Holding Company Event Space

The Holding Co. Event Space in Los Angeles

When planning an event, a venue shouldn't be a yes-or-no checkbox on a to-do list. More than a simple roof over the heads of your guests, it sets the stage for the atmosphere you're attempting to create, and can entice donors to produce their wallets and attendees to enjoy themselves just as much as music or food selection. With all the variables at hand, however, finding the right fit can make even the most seasoned event organizer feel a little like Goldilocks -- this hall's too big, this kitchen is too small, these walls are too...purple. Here are five of the most important considerations to keep in mind when selecting your venue:

1.Location, location, location.

It's as true a saying for events as it is for real estate sales -- find the right spot and "they" will come. The Club Bar and Grill in Manhattan, for instance, is more than simply easily accessible -- it's located in the iconic Madison Square Garden atop Penn Station. No matter if your guests are traveling via train, bus, or light rail from the nearby New York airports, they'll be able to find and access your event space easily, minimizing lost attendees and late arrivals. Consider when and where your guests will be arriving from and pick a venue that makes it a simple journey. If it's difficult to bring a car along, the building is hard to find, or parking is scarce, your attendance numbers may suffer accordingly.

2. Take a walk in your guests' shoes.

There is generally a flow of movement at an event space, and if you're already aware of what tables the caterers will need or how many square feet the entertainment requires, you're well on your way to marking it out. Walk through -- either physically or mentally -- your potential venue space and consider the experience you're offering. Will there be a traffic jam at the buffet table? Are the bathrooms easy to locate? If an event space is too crowded or has an odd layout, the memories your guests will leave with won't be pleasant. Choose a venue that not only comfortably holds your guest list, but allows the attendees to mingle without jostling and dodging one another.

3. Shed some light on the situation.

All too often, a carefully planned event has gone awry when organizers fail to consider the outlets, cords, power capabilities and other utilities they need. Your event space should be able to provide you with information about available outlets, existing lighting structures, and even audio/visual capabilities. Explain your requirements to your potential venue and ensure there's not a mismatch between your expectations and their reality.

4. Research the entry points.

Some events require elaborate displays, large catering creations, or other unusually large items. Ask about loading docks, clearance heights, and the availability of drive-up unloading to make sure that all of your event materials can get inside without the need to dismantle them. If you plan on having a coat check, ticket taker, or ID verification stations, this would also be a good time to consider where they'd go.

5. Know the policy on refunds and culpability.

While events should go smoothly in an ideal world, the fact remains that sometimes unforeseen circumstances arise. If your headlining entertainment cancels at the last minute or a natural disaster wreaks havoc on your chosen site's town, knowing your options for backing out ahead of time will prove invaluable. A trustworthy venue will have these circumstances outlined in their contract, empowering you to make the tough decisions in an informed way if issues should prevent your event from proceeding as scheduled.

You know that your event is an important one, so choosing a venue that shares that belief will bring you that much closer to a memorable gala. Ask the tough questions, compare and contrast, and use these tips to weed out venues that don't suit your needs -- the success of your event might just depend on it

Somewhere out there is the perfect mobile app for your event. Do a few searches on Google and you'll find that there more than a dozen of them.

Before you decide to give up and start flipping coins we thought we'd help you out a bit with your decision. Chances are you're not looking for an app that does everything competently, but rather an app that does one thing really well. So we at eVenues reached out to the CEOs and marketing executives of the mobile apps companies and asked them two simple questions:

  • 1. What is the one feature that event planners will find most attractive?
  • 2. What is the one feature that attendees will find most attractive?

To ensure we didn't get a novel back from our respondents, we asked them to keep their answers down to 2-3 sentences. Also, to help you navigate through this rather long list, we took the liberty of highlighting the interesting and unique details in bold text.

Behold, the apps! (in no particular order):


Event Planners Will Like:

"The feature that event planners appreciate most about Guidebook is its simplicity. Guidebook has a really easy to use content management system, and a great customer support team that actually knows the events industry. This means that event planners can give us their information and forget about it. This is a rare quality in the mobile apps space (especially rare given Guidebook's low price).

