a few short hours, maybe minutes, the food is stored in plastic or cardboard containers which are then thrown away or (hopefully) recycled. The sandwiches are wrapped up, the pickles are wrapped up, and the cookie is probably wrapped separately as well.

The Solution: Choose a sandwich tray or buffet-style meal to be more environmentally friendly when ordering catering. Even though many caterers have moved to “eco-friendly” packaging (which is great!), eliminating the packaging altogether is even better. Caterers are also more than happy to work with companies on alternative options, especially if it involves eliminating packaging, so always ask!


The opportunity…Transportation: 

I will be the first to admit I love to drive! I’ll also admit I’ve turned down ride-share options because I like having my own car. Having your own vehicle is convenient. It’s also unavoidable, at times. But let’s be real — do we need to drive, separately, to every meeting? Probably not. Do we all need to drive separately to the restaurant located 2 blocks away after the meeting? Doubtful.

The Solution: Try car pooling from the office if you’re heading to an offsite. If you have a small enough team rent a small passenger van and all ride together. Take public transportation. Columbus actually has multiple means of alternative transportation, and some of it is free! Check out this link for more info on smart mobility.


My hope for this post is that we’ll all just stop and take a minute to think about our options and impact not only at home, but in the meeting room.We can all take small steps towards planning our meetings in a more environmentally friendly way.

Best Ways to Keep Your Team’s Energy Up

It can be a struggle to keep your team’s energy up, especially during full day meetings, stressful meetings, or long training sessions. With the help of our clients’ feedback and our own expertise, we’ve discovered the three best ways to keep your team’s energy up.

1. Eat light and snack often!

You can always start a meeting with a hearty meal, but make sure to keep lunch and snacks on the healthier side. Steer clear of carb-heavy foods in the afternoon. Filling up on a carb-heavy meal mid-day can really drain your team’s energy. An example of a healthy meal that won’t leave your team feeling weighed down is a grilled salad bar; it’s loaded with fresh veggies and protein.  Food always perks up a crowd so having an energizing late afternoon snack scheduled is appreciated.

2. Add natural light!

Sunlight is one of the best ways to increase energy. Even a small does of Vitamin D can help improve your team’s mood and energy levels. If you have the option of opening up a window during your meeting, even better! If you’re in a room with no natural light try to get outside for 10-15 minutes. Taking your team for a quick stroll around the building will give your team the break they need to refocus.

3. Break the script!

Do something out of the ordinary. The unusual will always capture the attention of others. And if you’re not a “break the script” kinda leader….do it anyway. This is the best way to keep your team’s energy up because they won’t be expecting anything unusual. Playing a silly game after lunch or having team members share a positive story may be just what you need to break the script.

For more ideas on how to “break the script” during your next meeting, CLICK HERE.


Creative Ways to Get Outdoors and Bond with Your Team This Spring

Looking for some creative ways to get outdoors and bond with your team this spring? At sparkspace we’re always anxious to get outside and soak up some vitamin D…. so the second the weather breaks we love finding creative ways go take advantage of the outdoors. Here are a few of our favorite Spring activities to do as a team.

Walking Meetings

Instead of your typical one-on-one meetings in the office, head outdoors and take a walking meeting. Walk around your office building a couple times or head to the nearest park for some fresh air. Who knows, maybe switching up your environment will spark a new idea or give you that extra boost of energy you needed to solve a pending obstacle.

Outdoor Events

Afternoon baseball games are the best! They’re also a fun way to bond with your team — especially if you’re local to Columbus and are able to catch an afternoon Clippers game. If you’re not near a baseball field head to the nearest green space and start a game of your own. A little friendly competition is the perfect way to take a break from the office walls. Here at sparkspace we keep a bin full of outdoor games like frisbee, kickball, and wiffle ball to easily grab and head outside.

Scavenger Hunts

Ahhh, scavenger hunts. Reminds us of when we were kids at camp, right? What better way to get outside and bond with your team than a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt. There’s competition, collaboration, physical activity, and brain-power. sparkspace just launched a scavenger hunt called The Hunt and it revolves around the Arena District in downtown Columbus, It’s challenging, educational and you can’t just Google the answers!

Whether you’re scheduling a planned outdoor outing or just heading out to sit on a nearby patio, incorporating the outdoors is great way to bond with your team this spring.


3 Ways to Keep Your Team’s Attention Throughout a Meeting

Keeping your team’s attention throughout a meeting can be an uphill battle, but following these 3 simple tips will make it easier to have an engaged team during every meeting.

Limit Technology

Technology is a constant struggle when it comes to our attention.  We check email, we text friends & family, we’re constantly on social media. Our phones are comforting, they keep us busy when we’re bored, and honestly checking our phones has become habitual.

When we need our teams to be present, we have to limit technology. Before the meeting begins have teams leave phones, laptops, and tablets at the door or packed up. Create designated times and breaks for your team to stay connected.

