SALT is exploring the idea of Creative Meetings for your team, so we asked 3 people in our community to give us their insight on how they like to conduct a creative meeting. Honestly we have done Creative Meetings several different ways and there isn’t a “right” way to do them. This topic is relative to what people you have access to and what you are hoping to accomplish.
We continue this series with Colette Taylor. Colette has worked with ReThink as their executive production director (Orange Conference) she has also worked with Catalyst Conference. If you haven’t read part 1 make sure to check it out.
I remember my first creative meeting. I walked into North Point Community Church having no idea what to expect. I liked to create, I thought, this shouldn’t be too hard. It didn’t take long for me to discover “creative” and “meeting” can mean many different things.
I quickly learned that a creative meeting is only as effective as its facilitator. Luckily, my first creative meeting had an excellent facilitator, Reggie Joiner. He had a strong vision for the event that he championed from start to finish. Reggie effortlessly juggled a diverse mix of ideas, somehow validating everyone’s thoughts from good to great to downright awful. And believe me, most of those awful ideas were mine (I took the phrase “there are no bad ideas” pretty seriously). Regardless, Reggie made sure nobody left feeling inadequate or insecure. He took numerous mediocre ideas and pushed us one step further towards our best ideas yet.
Since then, I’ve participated in countless creative meetings centered around planning events, designing family environments, organizing staff retreats and creating camps from scratch. Some made two hours feel like two minutes, and others left me wishing someone would set off the fire alarm so we’d have to evacuate and end early. Hopefully, these suggestions will allow you to successfully facilitate your next creative meeting without having to pull the fire alarm.
First, let’s bust the myth that every creative meeting must have dozens of people to come up with endless ideas. In reality, too many people can actually hinder the process in a couple of ways:
- More people, more distractions
- More people, more side conversations
- More people, more talking over each other
- More people, more snacks to provide
How Many is Too Many?
There’s no definitive answer to this, however, my advice is to start with six or eight. You can even schedule a few meetings with different numbers and find your sweet spot. Bonus tip: I’ve discovered that it is a good practice to invite people to attend one or two creative meetings (although, you may have 12 scheduled). That way, you don’t have to awkwardly un-invite people if you realize it’s too many.
Who Should Participate?
Not everyone on your staff needs to take part. The beauty of working on a team is that everyone has different strengths. Some people would rather run across hot coals than to partake in a creative meeting. These are concrete thinkers who find brainstorming painfully tedious compared to the to-do list on their desk. Others are more “realistic” couldn’t stand to discuss how to get a camel through the front doors for the Christmas story.
Ideally, you want to invite people who are flexible with their ideas and understand that creativity is a process. They’re comfortable with knowing their thoughts may not see the finish line, but instead may be used to help shape the best idea to put into production.
Don’t be afraid to look outside of your department to invite. Remember my first creative meeting I mentioned earlier? It was for a program at North Point Community Church for a program called KidStuf. I wasn’t a staff member, I was simply a mom with two kids the age KidStuf catered to. That meeting also included two other moms, a stage host, an actor and a worship leader. Everyone came with a different personalities, talents and perspectives, but we came together to create an incredible family experience.
So you’ve got your first few creative meetings on the calendar and a handful of diverse thinkers invited. What’s next?
It’s important to be intentional about the space you hold your creative meeting in. Choose an environment that is warm and inviting; something with windows is always a plus. Allow it to be relaxing and fun.
If you’re thinking, “Well, none of our spaces fit this description,” don’t fret. You can always make it playful by bringing in a few extra materials for people to engage with. For example, cover the table with craft paper, toss crayons in the center to encourage people to loosen up and freely share their ideas. At our creative meetings, we like to use storyboards and multicolored index cards. A whiteboard works great for this same purpose, too.
Define the Meeting
While it may sound trivial, defining the kind of creative meeting at the beginning is one of the most important things you can do. This gives the attendees clear direction on what is to be accomplished. Planning any event or series will require several different kinds of creative meetings. Here are a few examples:
Blue Sky Meetings
A “blue sky” meeting encourages any and all ideas. This is the time to brainstorm broad ideas freely without concerning the group with budgets or space limitations.
Your next step is to hold decision-making meetings where you and your team narrow down the previously brainstormed options. This is where it is important to consider location, facility, or budget limitations to help you eliminate unreasonable ideas and land on the best game plan.
Now that the ideas have been brainstormed and decisions have been made, it is time to take action. This is the point where you can schedule follow-up meetings as necessary to examine everyone’s progress.
Defining the meeting makes a big difference. You don’t want to discuss action steps at a blue sky meeting or develop outlandish new ideas at an action meeting.
Guard the Focus
“Focus? What does that do for creativity?” Believe it or not, focus fuels creativity. Therefore, it is important to start with clearly defining your goal for the creative meeting and writing it somewhere everyone can see. Doing so provides creative direction that will prevent you and your team from wasting creative energy on irrelevant ideas.
Some advocate for the mantra “anything goes” in a creative meeting, but creativity without focus can lead to confusion. The most effective meetings find a balance between relaxed brainstorming while holding enough order that even ideas you don’t use are worth keeping. This doesn’t mean you can’t chase rabbits in creative meetings. Focus just means you’ll only chase the kinds of rabbits that lead you down the right path. An effective facilitator is one that can guard the focus while encouraging an organic flow of ideas.
Capture the Ideas
You’d be surprised by how much you can miss if no one is taking thorough notes in a creative meeting. To avoid this, recruit two notetakers, one to take detailed notes on paper or laptop and another to write and organize the ideas on index cards or a whiteboard. The goal is to make sure no idea is missed, lost or forgotten. Besides, it is pretty entertaining to read the notes later. You’ll wonder why you even considered flying someone into the ceiling to represent Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
Debrief Next Steps
The event is over, but you’re not off the hook yet. There’s one step: a debrief meeting to celebrate the successes and discuss what could be improved. While it may seem contradictory, be sure to keep things positive as you talk through what went wrong. Avoid playing the blame game or beating something to death. Instead, encourage your team to brainstorm solutions if something didn’t go the way you planned. Whether everything went perfectly right or terribly wrong, in the end, you probably impacted someone’s life through the hard work your team put into the project.
Yes, the creative process can be a little overwhelming. But remember this: the God who CREATED all, including you, has called and equipped you to create in order to bring others to Him. There’s no better reason than that to dream up the very best ideas for your church.