Attendees Will Like:

"As far as attendees are concerned, most event apps offer the same features (schedules, exhibitor listings, social media, etc.). What really distinguishes Guidebook is the user interface. Guidebook has a clean, intuitive design, and almost everything works lightening fast without need for Wifi. Other apps are dependent on a constant internet connection, as well as being confusing and prone to crashes." 

--Alan Blank, Director of Marketing at Guidebook Inc.

Check Out Guidebook



Event Planners Will Like:

"As DoubleDutch is geared primarily towards enterprise grade events, our event planners tend to appreciate our platform's scalability and enterprise class security.  Our sweet spot for customers are those that throw between 10-500 events per year.  Our platform is all about helping event planners create fluid event apps that live on throughout the year creating ongoing, mobile communities."

Attendees Will Like:

"From an end user perspective, it's DoubleDutch's social functionality that really sets it apart.  From activity feeds, to "people matching," to points based leaderboards and achievement badges, the DoubleDutch platform provides numerous ways for attendees to connect with other people."

 --Lawrence Coburn, CEO at DoubleDutch

Check Out DoubleDutch 


EventBoard by Falafel Software

Event Planners Will Like:

"Event planners love our low cost model. No need to pay an arm and a leg every year to create or update your own application.  With EventBoard, all of the new bells and whistles are included for one tiny event fee and the first time you use the application it is completely free."

Attendees Will Like:

Attendees enjoy the intuitive layout of EventBoard. As a native application for multiple platforms, EventBoard looks and feels like it belongs on each device. No need to wade through countless screens and learn new menu systems,  EventBoard gets right to the heart of things letting attendees immediately start planning their day, getting news and alerts, viewing maps and providing feedback.

 --Mike Dugan, Director of Marketing at Falafel Software Inc.

Check Out EventBoard



Event Planners Will Like:

"KitApps offers a do-it-yourself solution that's very intuitive and takes as little as 30 minutes to complete.  Because KitApps is a do-it-yourself product you get iPhone, Android and a Web App versions all for only $249 and event planners are in total control of content updates.  If you have a last minute schedule or speaker change you can push new content to phones instantly without having to get developers involved."

Attendees Will Like:

"Attendees appreciate the simplicity of the app, it offers all the key features they need to navigate an event (schedule, speaker & sponsor profiles, maps, twitter feeds, etc).  All the functionality in the app is accessible from one convenient home screen and users can create personalized schedules and set reminders for key sessions."

 --Michael Balyasny, Co-Founder at KitApps

Check Out KitApps



Event Planners Will Like:

"So easy to get - and keep! ShowGizmo is available on all major device platforms AND there's a mobile web version (that works offline too) so everyone can get the event in their hand - and if they go to another show that's using ShowGizmo, they simply switch to that event within ShowGizmo without having to clutter their phone with more apps."

Attendees Will Like:

"ShowGizmo provides the 'swiss army knife' approach - all the tools and options you need for your all your events in one app template, with the ability to turn on and off features at any time."

 --Josh Dry, Marketing Consultant at ShowGizmo

Check Out ShowGizmo


“What's On?” by Triqle

Event Planners Will Like:

"“What's On?” is the most efficient way to publish information to all your attendees. In a single click your event program is published in real-time to any device with an internet connection: laptops, mobile phones, tablets, PDF, social media, screens and whatever might be the hottest device of 2013!"

Attendees Will Like:

"“What's On?” shows only information that is relevant: Attendees can always see at a single glance what is going on now and next. No clicking, no scrolling, no flipping."

--Gerrit Heijkoop, Co-Founder at Triqle Event Intelligence

Check Out "What's On?"



Event Planners Will Like:

"One of the most impressive features of Bloodhound is that it allows exhibitors and attendees to connect with each other in a simple way. For instance, when an attendee wants more information from an exhibitor, they can simply “Request Follow-Up” in the Bloodhound app. Bloodhound will then pass the attendee’s contact info along to the exhibitor as inbound lead generation. New updates to the app also allow exhibitors to scan an attendee’s badge using their mobile device so that information can be collected for follow-up at a later time."

