Skip to main content
Commsy creative stuff straight to your inbox


10 ways to have meetings that ooze creativity

< Blog home

10 ways to have meetings that ooze creativity

There’s not a lot of love for meetings. They really do get a bad wrap.

So what if we were to introduce a few techniques to make them more productive, memorable and meaningful? That sounds like something worth exploring!

We really can’t (and shouldn’t) avoid meetings. We need them to discuss important issues, to make decisions, problem-solve, collaborate and move forwards.

So it’s time we put some of that negativity behind us, face our fear of meetings head on and take some action! Just before we do, let’s understand the scale of the problem we’re up against.

This infographic from Lane End Conferences shares some interesting stats. According to their research, the average number of meetings attended by managers each month is 60 and ten percent of meetings held by UK companies last for more than 6 hours! In all that time spent, 47 percent of attendees felt that too many meetings was the biggest waste of their time.

We’ve all been to meetings that drag on while minds wander (apparently 60 percent of attendees take notes to look like they’re listening) and excuses mysteriously begin to crop up. On the other hand, there are those meetings that are bursting with energy and enthusiasm, generating fantastic ideas and leaving attendees feeling like the session was fun and productive.

So what’s the difference between a dull and sterile meeting and one that energises and inspires us? And what exactly constitutes a good meeting anyway?

Well, we’d probably all agree that a successful meeting generally includes the following elements:

  • Efficiency– stuff gets done!
  • Openness and honesty– people open up, share and say what they think
  • Positivity and fun– attendees enjoy themselves and don’t fear future meetings
  • Participation– everyone gets involved
  • Creativity– different thinking takes place and new ideas are generated

For the purpose of this post (and because we’re massive fans of creativity) we’ll focus on that final point. We can improve meetings enormously by using a little creative forethought and planning things differently. Of course, the type of meeting you’re having will determine how flexible you can be, but ultimately we all have the choice to run better meetings. We just need to know how.

Here are 10 ideas to get the ball rolling:

Open with positive stories. The way meetings start will set the tone for the whole session. Avoid kicking off with the latest troubles, complaints and problems. Try something new! In less that 30 seconds ask each attendee to share something positive, like:

  • Something interesting you’ve learned since the last meeting
  • Tell us about a person who has helped you in the last week
  • Name one thing you’ve accomplished this week that’s made you feel proud

Create a fun atmosphere where everyone feels welcome, alert and up for it. Comfortable seating in a relaxed environment, preferably not around a boardroom table is a good place to start. Alternatively, get outside and try a walking meeting for a change.

If you’re staying indoors, music can often help as long as it doesn’t distract, along with appropriate lighting to make everyone feel more comfortable and present. You can also have snacks, drinks and creative extras available (an assortment of toys like Play-doh, Lego and stress balls always go down well too).

Get the feel-good endorphins flowing. Enjoy a few minutes of amusing entertainment before you start. This video was shared recently by a friend on Twitter and started off our day brilliantly. It’s a hilarious example of how communication can be ‘misinterpreted’!

People love to learn new skills so try introducing a new technique or a brain-boosting warm up. For your meeting icebreaker, practice lateral thinking exercises as a group:

Try HEADLINES – it’s a simple process:

  1. Obtain 4 completely random words
  2. Write a newspaper headline that incorporates two of the words – you choose the situation.

Or RESCUE – a problem-solving exercise:

  1. Obtain 5 completely random words
  2. Use one of the random words to suggest a problem or crisis
  3. Use a different random word to suggest how the situation can be rescued
  4. Explain your thinking.


“90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual and our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.”

Strong and memorable visuals get everyone on the same page, picturing the big ideas.

Cut back on the chatter and try out some new tricks – hand out some big bold markers and use a magic whiteboard to capture thoughts or if budget allows, harness the power of visual thinking by inviting along a graphic facilitator.

NHS staff will soon be offered zumba and yoga in a bid to keep them fit and healthy and we could learn a thing or two from that. Our bodies don’t like sitting still for extended periods of time. We tend to get slow and lethargic and our brains follow suit. It’s time to get the blood flowing!

Try a few simple stretches at the start, after breaks or when people need a little lift:

  • Get everyone on their feet
  • Bounce for 10 seconds
  • Stretch your arms up towards the ceiling
  • Keeping arms up, lean over to the left
  • Lean to the right, backwards and forwards
  • Touch your toes
  • And sit back down

Help those bodies and brains to feel a little more flexible and a lot more creative.

Invite people along who can offer a fresh perspective. Perhaps colleagues from different departments who may not otherwise have attended, suppliers, stakeholders or even clients, if appropriate. People who are removed from the day-to-day issues can be better at seeing the wood for the trees and may ignite different thought processes. They can help meetings to take unfamiliar routes, keeping them fresh and breaking new ground.

Discuss a specific issue and challenge attendees to compete for the most terrible idea. It’s a great way to break the ice and get a bit of laughter going. And quite often, the worst ideas can lead to surprisingly successful solutions…

The yes…and… approach is a protocol that permits anything to happen. It allows for more openness and more possibilities, a perfect tone to set for meetings.

To trigger creativity, try playing “Yes… and….” to address a specific challenge. Each attendee offers a solution that is not to be judged by anyone else. Instead, team members develop the idea by saying, “Yes…and we could also….”

You’re not necessarily looking for practical solutions; this is an exercise in developing creative ideas. ‘But’ and ‘no’ are out of bounds.

Plan ahead and get the thoughts flowing in advance of your next meeting. Set a specific challenge at the end that colleagues can consider, discuss and deliberate in their own time. That way they’ll come along prepared and inspired to kick off your next meeting in a positive way!

And finally…

It is possible to reverse some of those sad statistics and restore our faith in meetings.

By taking a more positive and creative approach and introducing some different ideas to generate newfound energy, these sessions can be so much more productive.

It’s true that what works in one organisation may not be suitable for another, by trying out a few new techniques (the suggestion above are a good place to start) you’ll find what works best to get your people motivated and inspired.

We’d love to hear what’s working for you. Tweet us @alivewithideas with your success stories!

Check out the Academy 6 steps to successful creative campaigns masterclass…

6 Steps to Successful Creative Campaigns

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
Alive logo