Create Disruption

Creating a disruption is a great way to keep your team’s attention. Doing something unexpected or out of the norm immediately captures the attention of everyone in the room. No one wants to be left out or miss something interesting.

Get the team involved in a mid-afternoon team bonding activity, open with a guest speaker, break the team out into small brainstorming sessions, or play an interesting or funny video that relates to your topic.

Stay on Track

Straying from a framed-out agenda will undoubtedly lose the attention of your team. If you’re already an hour off topic it’s easy for your team to start thinking “when is the meeting going to end?”, “if we cover all these topics we’ll be here another 3 hours!”, “we haven’t even reviewed our actions items yet!”.

So, stay on track with your agenda! If you do happen to stray or fall behind on the outline, keep the team informed and make cuts where necessary to end on time.

Teams want to be engaged. It’s your responsibility to help create a meeting environment where distractions have been eliminated, disruptions have been curated, and expectations have been followed.

Break the Script with Your next Meeting Kickoff

You know that reoccurring weekly meeting on your calendar, the one you probably dread? We’d venture a guess that if the meeting kickoff was exciting, you’d actually (dare we say it) enjoy the rest of the meeting. We believe that the meeting kickoff sets the tone for the rest of the agenda and the mood of the room.

Here are our tips on how to make your next meeting kickoff better:

Group share a “positive focus”

This is a sparkspace tradition! We start our Monday staff meetings by going around in a circle sharing a positive focus. This can be a positive interaction with a client, a professional victory, or a personal achievement. The action of everyone sharing establishes trust in the meeting as well as good vibes all around. It’s a ritual that we hold sacred for our meetings, and something we do every week. Give it a try!

Watch an inspirational video

Our C.O.O. loves this tactic. Once a month she’ll bring a thought-provoking TED Talk video to kick off our weekly staff meeting with. After watching it, we’ll discuss as a team before we launch into the meeting agenda. Not only do we learn something new, but this often opens up to a larger discussion about our company’s evolution or innovative ideas that we may never have had otherwise.

Do a creative exercise

This tactic works great for meetings when you need to generate team input and ideas. Instead of asking people to chime in with their thoughts, which can typically be a slow process and produce lackluster results, start the meeting with a creative activity that will get juices flowing.

For example, our team was recently tasked with thinking of design ideas for our new meeting room that we’re opening. Instead of kicking off the meeting by predictably diving into the agenda, we started by clipping out ideas from magazines and posting them up on a giant bulletin board together. This visioning activity could also work for customer profiling exercises, re-branding ideation, product launch strategy, etc.


What if you just allowed your team to have fun for a few moments, no strings attached? team sparkspace was totally surprised in a weekly meeting when our C.O.O. brought a funny board game for us to play for ten minutes or so. This quirky start to the meeting not only put the team in a good mood, it also boosted our energy on what would’ve been another run-of-the-mill Monday meeting. And yes, we actually did get to the content of the meeting (though we closed the meeting by playing another round of the game). It definitely doesn’t hurt a company when coworkers get along!

So now we challenge you! How are you going to start your next meeting differently?




How to Spark Positivity in Your Team

Does work, your team, or your work environment feel tired and a bit like “Groundhog Day”? Does every meeting bring on a sense of Déjà vu, and dread? Regardless of where you work or what you do, if the default flow of the day becomes routine or your work is primarily problem-solving, it is easy to fall into negativity that impacts both your mindset and your performance.

Want to know some good news?

Adding a positive spark back into your workday and team is as simple as 1, 2, 3!

In this edition of team sparkspace series, founder Mark Henson and lead facilitator Mike Clouse each share their favorite ways to start building a positive team culture.

Mike’s tip: Share a positive focus during staff meetings.

Begin your meetings by sharing a positive event, idea or opportunity that you’ve recently experienced. Our fearless leader and COO here at sparkspace, Leah Senecal, has us share a positive focus at our Monday staff meetings. This does three great things for us:

  1. It draws out the voice of each person in the meeting right away at the beginning. This loosens everyone up and fosters more conversation and engagement throughout the entire meeting.
  2. As each person shares their positive focus, we learn more about each individual on a more personal and deeper level. As personal connections strengthen, so does trust which leads to great collaboration, teamwork, and effectiveness.
  3. We recognize, acknowledge and celebrate one another. I don’t have to tell you the kind of energy boost that can be. To have someone see us and celebrate us, with us, can be restorative. This energy boost then manifests into positive workplace behaviors.

Mark’s tip: Remember to encourage others! 

  1. Encourage others…intentionally and authentically. Get up, walk around and look for people doing the right things. Good things. Especially those who are working hard and possibly struggling. Give them a high-five, an encouraging word. Make sure they know they are appreciated and valued for more than just what they do.
  2. Finally, be consistent in these things. They aren’t huge, complicated or monumental. But when they are done authentically, consistently and role modeled by leadership you will be surprised by the impact that such simple actions can, and will, have on you and your team.