Attendees Will Like:

"Bloodhound allows attendees and exhibitors to leave their business cards at home when they are attending important conferences. The app integrates with both LinkedIn and Facebook so that users are able to see all of the different people they know at the event, and so that they can exchange information with new people when they want to (and don't have to worry about sorting through a pile of new business cards when they return home from the event)."

--Anthony Krumeich, Founder and CEO at Bloodhound

Check Out Bloodhound



Event Planners Will Like:

"E-proDirect's team is comprised of nothing but meeting and event professionals and therefore we have a clear understanding of meeting planner's primary needs especially having the ability to engage and include the maximum number of attendees possible in any initiatives.  With that in mind we have developed our native event app solution to operate on 97% of all smartphones at one affordable price."

Attendees Will Like:

"Based on the feedback from our current clients and their attendees, our intuitive design and easy navigation enhance the attendee's event experience.  EproMeetingApps also allow the attendee the ability to save agenda items and exhibitor/attendee contact information directly to their smartphone's operating systems calendar and contact directory.  This offers the attendees the ability to maintain one calendar and contact directory across multiple devices."

 --Tracy Fairman, CEO at E-ProDirect

Check Out E-ProDirect


Conference Compass

Event Planners Will Like:

"Conference Compass apps are packed with powerful features. But what really makes us stand out from rest is our flexibility and commitment to customize and configure each app to fit the needs and style of each individual client."

Attendees Will Like:

"Our apps have the most comprehensive support for large scientific programs that you can find. It's offline, fast, and very easy to use. It allows attendees to make their personal itinerary and use it as they go."

 --Jelmer van Ast, Founder and Managing Director at Conference Compass

Check Out Conference Compass



Event Planners Will Like:

"One of the biggest standouts for our mobile app (beyond the feature set) is value. Many mobile apps in the industry can cost up to $30,000, but the Pathable mobile web application is included with the cost of every Pathable community. No hidden fees - just an entire event community accessible on every modern mobile device (Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile 7, iPad/iPhone)."

Attendees Will Like:

"The biggest reason attendees are spending money to attend events in person is to network, and Pathable's mobile app helps them do that - on-site and on the go. Attendees can do it all: browse the complete event schedule, view/edit their personal schedule, participate in discussions, schedule private one-to-one or group meetings, view attendee/exhibitor profiles, manage their contact list, send private messages and more."

 --Tara Barnes, Director of Marketing at Pathable

Check Out Pathable


EventPilot by ATIV Software

Event Planners Will Like:

"EventPilot attracts planners through its professionalism which is not only reflected in the design and performance of the app but also through the individual service and support each of our clients receive. At ATIV, we make the process of releasing a branded conference app easy and our dedicated Project Managers guide each client from project start until after the event ends through all customization options and data management. Our dedicated team assists in implementing either direct data synchronization or configures the intuitive CMS so that planners can simply publish last minute changes in seconds themselves."

Attendees Will Like:

"EventPilot apps are the offline Swiss Army Knife for attendees and turn the event program into an educational tool since EventPilot supports unmatched offline PowerPoint presentation slide viewing with slide-based note taking. EventPilot is used by some of the largest healthcare conferences that have complex schedules with over 5,000 sessions and offline searchable abstracts. For attendees, the app simply needs to work at all times and provide instant access to event information, help them plan their schedule, find their way, and easily stay organized with all notes or key learnings."

 --Silke Fleischer, Co-Founder at ATIV Software

Check Out EventPilot



Event Planners Will Like:

"A fully customizable, yet cost-effective solution, of course! With our platform, every client creates custom native apps, branded for their event, with features that match their goals. Event planners can launch games, send out updates and announcements, create surveys to collect feedback... the list goes on."

Attendees Will Like:

"Attendees can take notes, mark 'favorite' items, view handouts, and message other attendees within our apps. With our new Interact module, attendees can find others with similar interests or those that are connections on LinkedIn."

