Morning meetings are not the easiest…
Depending on how much coffee you have or have not consumed, the temperment of the conference room may be less than thrilling. What’s worse, if it’s time to tackle big tasks on a Monday morning, most people still have their brains in the weekend or last week — so it’s extra work to get everyone on the same page.
Instead of simply sitting down and diving into the meeting agenda while your team drowsily stares into their coffee cups, it’s a good idea to shake things up a bit.
Remember being in school and starting your day with a song? Or a round-robin activity? Or even just sharing something special you did over the weekend?
Rather than diving straight into official work business, getting the creative juices flowing with morning meeting activities could help you get the results you want, even if everyone shows up half-awake.
Here is how to add an inspiring activity to make your morning meetings more engaging and productive (and dare we say, fun?).
Before choosing your activity, clarify your intent.
What is this morning’s meeting about? How much time do you have? What do you want to accomplish?
These questions are important when planning any meeting, but especially necessary when you’re wanting to cold-start your audience. Sit down with your notebook or planner before the meeting and outline your very engaging agenda.
Set your agenda and send it ahead of time.
If your meeting is happening first thing Monday morning, don’t send the agenda at the end of the day on Friday. Folks are bolting out the door and will forget anything you sent, leaving them unprepared for the morning’s demands.
Instead, consider setting up a scheduled email delivery using your company’s email newsletter system. Subscribe all of your employees to an internal list, and schedule the email to hit their inboxes Friday morning, and then again 30 minutes to an hour before the meeting.
They’ll get the notification to read the email and come prepared with the agenda fresh in their mind.
Brainstorm your activity. (Scroll down for our list of ideas!)
Depending on the duration of your meeting, you shouldn’t spend more than 10-15% of your time on the activity. Anything that goes on for too long causes attendees to lose focus and forget why they’re there. For high-performing employees, this can be frustrating and feel like a waste of time.
Keeping those high-performers in mind, you’ll want the activity to be just as beneficial as the meeting itself.
Don’t worry about satisfying everyone in the room, but continue to audit your meeting plan as you create it – is this activity valuable for my team? Will it do more than just wake them up?
Consider an opening and closing activity that prime people for a great day.
What makes for a great day? Positivity, productivity, and personality. A little bit of success, sunshine, and a feeling of connection. I know… this seems a bit fluffy for work feelings, but remember: your employees are people, too. They want to feel valued, connected, validated, and satisfied.
Choose a morning meeting activity that helps them to feel those three Ps, and consider a closing activity that sends them out into the day with those feelings re-ignited.
These activities don’t need to be long to truly impact the mood of your entire office.
Try these morning meeting ideas
We’ve generated this list of morning meeting ideas as a jumping off point for you. Take them and make them your own, however makes sense for you and your team. Tailor them to the size of your team, the duration of your meeting, or the topic at hand.
When you find one that works, save it in a file for later use. Try not to repeat meeting activities too soon – try to only repeat them quarterly, or at least monthly, to keep things fresh. You can always modify the activity too, to keep it interesting.
Some of these ideas are especially impactful during certain times of year, under certain circumstances, and including specific people. Keep these considerations in mind as you map out your first quarter of morning meetings made awesome.
Activity 1: One-word icebreaker
Give everyone a general prompt and ask them to fill-in-the-blank, similar to an ad-lib, with a single word. Often, this will be a great indicator of the variety of senses of humor in the room.
Try one of these one-word prompts for a super-fast morning ice breaker:
- I feel…
- Last night was…
- Today is going to be…
- I wish I were a…
Challenge your attendees not to repeat each other’s answers. And, enjoy the results! You may find that people have more fun with the answers than you expected — or you may discover that people are feeling similar ways about their days or work! That could spark an interesting discussion or things for you to think about too.
Activity 2: Switch up your location.
If you typically meet in a conference room or open space, try mixing up the atmosphere. Meet outside at a picnic bench when the weather is nice. Meet in the cafeteria or by the coffee machine if the space is large enough. Consider an off-site meeting, especially if you work with remote employees.
What’s especially engaging about meeting at alternate locations is the sense of newness, the lack of familiarity that puts everyone on a level playing field. Meeting at a coffee shop, breakfast spot, community park, or co-working space can spice up your team’s communication and help you generate new ideas.
Make sure to send the meeting location out ahead of time with a calendar invite, and to send a reminder email one hour before the meeting so no one living on autopilot shows up at the wrong space!
Activity 3: Bring a snack to share.
