Next Generation Meetings: 8 Wise Practices and Creative Tools (2022)

Next Generation Meetings: 8 Wise Practices and Creative Tools 

Here’s my webinar for Tech Soup Canada: Improve online gatherings and foster connection!

This far into a pandemic, we’ve all changed our perspectives on what makes a good meeting. Do you find yourself wondering, “What is this meeting about? Is this the best use of our time?” That doesn’t sound fun! There’s a better way––one that shakes up ‘business as usual’ gatherings by infusing them with more creativity and more opportunities for meaningful connection. This webinar shares eight principles to:

  • help your meetings distill information clearly;
  • support wise choices;
  • work with complexity; and
  • help people feel heard.

This post below has the webinar recording (video), my top 8 takeaways (jpg), the slides (PDF), and then the full text (html) of what’s on the slides. 

Next Generation Meetings: Best Practices and Creative Tools Drawing Change

Next Generation Meetings: B… by Sam Bradd


Below is the full text of what is written on the slides. The format of the talk is that I name some common challenges, then I go into examples of how how to shift each challenge.


Hi everyone, I’m Sam Bradd from Drawing Change. I use visuals and facilitation to help people shift big problems. But this isn’t to convince you that you need to be a super-drawer. 

I believe that when it comes to creativity – We ALL have something important to contribute. 

You have gifts. These gifts can can show up in our meetings to make them more meaningful, and have more connection and purpose.  

Here’s how I get more connected to purpose: it’s art. Art saved my life. And it probably can save your meeting. And I know my mission is to help people unlock their own potential and creativity in groups. And you can do it too. 

Today we’re looking at seven specific challenges that you might face in meetings – and some ways to shift them with best practices and creative tools. (Want to jump ahead? Here’s a link to the recap of best practices at the end of this presentation)

Here’s 7 meeting challenges:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. We don’t feel connected
  3. What’s happening right now?
  4. This is a complex issue. What do we do next?
  5. I’m new. How are things done here?
  6. There’s low participation, especially online 
  7. There’s not enough time

Before we jump in, I think facilitation tools are agnostic. I can’t rely on them to transform groups – unless I’m willing to transform, be humble, and make myself vulnerable in my own learning. 

So before we start, let’s challenge some of the beliefs we have about the “one right way” to have meetings. This is a list of the characteristics of white supremacy from a classic article by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun (2001). We need to let go of perfectionism, urgency, worship of the written word, power hoarding, that there’s only one way to do something (among much more). 

All of these qualities of white supremacy culture also structure our meetings. And it needs to shift. So if we can use art to challenge any of these beliefs, we can also begin something bigger. 

Challenge 1: Why am I here? 

When people who don’t know why they are meeting…. It’s boring. Expensive. And people don’t feel valued.

Instead: Get clear on the Purpose. 

1) Be very clear about your meeting– we can’t do it all. What intention do we have in this moment? 

2) What types of relationships do we need to attune to, to move the work forward? 

3) All meetings need prep. There’s a reason it looks effortless

4) Let’s talk about the POP – the one tool that was my game changer! Purpose, Outcome and Process from the Rockwood Institute. Make the POP visible – include it on every agenda, use it for writing emails and on phone calls.  Put a post it note on your monitor! 

Challenge 2: We don’t feel connected 

But I think Zoom  icebreakers/ warmups are the worst.

And putting people in a (Zoom) room doesn’t magically make something magical happen. 

Instead: Where is Ritual? 

Ritual helps us to make experiences feel more alive.  Often, ritual can be thought of as what connects us from the inside to the outside. I like to think of it on a continuum – ritual is what is sacred, but it also helps us set up gentle structures that repeat that also give your meeting a “container.” There’s also a great book on the Art of Gathering by Priya Parker here

So what can your time together (and not just the meeting) be known for?

Ritual might be considering: 

  • What connects us to a feeling of something special? 
  • Playing music
  • A slide with a silent reflection question 
  • A stretch break 
  • Choosing how you’ll rotate roles
  • A safety minute, or a cultural safety minute
  • Planning an authentic, purposeful connection – like a real social, or 1:1 time outside of big meetings

If part of your purpose is to build connection – dig deeper to find out what are the kinds of connections that people on your team really want. 

