Innovative Meetings: How Innovation Connects Remote and In-Office Employees

Innovative Meetings: How Innovation Connects Remote and In-Office Employees

By Vitiello Communications Group

Kick start your innovation program with an innovative meeting. That’s what Vitiello Communications Group (VTLO) did in January, and we’re already reaping the benefits.

A meeting, you groan. Yes, but not your run-of-the-mill, sit-around-the-conference-table kind of meeting. Those have their place, but VTLO’s 2018 kickoff meeting was something different.

But—since you groaned—let’s talk about meetings in general for a moment. They can be a tricky topic among employees, especially in organizations with remote work forces. And in 2018, almost every company has some component of a remote work force. As communicators, we need to be sure these folks as well as the ones sitting in our offices are getting our messages.

Employees have a love-hate relationship with meetings. Some relish the chance to collaborate with their colleagues and learn more about the direction of the business, and others cringe at the thought of interrupting their work, especially if they feel the information from the meeting takes lower priority. Meetings are an investment of everyone’s time and the business’ resources, so smart business leaders and great employees make the most of every minute. Here are some quick tips on holding great meetings. 1) Always have an agenda and stick to it. Off-topic items should be noted and followed up afterward; 2) Start your meeting on time every time. Ask the latecomers to take responsibility for catching up later; don’t rehash what you just went over; 3) Seek input from everyone and don’t let the vocal few take charge; 4) Before ending the meeting, take a few minutes to summarize key decisions and action items; and 5) End your meeting on time, or better yet, early.

Meetings are unlikely to be completely replaced with other methods of communication and that’s a good thing. A well-run meeting can engage employees, reinforce company culture, and is still one of the most effective ways to keep your workforce—remote and on site—tuned into the business.

Feel a little better about meetings? Now, on to innovation.

“Creativity” and “innovation” are becoming buzzwords, but as long as you can define what they mean for your company and your employees, they provide the lifeblood of a continually growing and thriving organization. To jumpstart our year of #GoBig, #BeBold and #ActBrave, VTLO hosted a meeting unlike any we’ve had before. We ditched the standard “here are our numbers from last year and our goals for this year” PowerPoint. Instead, everyone got a visually appealing VTLO annual report with that information. CEO Jill Vitiello set the tone for the day by telling the “VTLO story” that encompassed where we were and where we intend to go—no deck, no bullet points, just a compelling narrative from the person who started it all.

Speeches were replaced with a panel comprised of the new management team fielding questions, followed by a demonstration on how the new structure will benefit the team using hands-on activities. Our two millennial-aged marketing employees infused the group with energy in a talk about industry trends, social media and how VTLO is applying best practices in these areas. It was intentional to include these newer team members in the line-up of this important meeting. A Gallup poll shows 87 percent of millennials say professional development or career growth opportunities are very important to them, yet according to a study by Deloitte, 63 percent of millennials say their leadership skills are not being fully developed. Providing opportunities to lead may decrease the likelihood that your employees feel underdeveloped and increase the possibility that your next CEO or senior leader is currently on staff.

This more relaxed approach to our annual planning meeting gave the team lots of opportunities to interact. It also set the stage for what came next. The showstopper arrived in the form of an improvisational comedy troupe that led the team through out-of-our-comfort-zone activities with insights that apply to our careers as business communicators. Games with imaginary balls, dirty tissues and sleeping babies reinforced the idea that how you deliver and receive a message is as important as the message itself. An unusual exercise requiring team members to alter their appearances taught us that change doesn’t always have to mean losing things. And a classic improv sketch showed that thinking quickly and confidently is a vital skill we’ve already mastered.

While the all-day meeting was fun on lots of levels, the more important aspect is what “sticks” and is leading to innovation possibilities. Here’s what we got from this one meeting when we made innovation—and not just information exchange—the focus:

  • We’re all in. Every VTLO team member was in the room and fully engaged. For our mostly remote work force, this was big. Some were meeting for the first time, others reconnecting. Ideas were born and plans to grow them were popping up everywhere we looked.
  • We’re telling the stories. Not only are we still laughing about our improv experiences, the lessons learned from them are taking on a life as an applicable resource on our intranet and in our client discussions.
  • We’re #Going Big, #Being Bold and #Acting Brave. This theme fueled our meeting. It added to the fun aspect and is now our innovation mantra. We know what innovation means at VTLO and we’re on the look-out for big and small ways to bring it this year.

Sure, not every meeting can get all employees in a room focusing on innovation and growth. Not every meeting, even a good one, is going to be a mountaintop experience. But we can all commit to engaging employees by investing in their creativity, innovation and knowledge in almost every situation. Provide the opportunities and permission to innovate and see what happens.

For more information on how VTLO can improve your business’ communications and bring innovation to your teams, email info@vtlo.com or call 732-238-6622.

  • Mike Vitiello

    Great info. Agree with having an agenda, and start on time!

  • Brian Keefer

    Great article. Love the tips for great meetings. Re-starting meetings to accommodate late-comers is a pet peeve of mine. I also appreciate the idea to hear from everybody — I’ve learned simple techniques that can help ensure every voice is heard in a meeting.

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