We don’t always condone bribery with food… but nothing elevates a morning meeting like food. Bagels from Panera, donuts from Krispy Kreme, fruit salad from the grocery store; bringing sustenance and coffee for your team makes them feel valued and excited to show-up.
Try to avoid loud and crunchy foods like chips, cookies, and drink cups full of ice. Rather than being a distraction, the food should enhance the atmosphere. Chewing gets the brain juices flowing and especially for the employees who skipped breakfast, you’ll be powering their creative thinking for the rest of the day.
Activity 4: Brainstorm on the wall.
Grab your sticky notes and turn up the tempo! If your meeting is about problem solving, idea generation, solution creation, or simply a discovery meeting around a new topic or client, brainstorming is a great way to get the day started.
If you have a wireless speaker, turn on some lyric-free high tempo music to elevate the energy in the room. Set a time each time you release a prompt for brainstorming and ask your participants to group their ideas, one per sticky note, in clusters on the wall.
At the end of the activity, stand back in awe of the mass of ideas you generated and begin to review them for your next great opportunity.
Activity 5: Bolster their hand-eye coordination.
In short – throw things. A frisbee, stress ball, Koosh toy, balloon. Wake up people’s hand-eye coordination, something employees working at desks rarely get to employ at work, and invite them to loosen up before they start their day.
Amplify this activity by making the tossed item a prop for discussion. You can call out a question to be answered — “What did you do this weekend?” — and have each person answer, then throw the ball to another person who will answer, and so on. Keep this idea going until the object is dropped or until everyone person has had at least two turns.
This activity is fantastic for generating quick thinking and spontaneous brilliance. Pair it with a brainstorming activity or use is as a means of debriefing a project. Each time the object is thrown, celebrate an achievement or acknowledge an employee for their contribution. The speed of the activity keeps participants from thinking too much about their response, lessening the stress of perfection and keeping the answers authentic.
Activity 6: Make it competitive.
If you have a small enough team, creating a mini-competition for your meeting can strengthen camaraderie while inspiring employees to do their best work in a silly, no-matter situation.
This activity is especially impactful to help new employees get out of their shell: grab a sudoku, logic puzzle, or thought game that can be completed in less than five minutes. Set a timer and reward the first person to successfully complete the activity with a treat or small prize.
That prize can be a coffee gift card, danish, or a hand-drawn blue ribbon they can hang at their desk as a hilarious reminder of that very fun and engaging morning meeting.
Activity 7: Draw the problem (or the solution).
All you need for this activity is a stack of printer paper and cheap ballpoint pens. The most important thing to remind your meeting attendees is that it isn’t about drawing talent, but clarity of vision!
When working to solve a problem, language isn’t always the easiest tool for explaining and dissecting the components. Instead, rely on imagery to translate abstract concepts. Set the problem or idea prompt on a board and give your participants time to draw their solution(s) to the prompt.
Go around the table and ask each person to present their drawing. No laughing or belittling! Instead, ask that everyone listen carefully and see the presenter’s concept in their drawing, making connections between the visual illustration and the verbal description. You may be pleasantly surprised by the visual prowess of members of your team.
Activity 8: Pre-meeting scavenger hunt.
For those with a playful, adventurous team, hosting a pre-meeting scavenger hunt with a prize for the victor is a great way to get employees to show up jazzed. Send the instructions out just before the meeting, no more than an hour in advance, and invite people to hunt for items or information to bring to the meeting.
Tailor the content, concept, or desired outcome of the scavenger hunt to the subject of your meeting, serving as an ice breaker for the topics you’re about to cover. For example:
You have a new client for whom you will design a branding suite for their new business. Ask your attendees to hunt for:
- One clipping or printed image that illustrates the new business name.
- Three colored items that communicate the personality of the business.
- A sentence they read or wrote that describes the brand’s current aesthetic.
- An object in the office that relates directly to the client’s current offering or aesthetic, prepared to explain what it means.
Activity 9: “Personal + Professional” round-robin.
As a rule of thumb, the easiest way to get your employees connected and engaged in any morning meeting is the personal + professional round-robin. In no more than one to two sentences each, give a personal and professional update.
A personal update may be that your daughter just completed her first piano recital, while your professional update may be that you just got back from a conference that inspired you to want to try public speaking.
Keeping your employees connected improves teamwork and collaboration, as well as making conflict resolution easier. As difficult as it is to manage teams, it’s important to remember that we are also managing (and inspiring) humans.
Don’t forget the 3 Ps when you’re planning your morning meetings.
Positivity, productivity, and personality. Foster connection and enjoyment in your employees, hold their focus and value their time, and most of all: make your next morning meeting inspire its attendees for the rest of the day.