  • Here’s one thing to try: Kudos ! 
  • Kudos, or small appreciations, build resilience and are meaningful. It’s contagious if you make it fun..
  • Get that domapine bump by boosting up someone else! They work when it is about the NOTICING of each other. Teams that are more resilient are also more able to notice good things in each other. 
  • Here’s how it can work:  “I’d like to give kudos this week to Jorge for doing …”
  • Tip: it has to be about an action, and bonus if you can make Kudos visible eg with a post it note wall, or a build-in integration to Slack like the app Matter

Challenge #3: What’s happening right now? 

Not all meetings types are the same. Does the structure fit what you need to do (or did you inherit a bad meeting format?) Also, does everyone know what are we doing?  

Instead: Structure the agendas

Before the meeting: 

  • Use a visual agenda for important meetings so everyone knows what to expect, and that care has gone into the planning 
  • Visual agenda templates can be resued 

During the meeting: 

  • Is it a proposal, a discussion, or a decision? 
  • Consider annotating your agendas so Proposal, Discussion, or Decision is clearly indicated what people are meant to do when they come together 
  • Share roles, share power 

During and after: 

  • Support breakout groups with more creative note-taking
  • Give them a template for note-taking, eg you can add text in powerpoint, zoom annotate, MURAL, Miro, or print it out and write it by hand 
  • Rotate the note-taking! 

Challenge 4: This is a complex issue. How do we make a wise next move? 

This is complex issue with many valid perspectives. I’m not sure you hear what I mean. Are we talking in circles? Are we communicating or are we stuck? 

Instead: Creativity and graphic facilitation for a better process (and joy)

Graphic facilitation helps us to: 

  • See what we mean… 
  • Notice patterns and connections between ideas
  • Make a process go smoother
  • Connect diverse perspectives
  • Synthesize info
  • Surface what’s underneath
  • Keep the conversation going

What is graphic facilitation? It’s drawing and thinking made visible. 

Graphic facilitators might start with blank paper, or, we might prepare a structure before the meeting. We listen and draw what the group is saying. Sometimes we facilitate at the same time, and sometimes we focus on the drawings. It’s Process over Product (thanks Brandy Agerbeck). Because there isn’t one ‘right’ way to do things.

Afterwards – this is also a great way to send out meeting minutes in pictures right away. 

Remember this isn’t about things looking perfect –it’s about supporting the process. And yes, you can do this! 

Challenge #5: I’m new. How are things done here? 

So many people have been hired or changed jobs in the last two years. 

What’s unspoken – and mysterious – is organizational culture. It’s powerful because it’s invisible. It’s unclear and if you don’t know the rules …. It’s unfair. 

Instead: Be transparent on the process and values. 

Onboard people before a meeting:  

  • Share how the process and tech works ahead of time. Do this especially if it’s an important meeting, and especially if your group uses strict formats like Roberts Rules. 
  • Enable time to network and build relationships, before the formal meeting starts – don’t expect that to happen during the meeting. 
  • Make sure people know how the tech will work ahead of time. 

Organizational values: 

  • Make organizational values clear and transparent. Create evergreen documents on values that you revisit often. Knowing your values will help you have the meetings that you really want to be at. For example, if you value belonging, then meetings can support people to feel like they can be themselves (more).

Co-create group agreements: 

Challenge #6: low participation, especially online 

Let’s review what’s not a meeting: one person talking and then the meeting ends. That’s a lecture. So is it really a meeting or are you just delivering information like updates? Who’s talking too much or not enough? How can the agenda address the power that is always present? And, can people really be themselves here?

Instead: Great engagement needs your creativity 

You have to change it up.

The good news is that any small changes make a big difference. Think of a meeting that could benefit from more creativity. 

Don’t do all the things all at once.

