If you want people to be creative, innovative, and flexible, it helps to make your meetings fun. Here are three examples.
A QUIZ SHOW – Before I spoke at a small meeting for USA Today, the organizers conducted a “quiz show.” This was a great icebreaker and also served to educate their employees, using questions like: “Who writes the editorial column on page 13?” “What is our distribution in Cleveland?” “What was the headline on the Life Syle Section last Tuesday?” Small prizes like USA Today pens and note pads were awarded. This got the audience laughing while learning (and had the audience fully warmed up when I came on).
THE PRIORITIES GAME – Another time I was speaking at Levi Strauss. There were six tables, each with eight sales people. Each table received copies of the same thirteen examples of typical paperwork that crosses a salesperson’s desk each day. They then debated the priority for handling them. This was a great way to find out how the sales people thought and for management to teach them priorities. I was as amazed as management was at how many different opinions there were on handling the same thirteen items.
“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 video screen showed 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.
One of my more creative clients, Dan Maddux, Executive Director of the American Payroll Association, heard about my Wonder Woman performance and booked me to do a similar presentation at his next conference, called “Are You a Wonder Woman or a Superman in Payroll?”
For Year Fifteen, a few weeks after the Academy Awards, my speech was called “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, then coming to America and actually meeting real movie stars, I went on to tell about the three valuable lessons I had learned: 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, Oscar-type music was played, and the tables with actual strips of film curving around gold comedy and tragedy masks. There was a red carpet up to an entrance, and, as the tuxedo-clad recording engineer announced each arriving “celebrity” (portrayed by a member), we told inside jokes about them: Ladies and Gentlemen, our next celebrity is so-and-so, the genius who thought up the title for the film Titanic.” An Oscar-type lifetime achievement award was presented to me, and my subsequent talk took the form of an acceptance speech. I had made notes of expressions and situations during the actual Oscar telecast and put them into our script.
This meeting has gone down in history as one of the Continental Breakfast Club’s most successful events. (An English gentleman, part of my online community and on vacation in the U.S., traveled two hours to be there for my 7:00 AM presentation. He’d read about my Wonder Woman routine and wanted to see how I would top it.)
I sent Dan Maddux a tape of this event, and he eagerly hired me to create a similar “Oscars” for the American Payroll Association. Here’s a sample of the script we used.
ANNOUNCER: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the 7 1/2th Annual Academy Awards! The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is buzzing with the sounds of Hollywood. The crowd is getting excited. Limos are three deep outside, and the celebrities are beginning to arrive.
Our first celebrity, famed producer Gary Butler, nominated for this year’s comedy sensation, “Absolutely Digging Payroll.” And here comes three-time nominated actress Maureen Reed, up this year for Best Actress in her starring role as Rebecca in “Saving Sunny Brook’s Farm Through a New Payroll System Installation.”
First-time nominee Carol Franket, for her roll as Dolly the Payroll Manager who clones herself to accomplish and 80-hour work weed in this year’s sleeper, “Nine to One.”
Susan Darring, famed B-movie actress and game show hostess, who is making her comeback as Payroll Hughie’s Momma in this year’s blockbuster, “It’s All in A Day’s Pay.”
And the winner is…
WINNER: The Brits really cleaned up at the Oscars this year, didn’t they? And this afternoon we are going to honor yet another one of merry old England’s superstars, Good Queen Fripp.
It has just been announced that Steven Spielberg is optioning her bestselling book, “Get What You Want,” and Julia Roberts has tentatively accepted the role of Fripp. You can see that Fripp is causing the same excitement in Hollywood that she’s generated here with the APA for the past three years. It is my honor today to present Patricia Fripp with the APA Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Patricia Fripp!
As you can see, topping yourself year after year may not be easy, but it’s a real challenge and always exciting and fun.
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