 --Alex Kaplan, VP of Sales and Marketing at MagToGo

Check Out MagToGo


MINT by ITM Mobile
MINT by ITM Mobile

Event Planners Will Like:

"24/7 access to manage content and last minute updates in an intuitive, effective, affordable and easy-to-use tool. Add to this the fact that ITM Mobile provides me as a planner with the option to choose from a "DIY" (do-it-yourself), "Fully Serviced" or "Custom Made" solution in a web-based, Native Hybrid or Off-Line version - and I am sold!"

Attendees Will Like:

"The easy-to -use and intuitive navigation that allows attendees to find what they are looking for when they need it. Everything from Agenda to Speakers, Destination and Venue information, links to Exhibitors and Sponsors, plus unique added features such as Auto-Match puts everything I need readily available at ones fingertips."

 --Ita Grossman, CEO of ITM Mobile

Check Out MINT



Event Planners Will Like:

"Fully self service: event planners will find the no barriers entry level most attractive. No development project, no salesmen on the phone, just create an event, enter the content and that's it!"

Attendees Will Like:

"Simple, simple, just what they need: the who, what, where and when information about the event, without all the bells and whistles. "

 --Derrick Stomp, Co-founder at Twoppy

Check Out Twoppy



Event Planners Will Like:

"The TapWalk platform allows you to create exactly the app you need because it is endlessly customizable, configurable, and extendable.  The admin site allows you to assemble your custom app from a wide range of existing plug-and-play components (indoor & outdoor maps, schedules, news, registration, favorites, QRC scanning, social media integration, RSS feeds, scavenger hunts, etc).  The architecture also supports custom extensions to support any feature you can dream of and an API to support integration with other systems."

Attendees Will Like:

"Pre-planning with the app before the show is important.  Being more efficient and effective during the show is a given.  But, the real money is made after you head home.   Rather than stashing your collection of business cards in a drawer, a TapWalk app allows you to track and then export your notes and reference data - transforming them into leads in your salesforce automation system such as salesforce.com."

 --David Owens, Founder of Tapwalk

Check Out TapWalk


App Baker

Event Planners Will Like:

"The benefit for event planners using AppBaker is the fact that they get a turnkey solution to build their event app fast and inexpensively. The Event Starter Pack, AppBaker's turnkey solution, includes a powerful CMS, the AppBaker Player to test the app on the actual device and easy publishing under their own Developer Account, among others. All an event planner needs to do is add their content and branding."

Attendees Will Like:

"Event apps created with AppBaker's Event Starter Pack include WeLink as a standard feature. WeLink is a powerful, engaging networking tool for attendees. It helps them find and connect with other like-minded people before, during and after the event, by using a variety of search criteria."

 --Artemis Pattichi, PR for AppBaker

Check Out AppBaker


Core Apps

Event Planners Will Like:

"The one feature that event planners love the most after working with us is our customer service. We have many flashy features but helping them get the content into the app and walking them through the process takes a huge burden off the Event Planner. We have also worked with over fifty (50) 3rd party content managent companies and systems."

Attendees Will Like:

"Easy to use dashboard that directs them to all of the exhibitor info, sessions, build their schedule or import it, and a interactive map with navigation."

 --Jay Tokosch, CEO at Core-Apps

Check Out Core-Apps


Know of a product that deserves to be on this list? Feel free to add a description below in the comments!

Creating the perfect Mad Men Space would be difficult, not to mention expensive (the show has over a $25,000 weekly budget for set decorations). If you’re willing to sacrifice a little period authenticity, however,  there are a lot of compromises that you can do to make your space “MadMen-esque” without having to mortgage your kidneys. From the resurgence of cocktails to Banana Republic’s Mad Men Collection, it’s obvious that the show has had a significant influence on contemporary style and culture. Instead of spending your day at the thrift store or cruising ebay, you may be better off stopping by your local retailer and find something that approximates the Mid-Century Modern Style. Of course, you have to know what you’re looking for. Start a collection of 1960s Sears and Montgomery Ward Catalogs, as well as issues of Better Homes and Gardens. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert on the period in no time. Furthermore, you’ll know what to look for when you make that trip down to your local thrift shop.

