3 Playful Ways to Engage Your Team in Meetings

When you run a meeting with more than say four or five people, I’ll bet at least 15% of the attendees don’t add or take away any value. It’s probably even more for regularly scheduled meetings.

Meeting room stencil graffiti by Richard Rutter

Meeting stencil graffiti by Richard Rutter

Talk about not being engaged… If meeting attendees were focused and interactive, think what all that charged and synergistic brainpower could do. Instead a good portion is wasted, along with many people’s time.

Here are three improv warm-up exercises that might help, if you dare to use them. I say that because there’s always a risk when you introduce something different into such a time-honored institutional process. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Warm-up #1: Bunny Bunny

Oh yes, that’s the name of this exercise and it’s as stupid as it sounds. But note stupidity doesn’t necessarily mean uselessness. It’s the counter example to Forest Gump’s “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Appropriate for what type of meetings:

  • Ones where people might be afraid to speak up – Perhaps you could use it for round table discussions between leaders and employees they barely know.
  • Regularly scheduled ones where people wander in and zone out

Purpose it serves:

Once people have played this game, they will have already done and said the stupidest thing they will say the entire meeting. It loosens people up and breaks down internal barriers. Or in the case of the regularly scheduled meeting, it’s a way to shake up the ordinary.

How You Play:

Oh I love Google and YouTube. I found the perfect video and I happen to be friends with the woman who created it: Theresa Rothhaar. To see how it’s done, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4eZtO-hTc4. I play slightly differently than Theresa does. Her group slaps their knees than their hands. I just go for the straight knee slap and I pronounce some of the words differently but who cares… this way I don’t have to explain it! She has it covered.

Warm-up #2: The Clover and a variation

This warm-up is an old standby. I love doing this right before a show. It gets me in the right mode for doing improv but I see how it can add a spark to meetings as well and it’s not silly like Bunny Bunny.

Appropriate for what type of meetings:

  • Ones that require creative participation to solve a problem or look at something in a new way
  • Team building

Purpose it serves:

It stimulates people’s associative thinking. It forces them to listen and not think about what they’re going to say. The variation provides an insight into how others think and can help create group mind, where people “get” what others are saying.

How You Play:

  1. Arrange people in a circle. They can be sitting around a table or stand.
  2. Ask someone to choose a random word. (If you want to be a purist and not have someone in the room influence the game, I recommend an app called Improv Buddy that generates words based on categories.)
  3. Going around the circle, each person says the first word that pops into their head when the hear the word of the previous player.
  4. You continue around the circle until you organically get back to the original word. (We call this clover because you want to get back to the original word three times.)

Example of now it works:

The starter word is puff.

Clover table

Note: It usually takes longer to get back to the starter word than in this example.

Things to watch out for:

  • People often don’t listen to the person right before them… they’ll choose a word based on something they heard earlier. Call them out for this because they’ve been thinking ahead.
  • Encourage people to go fast so that they’re responding, not thinking of a way to be clever.

The Variation:

  1. Instead of saying the first word that pops into your head, say what that word makes you think of. For example, if the word I hear is “Sun”. The first word that comes into my mind is “Shine”. So I say “Shoe”
  2. The person next to you then has to guess what the first word was that you thought of. So in the example above, hopefully they’d say “Shine”.
  3. The person who guessed would then use the word “Shoe” to do step number one.

Warm-up #3: Tee shirt slogan

This game is similar to the Clover but it adds a memory element.

Appropriate for what type of meetings:

  • Ones where you want people to be creative, access their memory and remember what happens

Purpose it serves:

This game is more fun than Clover and people get a bit more creative, using more than one word to follow up on what the previous person said.

How You Play:

  1. Once again you play in a circle and start with a random word. Say “chalk”.
  2. The person after the initiator says, “chalk” then adds his own word or phrase “board.
  3. The next one says, “chalk, board” then adds on “school days”.
  4. The game continues with everyone repeating all that came before and adding to it.

You want to be very obvious with the connections because that’s the only way that it’s possible to remember everything.

And So

My hope is for this post to really shake up meeting rooms across the world, making them more fun, more interactive and more productive.

Let me know if you take a chance and use any of these.


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