Learning The Ropes (Or Jumping With Them)

Last month, we talked about using meetings to build teamwork and acknowledge each other’s accomplishments. Meetings can also be a great way to educate everyone about new techniques and developments, interesting facts, or even the history of the company. But how can you keep people from dozing off or playing hooky? Make it a game! Here are some examples.

A QUIZ SHOW – Before I spoke at a meeting for USA-Today, the organizers conducted a “quiz show.” This was a great icebreaker and a way to educate their employees, using questions like: “Who writes the editorial column on page 26?” “What is our distribution in Cleveland?” “What was the headline on the Life Section last Tuesday?” Small prizes, like company pens and note pads, were awarded. The audience laughed while they learned.
THE PRIORITIES GAME – Another time I was speaking at Levi Strauss. There were six tables, each with eight salespeople. Each table received copies of the same thirteen examples of typical paperwork they had to deal with every day. Then each group debated the priority for handling them and handed in a list, numbered 1 to 13. What a great way to find out how they thought and to discuss company priorities in a playful context. I was as amazed as management was at how many different opinions there were from each table. Every list was different.

OSCARS – A Pacific Bell meeting was held around the time of the Academy Awards. The creative meeting planner set up an awards ceremony and asked the managers to wear formal evening dress. This sounded so creative to me that, even though my speech was later in the day, I wanted to be part of it (at no extra cost to the client). “Oscars” were given out in categories like customer service, sales, and money-making ideas. Wearing an evening gown, I sashayed across the stage to deliver the envelopes containing the names of the winners. As the nominees in each category were announced, a giant screen showed slides of their photos. The first two were always famous movie stars, the third an employee. Would you believe it? Pacific Bell employees beat out the movie stars every time! Everyone who accepted an Academy Award had to give a short speech. It was innovative, memorable, and fun.

This gave me the idea for my fifteenth speech for the Continental Breakfast Club (CBC). The year before, my talk had been “Wonder Woman: A Mythical Character or State of Mind?” which I delivered wearing my Wonder Woman costume.

It was a few weeks after the Academy Awards, so I called my speech, “Oscars Come to CBC: My Love Affair with the Movies and Life Lessons from Movie Stars and Hollywood.” Starting with my youthful fascination with stars, I went on to tell them how I came to America, actually met real movie stars, and the three valuable lessons we all can learn from Hollywood: a model for business, the importance of costume, and the importance of collaboration.

Many people were involved in the program, and plenty of notice was given about the theme, so 70 percent of the audience of 120 came in evening clothes. The walls were decorated with movie posters, the tables had actual strips of film curving around gold comedy and tragedy masks, and Oscar-type music was played. A red carpet was rolled up to the entrance, and, as the tuxedo-clad recording engineer announced each arriving “celebrity” CBC member, we told inside jokes about them: “Ladies and Gentlemen, our next celebrity is so-and-so, the screen writer of the new film, ‘Shakespeare Falls Out of Love’.” This meeting has gone down in history as one of the Continental Breakfast Club’s most successful events.

Of course, most of your meetings will be much simpler. Just remember that there are always fun and innovative ways to educate and inspire while entertaining with well-conceived games.

FRIPPICISM: A team is a group of people who may not be equal in talent, education or experience, but are equal in commitment.