Corporate meetings can vary widely. The goals and objectives for an executive VIP meeting differ from those at an annual sales conference. Incentive trips are different still. The openings for injecting creativity are often narrow for corporate meeting professionals, but they don’t have to be.
Nothing impairs the creative planning process more than negative feedback, says Kristin D. Charles, Ph.D., a communications and adult learning expert. She often presents educational sessions on planning and creativity, including a recent one at an MPI-Wisconsin event: “Balancing Creativity and Critical Thinking in Event Planning,” in which she identified the seven steps in the creative planning process. “The first step is being creative and thinking divergently,” she says, coming up with as many ideas as possible without evaluating them.
In all subsequent steps, thinking divergently is key to maintaining the creative approach. Charles finds it essential to identify goals and the vision for your meeting to facilitate the creative planning process. “Ask a ton of questions of all your stakeholders. What do they want the meeting to look like, sound like, and taste like? Get as many ideas as you can, then go through an exercise of narrowing down themes,” she says.
It can be challenging to get people to open up and brainstorm as a team, says Charles. Some people dominate the conversation. Others are critical of ideas, even when it’s been established that there will be no negative feedback. A strong leader must set the tone and be clear about the session’s goals. “Don’t have negative consequences for thinking creatively,” she says. “Someone has to say, ‘We’re going to have fun coming up with the ridiculous stuff we can.’ Then you reward people willing to go out on a limb and come up with crazy ideas.”