Fun Staff Meeting Ideas That Energize Communication

August 25, 2014

When you were a kid, “fun” was not a dirty word. If your mother asked, “How was school today?” and you said, “Fun!” she was probably delighted. In your head, you connected “school” and “fun”—so that meant you were predisposed to go back.  So what’s the harm in connecting “staff meeting” and “fun?” Maybe you’ll end up liking your job more.

Begin the meeting with an entertaining communication exercise and end it by finding the practical value of the exercise. On each end of the meeting, you’re talking about less than five minutes, unless you have giant staff meetings.

Here are examples:

  • Dean Hohl, a former U.S. Army Ranger who runs an experiential learning program for professionals called Leading Concepts, came to a meeting I hosted. He kicked it off by writing the letters B-O-W on a white board and then asked each of the 30 people at the table to write down his or her definition of the word. When he asked what they wrote down, he got:
    • Hair bow
    • Take a bow
    • Bow of a ship
    • Bow and arrow
    • Violin bow
    • Half a dog’s “hello”

At the end of the meeting, he got up again and asked them if the B-O-W exercise meant anything to them. This group of very serious technical professionals got smiles on their faces. Many said they had more fun listening to each other—tuning in a little more carefully to their colleagues’ word choices and the meaning of what they said. What seems like an unrelated exercise helps people focus on each other and puts them in a more collaborative, innovative frame of mind.

  • Improving communication in any context means avoiding hackneyed phrases. Make the process a little more fun by beginning a meeting with everyone writing down his or her most hated cliché—the ones that make people at the table turn down the volume on the speaker. Some of them might be:
    • at the end of the day
    • back on track
    • reached out to him/her
    • a level playing field
    • in the final analysis
    • par for the course
    • think outside the box
    • avoid someone or something like the plague
    • in the current climate
    • the path of least resistance
    • in any way, shape, or form

At the end of the meeting, read each cliché and laugh: You can bet that at least one of them made its way into the conversation. Put the most-hated clichés that were used in that session on a “forbidden” list for the upcoming meeting—or longer. This can bring a little levity to otherwise boring meetings and can make sure people are listening and not tuning out.

  • At the opening of the meeting, have each person share a stupid tweet; there are plenty of sites that feature inane tweets. This is just a way to loosen people up and get them thinking in terms of 140 character messages.

Take one minute at the end of the meeting and have people draft stupid tweets of their own that capture some aspect of the meeting that just occurred. Have each person read it, or when necessary, write it out on a white board.

With all three exercises, you can keep the meeting on track, but frame it in a way that gives attendees something to look forward to on both ends of the meeting. All three are designed to perk up your listening throughout the meeting, inspire creativity, and provide an opportunity to be both playful and productive in your meeting conversations.

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About The Author

Maryann Karinch, author of 20 books and ACE certified personal trainer, is a veteran business insider and communications consultant. Her previous books include Diets Designed for Athletes, How to Spot a Liar, I Can Read You Like a Book, and How to Become an Expert on Anything in 2 Hours. She lives in Estes Park, Colorado.


  1. avatar

    This is quite literally genius. Sure got me out of a dry slump!!!

  2. avatar

    I will let you know how it worked out.

  3. avatar

    That sounds great! I haven’t encountered the bow exercise yet, but it does sound fun, which is sorely lacking in meeting boardrooms. It seems that five minutes of laughs can lift up the spirit and productivity of people, even if they don’t know one another. Will share! Thanks. 🙂

  4. avatar

    I hope you can help me. I attended a staff meeting with my previous company 8 years ago which included an icebreaker at the beginning. The meeting had a facilitator and the four of us as participants. This was an exercise for communication in which the facilitator gave each of us a memo containing instruction for an upcoming even. Each memo had more information than the previous and each participant would describe how we would manage it. By the time the facilitator read the real memo we all sat there and said “where did all that come from”. I’ve been searching icebreakers for two days and cannot find it. I am having my own staff meeting and would like to use the exercise. Have you heard of this exercise of something similar?

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