Looking for an innovative meeting format to boost creative thinking?

Sara Coene

Published by Sara Coene on April 25, 2017

Tap into your team’s experience and knowledge

Think about the experience and knowledge of everybody on your team combined! What an extensive resource of valuable ideas and inspiration. Above all, it’s a resource that you can easily tap into.

One way to do so is to organize your team meetings in a different way. Like most people, you probably prepare them all too often with a focus on agenda items only. If the purpose of your meeting is simply to share information, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. It’s different when your meeting should boost creativity and innovation. Then you must prepare for something far better than one-way communication and passive listening.

A key element of any successful preparation is to think carefully about the process and the type of interaction that will help you achieve your meeting’s goals. Let me, therefore, share some ideas on how an innovative meeting format can help boost your team’s creative thinking.


PechaKucha, the Japanese word for ‘chitchat’, is a presentation style in which you display 20 images for 20 seconds each to present a unique idea or story. The images advance automatically while you talk along to them. No “next slide, please” or “go back one slide, please”. Just 20 seconds x 20 images. And while PechaKucha takes more time than an elevator pitch, the idea is the same: give concise fast-moving presentations.

Since the first PechaKucha Night organized in Roppongi (Tokyo) back in 2003, PechaKucha Nights have gained popularity and are now being organized in over 900 cities around the world. Most people use PechaKucha Nights to present their latest creative projects, even if the format does not impose any restrictions on content.

Although a trademark protects PechaKucha Nights, you can perfectly use the PechaKucha format for your team meetings. The nice thing is that this innovative meeting format keeps everybody on your team focused on organizing their thoughts. If they can’t make it in 20 times 20 seconds, they’ll just have to prepare better. They’ll have to think about what is of interest to their audience, rather than about how much there is to say. That’s exactly why Carl Bass, the former Autodesk CEO, used to ask his employees to present their ideas in a PechaKucha format.

PechaKucha night @ Autodesk

The other nice thing about PechaKucha is that presentations are very visual and concise. So while you share your presentation in real time, the other team members can easily add their own remarks and suggestions to provide feedback on your ideas.

Open Space Meetings

Open Space Technology (OST) is a fairly new way to run productive meetings with groups of 10 to 1000 people. With Open Space meetings, you do not start with a fixed agenda. Instead, participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions organized around a central theme.

Harrison Owen was the first to document OST as an innovative meeting format. As a conference organizer, he was inspired by the consensus feedback that he received from participants. They unanimously considered the coffee breaks to be the most interesting conference activity. Having invested a lot of time and effort to plan every aspect of the conference, he decided to organize the next edition in a different way.

This new OST format started from the idea that the unplanned moments provide the most rewarding experience. That’s probably why OST meetings appear to lack structure at first sight, although they actually are very structured. Their structure fits so closely to the people and the work at hand that it almost goes unnoticed.

To understand how OST meetings work in practice, the video gives you a good idea of what it entails.

Rapid Demos

Rapid Demos work like speed dating or speed networking. But rather than selling yourself or your business, Rapid Demos invite you to pitch a new idea. Pitchers are spread across the room and 4 to 7 participants gather around each pitcher. Every five minutes the bell rings, urging the participants to move to the next pitcher.

This fast-paced innovative meeting format is an excellent way to practice your pitch while preparing a presentation to your management or a Pitch Night. A full session needn’t take more time than just 1 hour. Sharing your idea with many small audiences during such a short time frame lets you collect a lot of useful feedback. Especially if you focus on preparing a compact visual presentation and make it easy for your audiences to capture your slides. The feedback you collect will help you further shape your idea.

Pitch Nights & Startup Weekends

The term “pitch” was initially used to sell an idea to a venture capitalist in order to get funding. Its current use is much broader, referring to quickly summarizing any process, product, service, organization, or event, and its unique value proposition.

Within larger organizations, pitches help to elicit support for internal changes and innovations. Whenever such companies initiate innovation projects or intrapreneurship programs, the process always includes a pitch event (such as a Pitch Night or a Startup Weekend). Presenters are prepped to move their idea from concept to pitch. Their audience gets the opportunity to select the most engaging pitches.

Take Coca-Cola as an example. Coca-Cola wanted to encourage intrapreneurship within the organization, believing that large organizations should embrace startup skills to remain successful in a fast-changing world. Coca-Cola organized a Startup Weekend with 100 associates gathering at their headquarters in Atlanta to pitch ideas and to refine that pitch for a panel of judges.

Always make sure to prepare well

However straightforward or exciting these meeting formats may seem, always make sure to prepare them well. Take the time to research which innovative meeting format is best suited to the specific objectives you want to achieve. Don’t overlook the practical details that you need to take care of.

Make it as easy as you can for everybody to focus on just 1 thing: creative interaction. Like so many things in business, meeting success depends on good preparation and supervision. Especially if you want to your meetings to take advantage of the synergies between all participants.

About the author

Sara Coene is Managing Partner at Bedenk, a Belgium based business creativity agency that makes organizations future proof. As an Organizational Change Coach and Design Thinking Facilitator, Sara helps organizations develop the change and innovation capabilities of their teams.

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