By the way, you don’t have to be a leader by position to have a huge impact within your team and organization. So regardless of title, lead by example and attitude. Your influence may be just the spark your organization needs!

Want to learn more about improving team culture from Mark and Mike? Follow along on our Facebook page for new video tips! Or check out our options for Mark and Mike to add positivity to your next meeting here at sparkspace, through meeting facilitation!

How Meeting Facilitation Can Help Three Common Team Problems

Over the past 18 years, we have hosted thousands of meetings with teams of every shape, size, and dysfunction you can imagine. We’ve witnessed too many teams dragged down by baggage they didn’t even know they were carrying. That’s why we’re now offering professional meeting facilitation at sparkspace. We know what a strong, productive team looks like, but we also know what makes a good leader. We understand the mechanics of effective meetings, and we want to help as many teams as possible drop the baggage that’s dragging them down with our meeting facilitation techniques.

What kind of baggage are teams carrying? Here are three common (and very destructive) potential team problems we see on a regular basis:


Team Baggage #1: Confusion

Another way to say it would be lack of clarity. Way too often our teams do not have clarity of our vision, mission, values, or even each person’s basic job description. The more established your team is, the more likely this is to be the case.

Without clarity, your people basically wander around in a fog, hoping they’ll find their way to solid ground. How can they really succeed if they don’t really know what’s expected of them? If your team is always falling short of expectations, maybe they are confused. You also might entertain the idea that as a leader, you may be contributing to their confusion.

To eliminate confusion, be very clear about expectations up front AND repeat your expectations early and often. Articulate your vision, establish accurate job descriptions, and let everyone know what success looks like and how it will be measured. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You almost cannot repeat these things enough. The point when you’re sick of repeating your vision, values, expectations, etc. is the point when they are just starting to sink in with your team.


Team Baggage #2: Artificial Harmony

Artificial Harmony is a term found in the book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It’s what happens when everything appears great on the surface, but under the water, you’ve got lots of quiet turmoil that shows up as resentment, gossip, “passable” (but not excellent) performance, and more. Artificial Harmony occurs when you’ve got problems, but nobody wants to talk about them. So they persist, quietly, and they slowly destroy your team.

Teams with Artificial Harmony appear to have very little if any, conflict. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Teams with TRUE harmony actually have a fair amount of healthy, productive conflict. Healthy, productive conflict focuses on issues and seeks resolution. Those involved come to agreement on how to end the conflict and move forward. That doesn’t mean everyone is happy all the time, but at least people feel like they have been heard and their ideas have been considered.

If your team is experiencing Artificial Harmony, it can actually be helpful to “stir the pot” a bit. Bring up issues and work to seek out positive resolution. As you do, however, be sure to focus on the issues and never make it personal. As you mediate conflict, watch out for strong emotional responses, which are usually an indicator that the conflict is being taken personally. It can be helpful to seek the help of someone who possesses meeting facilitation skills, particularly in terms of sensitive discussions.

As you learn to resolve conflict in a healthy, productive way, you’ll be able to leave the baggage of Artificial Harmony in the past where it belongs.


Team Baggage #3: Fear

Fear should have no place at work, and yet it exists in countless numbers of teams. If your people don’t share their ideas, or never bring up any issues, or never engage in healthy conflict, I can almost guarantee that it’s because of fear. Either they fear you as a leader or they fear their peers.

It is very easy to create fear from a leadership position and not even know you’re doing it. When you laughingly dismiss an idea, or you argue with someone in a staff meeting, or you give someone the silent treatment because you don’t like the way they handled something, you’ve probably created fear of repercussion. All it takes is one instance of feeling punished or embarrassed to keep someone from sticking their neck out again.

Leaders are not the only ones who can accidentally (or intentionally) punish or embarrass someone at work. Peers do it all the time to each other. Strong personalities can bulldoze over the less outspoken in a heartbeat. Getting run over by a bulldozer hurts. Nobody wants to do it twice.

One of the most important characteristics of effective leadership is the ability to create and foster psychological safety for the team. That means allowing people to freely share their thoughts without repercussion and making sure that your people know you’ve got their back. Evaluate your actions and responses to make sure you’re not accidentally causing fear. When you see “peer fear” raising its ugly head, it is your job to make sure it is addressed and eliminated — without causing more fear in the process.

All of this is easier said than done, of course. To help you understand and deal with these three pieces of baggage that may be harming your team, we recently held a Facebook Live event where we dove into this topic a little bit deeper and offered up some additional solutions.

Check out the archived Facebook Live video here


Check out our new meeting facilitation offer!

We can help your team set down the baggage. One way we can help is through our brand new professional meeting facilitation offer. We’re not just the place have the place to help you have your best meeting ever, we also have the people and the programs to help you have your most powerful and productive meeting ever. Click here to find out more about meeting facilitation at sparkspace.

Oh, and by the way, we don’t just facilitate at sparkspace. We’ll meet you wherever you are.