  1. Try a what, so what, now what ? Do one thing at ONE meeting, then look to see what happened. Now what?
  2. Change up the agenda, and shift who holds power. Set out time in your meetings to do an activity/deeper strategic thinking together from Liberating Structures: liberatingstructures.com
  3. Change how you ask for feedback. “What questionS do you have?” assumes that it’s good to have questions
  4. Think multi-mode. Touch: Bring in photos or objects to talk about. Move: your body with a walking meeting 
  5. Learn a tiny bit of  online tech. It’s okay to ask for help! Try padlet for sorting info, mentimeter for polls, jamboard or Mural for post it notes 
  6. Remember visual creativity doesn’t have to be drawing – try online photo facilitation cards 
  7. Do rounds: Set up a slide in Powerpoint or MURAL and slide people’s names into the circle when it’s their turn to speak. Bonus: did you know in zoom, now you can move all of the square around, so you can keep track of who has spoken and who has yet to go? 

To be creative, we need trust. 

Creativity doesn’t magically happen – we need trust. Start in pairs and small groups. 

  • 5 minutes to pair and share – it helps to integrate learning 
  • Be you, and let people be themselves (What’s that dress code really about? Why the rules about videos on?) 
  • Build more trust with people 1:1 outside of big meetings
  • Democratize the pens: with graphic recording only one person draws. Instead, ask many people in a meeting to participate with post it notes, using a template, or by finding and uploading images together. Other examples might also include paired reflection work in workbooks, where no drawing skills are required. Maybe mail out a workbook as a care package! 

Challenge #7: There isn’t enough time 

Maybe it feels like you’re wasting my time — and this could have been an email.  Or you’re not really asking for my feedback at this meeting. Or I am at so many meetings that I can’t get my real work done. And, expectations about how long things should “take” is relative, and also connected to urgency and rushing in white-dominant culture. When we’re building trust we can’t do that by email. 

There’s many flowcharts about less meetings. But in general, you can Ask, Do I need to call a meeting? If yes, Do I need that feedback in person? Yes, then: call a meeting. 

Instead: Do the highest level work possible, together

  1. You’ve heard of flipping the classroom – do the reading at home, and then come to class for discussion and problem solving together. For your meeting, what can be done before people meet? What can be done asynchronously, or by informal video? 
  2. Audit your meetings. Don’t be afraid to cancel.
  3. Sometimes, the highest purpose of the meeting is relational. Progress happens at the speed of trust. Some meetings actually are about getting to know each other, and that can’t be rushed. I have been at many, many meetings where the morning was spent doing introductions and this was absolutely the only right way to be together.

    And in other cases, there are some meetings with intros that drag on without energy or feel rote: think about adding some gentle structures. If it’s the right tone, then see if you can do introductions where each person has “one breath” to introduce themselves. Or have a squeaky-toy timer. Or, could updates with more structure help: “here’s one thing I can offer, one thing I need (or need you to know) since we met last month”
  4. Give people back their time. Shorten meetings. Have breaks. 
  5. Maximize and expand relational time when it counts.
  6. Use technology to support asynchronous work and give people training

Share what you learn, beautifully. 

“Share collective discoveries” is a philosophy from the Art of Hosting. I like to think of this phrase as helping us to share what we learn, and share out the learnings beautifully – this could be with visual note-taking templates, products you create during your time together, or graphic recording. 

Next Generation Meetings: Best Practices and Creative Tools Drawing Change

8 Wise Practices and Creative Tools for Meetings

  1. POP: Purpose, Outcome, Process (Rockwood)
  2. Rituals help us make meaning
  3. Is it a Proposal, Discussion, or Decision?
  4. Being creative increases joy
  5. Make your values visible
  6. Try something small and new
  7. Do the highest level work together
  8. Share what you learn – beautifully
  9. ______________ (write your own principle in here) 

 

Visual practice affects the way we feel, what we understand and what actions we take. People care when they see their ideas matter. Information makes more sense with visuals. And you can motivate people with visuals – show your call to action. Visual practice help us to understand each other – and you can bring this into your next meeting to increase joy. 

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Excited about visuals and facilitation? 3 opportunities for training in 2022! Online and in person, May October and Nov 2022)