Seth Godin has some really excellent thoughts on how to change the way we run our businesses. Recently, he wrote about how we could change retreats (away days) and meetings. Read it on Seth’s blog or an extract below:
How to organize a retreat
There’s a tremendous opportunity to create events where people connect. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to turn these events into school-like conferences, not the emotional connections that are desired.
You can create an advance with a team that knows one another from work, or even more profoundly, with a bunch of independent thinkers who come together to energize, inspire and connect.
I’ve been to a bunch and here’s what I’ve learned, in no particular order:
- Must be off site, with no access to electronic interruption
- Should be intense. Save the rest and relaxation for afterwards
- Create a dossier on each attendee in advance, with a photo and a non-humble CV of who they are and what they do and what their goals are
- Never (never) have people go around a circle and say their name and what they do and their favorite kind of vegetable or whatever. The problem? People spend the whole time trying to think of what to say, not listening to those in front of them (I once had to witness 600 people do this!!)
- Instead, a week ahead of time, give each person an assignment for a presentation at the event. It might be the answer to a question like, “what are you working on,” or “what’s bothering you,” or “what can you teach us.” Each person gets 300 seconds, that’s it.
- Have 11 people present their five minutes in an hour. Never do more than an hour in a row. The attendees now have a hook, something to talk to each presenter about in the hallway or the men’s room. “I disagree with what you said this morning…”
- Organize roundtable conversations, with no more than 20 people at a time (so if you have more attendees than this, break into groups.) Launch a firestarter, a five minute statement, then have at it. Everyone speaks up, conversations scale and ebb and flow.
- Solve problems. Get into small groups and have the groups build something, analyze something, create something totally irrelevant to what the organization does. The purpose is to put people in close proximity with just enough pressure to allow them to drop their shields.
- Do skits.
- Have a moderator who is brave enough and smart enough to call on people, cut people off, connect people and provoke them in a positive way.
- Invite a poker instructor or a horseshoe expert in to give a lesson and then follow it with a competition.
- Challenge attendees to describe a favorite film scene to you before the event. Pick a few and show them, then discuss.
- Don’t serve boring food.
- Use nametags at all times. Write the person’s first name REALLY big.
- Use placecards at each meal, rotating where people sit. Crowd the tables really tightly (12 at a table for 10) and serve buffet style to avoid lots of staffers in the room. Make it easy for people to leave boring tables and organically sit together at empty ones.
- Do something really interesting after 10 pm.
- Serve delicious food, weird food, vegan food, funky food. Just because you can.
- Don’t worry about being productive. Worry about being busy.
- Consider a tug of war or checkers tournament.
- Create an online site so attendees can check in after the event, swap email addresses or post promised links.
- Take a ton of pictures. Post them as the advance progresses.
Here’s the goal: new friends. Here’s the output: a new and better to-do list.
Source: Seth Godin’s blog
Seth also wrote recently about how to improve our meetings. I like this idea too. Very much:
Making meetings more expensive
…might actually make them cost less.
What would happen if your organization hired a meeting fairie?
The fairie’s job would be to ensure that meetings were short, efficient and effective. He would focus on:
- Getting precisely the right people invited, but no others.
- Making the meeting start right on time.
- Scheduling meetings so that they don’t end when Outlook says they should, but so that they end when they need to.
- Ensuring that every meeting has a clearly defined purpose, and accomplishes that purpose, then ends.
- Welcoming guests appropriately. If you are hosting someone, the fairie makes sure the guest has adequate directions, a place to productively wait before the meeting starts, access to the internet, something to drink, biographies of who else will be in the room and a clear understanding of the goals of the meeting.
- Managing the flow of information, including agendas and Powerpoints. This includes eliminating the last minute running around looking for a VGA cable or a monitor that works. The fairie would make sure that everyone left with a copy of whatever they needed.
- Issuing a follow up memo to everyone who attended the meeting, clearly delineating who came and what was decided.
If you do all this, every time you call a meeting it’s going to cost more to organize. Which means you’ll call fewer meetings, those meetings will be shorter and more efficient. And in the long run, you’ll waste less time and get more done.
Source: Seth Godin’s blog