The Art of Mad Men

If you really want to go all out, you’ll want to decorate your space with art from the period. If you want a comprehensive look at the kind of artwork that gracing the walls of Sterling Cooper’s offices and the homes of their employees look no further than the Art of MadMen Blog. While the art in Mad Men isn’t all from the 60s, a good portion of it reflects the minimalst abstract style that was popular then. While it would probably be prohibitively expensive to get original of minimalist art, it should be easy enough to find prints to give your space that extra touch of authenticity. For inspiration, check out this image gallery. Art pic from: http://papculture.com/2010/08/01/mad-men-op-art-in-roger-sterlings-office/

Sweating the Small Stuff

Of course, it’s not just furniture and art. In order to really make your space evoke the Mad Men period, get old 1960s issues of Life or playboy and set them on the coffee table. In place of a computer or laptop, get yourself an IBM selectric. Also, and this should go without saying, get yourself a nice liquor cabinet and stock it full of gins, whiskeys and vodkas. You don’t have to get these things all at once, but if you’re really intent on bringing the early 1960s back to life, every little bit helps.

Recreating Don Draper's Office

If price isn’t a concern, it might be fun to go all out and see if you can recreate Don Draper’s office to the letter. This can be a challenge because a lot of the set decorations are, according to the set decorator Amy Wells, very rare thrift shop finds, but this list below should be helpful getting you started. (Note: We couldn’t identify everything precisely, so in some instances we gave our best approximations.

1. Time Life Executive Chair 2. Hvidt/Mølgaard-Nielsen FD 146 Chair 3. Office desk - The wooden paneling and metal desk legs are suggestive of Knoll and Steelcase designs of that era. Your best bet would be to do a eBay search for Knoll/Steelcase and use the category filters to limit your search to the correct period. 4.  Boxy Sofa (A reproduction by Futurama Furniture). Pretty cheap when you consider that the comparable Florence Knoll Two Seater runs for close to $10,000! 5. Lounge Chair/Coffee table from Futurama. 6. Crosley Kettle Classic Desk Phone 7. Underwriter’s Laboratory desk lamps come pretty close, they aren’t as fancy as Draper’s desk lamps but at least they’re period appropriate. 8.The orb-like object near the front left corner of the desk  is actually a roulette cigarette dispenser. While you might be hard pressed to find one of those, ebay certainly has plenty of alternatives. Personally, I think this brass world dispenser might give the roulette ball a run for its money. 9. Painting by Michal Shapiro called Butternut. 10. Find something we missed? Feel free to let us know in the comments and we’ll edit the list!

More Inspiration

Need some more inspiration for MadMen-ifying your space? Check out our Mad Men Pinterest Board and be sure to repin the stuff you like!

The concept of a social media war room is simple: You get 10 to 20 of your friends, arm them with laptops, and have them blast your message to as many Internet and media influencers as possible: the twitterati, the blogerati and the linkerati.

Adam Tratt.

The Seattle startup Giant Thinkwell used social media war room tactics to promote their "Mix-and-Match" facebook game, featuring rap legend Sir Mix-A-Lot to great success. In fact, with just a day and some 20 people, they managed to get 9% of all twitter to receive at least one tweet or message about Sir Mix-A-Lot and his game. Not only that, but they managed to increase the number of likes on Mix-A-Lot's fan page from 1,200 likes to over 21,000 likes in one day.

Since eVenues provides a marketplace for event and meeting spaces, we're always looking for stories about new ways to conduct exceptional meetings, and Giant Thinkwell's war is a remarkable example. We sat down with CEO Adam Tratt to learn just what a exactly is a social media war room and got some pointers on how to organize a war room of your own.

Identify your media targets and prepare outreach materials in advance

The most important thing for Thinkwell was to identify their media targets. They segmented media into 5 categories: "local," "tech," "gamer," "music," and "business." They identified journalists and bloggers in those categories who they thought would be interested in the story based on other things they had written.

Says Tratt: "We were looking for scale and so it was journalists and bloggers who would give us that scale." Identifying those individuals, knowing how to find them, knowing where to find them and doing what they could to build a relationship with them in advance was of utmost importance.

