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Top 6 tips to screw business meetings as usual

Really liked these ideas posted by Richard Branson on LinkedIn about making meetings different and more interesting.  I particularly like the last point about the over-reliance on Powerpoint – every day I see people using slides as a script and the energy is just sucked out of the meeting as soon as the slideshow goes on. Whilst we may not all be able to go to Necker Island, we can apply the same ideas within our own environments and budgets!

‘Meetings are an important part of any business, but they are not always the best use of everybody’s time and effort. I have never worked out of a traditional office, and always try to find ways to freshen meetings up. Recently we held Necker Meets Oxford, a Virgin Unite leadership gathering that took a different approach to talking about business. Here are five tips for screwing business meetings as usual:

1. Step away from the usual weekly agenda and set an inspiring theme.

At Necker Meets Oxford, the theme was Solutions for the Future of People and Planet – a bit different from a usual Monday morning! Our aim was to generate discussion to find innovative, entrepreneurial solutions to the world’s toughest challenges.

2. Bring together a diverse mix people to broaden discussion.

Convening what might seem an unlikely bunch can really get the ideas flowing. For instance, at our recent gathering we had an investment banker, yoga practitioner, Silicon Valley consultant and the co-founder Wahoo’s Fish Taco to name a few. I always find that these eclectic groups lead to great discussions.

3. Engage thought-provoking speakers to spark ideas and generate debate.

We were lucky enough to partner with a great organisation, the Oxford Martin School, for Necker Meets Oxford, bringing together an amazing line up of speakers: Ian Goldin, who heads the Oxford Martin School, Oxford scholar Charles Godfray, Astronomer Chris Lintott (the new face of the BBC series The Sky at Night), Sonia Trigueros of the Oxford Nanotechnology Programme and Kathy Wills, who chairs the Biodiversity Institute at Oxford. From the challenge of feeding a planet of 10 billion people to the wonders of nanotechnology and the advances in medicine, the variety of speakers really got the group and me thinking in new, exploratory ways.

4. A great destination – lose the laptops and say bye to the tie.

A change of scenery and a bit of fun does wonders for getting people thinking differently and loosening up! I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to invite people to Necker Island – we sometimes take things to the pool… But wherever you are, be innovative with your space. Try a stand-up meeting, or leave the desks and head to the park. Get out of your everyday environment.

5. Surprise the group with something special.

At Necker Meets Oxford we surprised guests with acclaimed singer songwriter Morley, who wowed guests with her unique blend of jazz, folk and soul. A real treat and something out of the ordinary to reflect what was a great meeting of minds. A little thinking outside the box goes a long way in my view.

6. Ban slide presentations!

In my opinion Powerpoint slides with long lists of what you’re talking about should be banned. They are used as a prop by the speaker – if they need reminding of what they’re speaking about they can have it on a laptop in front of them. There a few thing worse than watching someone talk through a long list of Powerpoint’s. On the other hand short videos and photos bring a talk to life.’

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