I used to sit in weekly staff meetings, needlessly, where I generated a total of 23 pages of notes over the span of seven years. I still have the chapbook and it is mostly filled with weird drawings, sketches of sleeping coworkers, and reminders of things to do after work. There was an unspoken agreement that creatives did not speak unless spoken to, and thusly never were. Since these meetings lacked structure and content, they were not applicable to my work or motivation and only had relevance as a ritual forbearance in an environment that could have easily been repurposed as footage for the movie, “Brazil.”
I now work at a marketing agency where I have filled countless chapbooks with notes, as I am influenced by an environment and culture where collective solution building matters. Moreover, I have a better idea of what an inclusive meeting should be with creative staff.
There is a general perception that creative meetings are lengthy, unbridled sessions whereby participants are merely flinging epiphanies around until at long last one brilliant person presents a solution that gives everyone pause. Thus starting a steady progression of slow claps around the table, climaxing to said hero being hoisted upon the shoulders of fellow studio mates and paraded about the office like a deity. I find this perception to be sort of rad and perhaps not globally perceived as much as it is individually dreamt often. I digress. There are rules of engagement, workloads and deadlines to be respectful of, and agendas when applicable.
I would say that there are five important rules to consider when having a productive creative staff meeting, ideally being able to utilize at least three of these rules:
1. Invite only those who need to be in-the-know. There can be invaluable gains by having your creative staff sitting in the post- first client meetings. Especially when matters of technical handling of the project or explanation of creative concepts are needed. On matters of handling the schedule of deliverables or messaging, this is where your account staff and content strategists do the voodoo they do so well.
2. Rule no. 1 is made to be broken. Sometimes the best ideas are born from the collective hewing and reshaping from your entire staff. Big problems require big brains to solve. If you have surplus stock of brains to choose from, invite them to be engaged in the collective brain drain. Check out the big brain on Brad!
3. Always have a designated driver. Somebody has to be in charge of the meeting, and that person(s) has to have an agenda and ownership of a specific plan to present. This moderator has to keep the discussion between the curbs and on task. Also, don’t be afraid of bad ideas. But don’t waste everyone’s time listening to too many of them.
4. Be prepared to brainstorm. Offer a challenge to find opportunities in advance of the meeting. Do you want to see fireworks, rainbows and breakdancing unicorns at your next rapid-fire creative session? Give your staff an evening, or weekend when available, to review, research, and prepare a presentation of ideas that will inspire great results.
5. Keep it loose. The only ideas that come when your creative staffs’ heads are on the other side of a metaphorical gun are safe ones. If you want to see the breadth of what your team can do, sit back and encourage them to start developing a playbook. Be ready to punt fresh challenges back to them as needed to keep the meeting advancing toward a gainful end.
I attended a great staff meeting this morning and felt compelled to write on that subject. Meetings are sometimes dull, life-sucking exercises in futility. It happens. Not every meeting will be shaped to engage you to share ideas that could give you a reason to attend. Sometimes being there is all that is required. Having been “there” for seven years, I enjoy having opportunities to share my voice and pushing the big ideas. It’s not rocket science to facilitate great meetings, but big-brained understanding to create an environment where great ideas can be launched from.