<em>Experience</em >: CHOCOLATE Logo

Good meetings Should Engage All The Senses

Mass High Tech
March 1, 2007

Whether you're conducting a company meeting, hosting a prospecting event, or sponsoring a training session, your mission is the same: Engage the participants and create a successful event.

That may not be as easy as it seems. A Microsoft Corp. survey on office productivity found that while workers in the United States spend approximately 5.5 hours in meetings each week, 71 percent of the participants feel these meetings are unproductive. Further, 34 percent of those surveyed identified ineffective meetings as the most common office productivity pitfall.

So how do you avoid this dilemma and create dynamic and effective events? A proven approach is to engage people through the five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and sound. The more senses you engage, the more likely you are to draw the participants into the program.

Capture attention from the start
Set the tone by starting with an interactive icebreaker or warmup activity. This enables participants to become acquainted and comfortable with one another, and more likely to participate. A brief activity might include asking everyone to taste a piece of chocolate and share a favorite chocolate memory. Not only will the chocolate endorphins kick in, but people will also enjoy hearing each other's stories. Another idea is to have participants identify a particular fragrance on a piece of paper and share their reactions with the group. These types of icebreaker activities enhance interpersonal connections and break down barriers.

Keep it going with variety In a formal meeting, diversify your presentation format and materials to keep the interest level up. Following are some suggestions:

  • Props and simulations -- Props and simulations are effective for illustrating key points. For example, if your meeting is focused on product improvement, bring sample products and spec sheets from your company and competitors, so attendees can see and touch the products and compare functionality. Break the audience into groups and ask them to brainstorm five product improvements. This would work well for a company that sells medical devices, telecom and networking equipment, or other hardware. Similarly, if your meeting is about production efficiency, set up a simple simulation of your production process using toys such as Legos or blocks to represent product components and have participants 'make' your product. Use breakout groups to identify bottlenecks and critical path processes.

  • Role playing -- Everyone loves a little drama, and role-playing is a powerful way to communicate key messages and desired behaviors. For example, a role-play depicting sales situations can illustrate how to effectively handle customer situations. Make sure to select the actors in advance and prep them on their roles.

  • Don't forget humor and music -- If your meeting format is purely content-focused, keep interest high with humor. Cartoons are effective as segues to new topics and help keep people interested in the material. Dilbert, Doonesbury, Far Side and Peanuts offer great commentary on corporate culture and life in general.

The use of music can also help to underscore key points during the meeting and can bring a level of humor if timed right. Advertisers use jingles to help consumers remember their products. Why not use it to help participants remember key messages?

Finish with a bang
Conclude your meeting with a memorable wrap-up activity that reinforces key messages from the meeting. For example, end with a game-show exercise or contest in which participants compete to answer questions about information discussed in the meeting. Use prizes to award performance. Another option is to conclude with a fun group activity such as a food or wine tasting. Sharing a food experience is a great way for people to engage all of their senses, have a good time and build camaraderie.

In the end, variety is the spice of life and keeps people interested. Whether your meeting goal is to solve a problem, improve communication or establish new relationships, engage the five senses to create dynamic, interactive and meaningful programs that achieve your objectives.


Chocolate pieces