Obviously, contacting just a few journalists wasn't enough. As far as media outreach is concerned, "It's more impactful if you're everywhere for one day, than if you're everywhere over the course of a month," says Tratt.

Being everywhere for one day, however, takes manpower. That's where the social media war room came in to. While it takes enough time to contact the top ten gamer blogs. In order to generate some serious buzz, they needed to contact the top 200. You need enough people to man the listening and communications posts. You need to provide them with the right type of ammunition--the right messaging.

"We prepared the materials," says Tratt, "so that if you walked in cold, just as a friend of the company and said, 'put me to work' we could say: 'Here's the release. Here's the messaging. Go tell the story.'"

Here's some sample messaging material (Used for Giant Thinkwell's "Baby Gaga" game launch):https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Y7ftFBH44G0r7ifLYtgoqNy6JuyFQnwdppuFr81LFc4/edit

Find Creative Ways to Reach Top Influencers

"If you're a journalist you get thousands of voicemails a day from people that want to pitch you a story, so you have to break through" says Tratt.

In order to cut through the noise and reach that top tier of media influencer they made customized video messages using Sir Mix-A-Lot. Here's an example of a video they used to reach out to Joel Johnson of Kotaku:

This creative shoutout got them a mention here: http://kotaku.com/5813927/the-time-sir-mix+a+lot-asked-us-to-sign-an-nda

"I know it helps when you've got a Grammy winning rap icon in your corner," says Tratt, "but there are lots of things we could have done without him that may have made a dent." It's all about being creative.

Prepare the War Room

Last but not least, a war room would be nothing without the proper space. Tratt admits that they had a bit of a meltdown in the first part of the day because the room they had chosen only had a single router. They eventually had to move up to a conference room which, although it did have enough bandwidth, was a bit cramped. If he were to do a war room all over again, Tratt says he'd have "a large, open space" with lots of bandwith and as many phone lines as possible. After all, 20 people on laptops streaming audio and video is going to take a little more oomph than a regular day at the office.


As a launch effort, the social media war room was a success. The facebook game featuring Sir-Mix-Lot wasn't. The lesson learned from this was that although the outreach effort was outstanding, people weren't interested in playing the game. This only underscores the fact that even having a brilliant campaign like the social media war room won't necessarily guarantee that people will use your product. If you don't have the buzz, however, you'll never know if your product failed because the product itself wasn't good enough, or not enough people heard about it.

As you can see social media and technology doesn't replace face-to-face meetings, but rather augments them. That's what we thought, however, until we talked to Adam Loving, a developer at BigDoor, the gamification company. Adam has developed a web tool that may replace the social media war room altogether. Stay tuned for the article next week where we talk with Loving about his web tool and see about ways in which his tool does and does not replicate the social media war room dynamics.

Be sure to follow our meeting and event tips facebook page or grab on to our RSS or twitter feed for the next installment!

Psychology of Meetings

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Meetings can be a great way to generate new ideas and solve problems--if they're planned correctly. The problem with many meetings, and a possible reason for why they've built a reputation for being toxic time-sucks, is that the focus has for too long been about the meetings themselves, and not the people in the meetings.

Since meetings are all about people, we thought we'd dig into some of the latest psychological research out on what makes people better at creative problem solving, and how to integrate research findings into practical applications for your meeting plans.

Here are some of the suggestions we came up with:

1. Get Absurd

absurd When the mind is exposed to absurdity (like non-sequitors or poems composed of made-up words) the brain goes into overdrive to find hidden patterns, to make sense of something that fundamentally makes no sense to begin with.

In one study (Proulx & Heine, 2009) a group of psychology students were asked to read a story called "The Country Dentist" based on Franz Kafka's  short story The Country Doctor. The students were separated into two groups. The first group was instructed to read an even more absurd version of the story complete with illustrations that didn't have anything to do with the words on the page, while the other group read a story that actually made more sense than Kafka's original story, complete with illustrations that matched the story scene for scene.

After reading the stories, both groups of students were then given lists with strings of letters (e.g. SDFBIMAAAANDO). Some of these strings had patterns, while some of these strings didn't. Because the students in the first group were forced to find hidden meanings in the strings that weren't there, their minds were "primed" or psychologically conditioned to find hidden patterns in the letter strings. Incredibly, not only did the students in the first group select more strings as having patterns than the second group, but they did so with greater accuracy as well.

Before a meeting or brainstorming session, consider giving everyone a "creativity warm-up" by having them read a nonsense poem like Jabberwocky, one of Kafka's stories, or watch some weird YouTube videos. Also, since the study participants were good at finding hidden patterns, this would be an especially good exercise for those working in fields like data analysis or business intelligence.

2. Use general verbs when presenting problems


If you organize a problem-solving session, chances are that the problem you're trying to solve has been solved before, either by you or by someone else. The problem is that when confronted with a new problem,  people often fail to recall solutions to similar past problems.

A study  done in 1995 (Clement et al, 1995) suggests the reason why people tend to do this is that they get so bogged down by the details of a problem that it seems  unrelated to any problem that might have been solved previously.

They fail to utilize what is called "analogic thinking," a process whereby people draw connections between two similar events (e.g. problem X is similar to problem Y, so we should use a similar solution). An example problem you might tackle in a meeting is "How can we encourage website visitors to stay on our site once they've added an item to their shopping cart?" Because this problem is too specific, it will hinder participants from recalling similar solutions employed in the past. If the problem was rephrased to something more broad like "Why do users leave a website?" oftentimes people come up with many more answers and solutions, many of which can be applicable to your more specific problem. Start broad, then narrow the focus down to specifics.

3. Have meeting participants recall a sad memory while smiling


Research shows that people who recall a sad memory while smiling or people who recall a happy memory while frowning will be more accepting of unconventional ideas (Huang & Gallinsky, 2001). This can be an excellent asset in a brainstorming session, where the objective is to build upon novel ideas, not shoot them down offhand.

In the study, the participants were presented with several words and categories and were asked to judge if the word belonged in each category or not. The subjects who did the sad memory/happy face exercise were much more likely to accept unconventional categorizations  (e.g. a camel is a vehicle, garlic is a vegetable, a telephone is a type of furniture) than those who didn't. The former group was able to think on a more expansive and broad level, while the latter thought thought on a more narrow level. Narrow thinking has its uses, but not in a brainstorm. Consider giving this exercise to your team to help pull them "out of the box".

4. Cupcakes!


Not surprisingly, a good mood is another thing that research has shown to promote expansive thinking (Fredrickson, 2001). If you're planning a brainstorming session see what you can do to foster well-being with your meeting participants.

Despite objections from 9 out of 10 dentists, a surprise delivery of sugary treats just before a meeting can be a great way to put everyone in a good mood. Conversely, bad moods will tend to foster more narrow, analytic thinking. So when you're ready to shoot some holes in the idea list you've generated during a brainstorm, consider doing it on a miserable rainy day. ;)

5. Meet someplace new

The Pine Wine Bar in Seattle

The 106 Pine Wine Bar in Seattle, WA

In 2011 researchers did fMRI brain scans on subjects who experienced "novel" situations (Krebs et al, 2011). Interestingly enough, they found that the portion of the brain activated by novelty (the substantia nigra / ventral tegmental area or SN/VTA to be precise) also resulted in a dopamine release (the brain's pleasure or rewards mechanism). From these observations we can conclude that as humans our brains are conditioned to expect rewards in novel situations. Not only that, but because novelty is so closely associated to pleasure and reward, we are actually more motivated to think in novel way--especially when we encounter novelty.

If you're looking to get new ideas from a meeting, consider meeting somewhere where you haven't met before: An art gallery, or a beautiful hotel boardroom, or coworking space for example. Even a trip over to the nearest park can be enough to get new ideas to flow. If you're looking for more ideas for novel places to meet you can also check out eVenues local lists of meeting spaces. We have a pretty good selection of venues in Seattle, as well as in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and many other cities on the west coast. Shameless plug, yes...but we thought it was appropriate.

What are some other "people focused" ways that you can improve productivity in a meeting?


Smile Photo by Bill Sodeman

Cupcake Photo by lamatin