5 Creative Ways to Start a Meeting

Otherwise known as BRAINDRAINERS

Jul 15 · 4 min read

The first 3–5 minutes of any meeting I facilitate starts with a Brain Drainer. The term originated from an amazing educator named Dr. Rita Brodnax who I had the pleasure to work within the late ’90s. She taught me in order for people to learn they have to defocus to refocus. Her brain research fueled the ways she presented. She explained the brain acts like a sponge and can only take so much “water” or information. It has to be “squeezed out” to learn something new. She started every meeting differently and was a model of engagement in the classroom and workshop. Some Brain Drainers were less than 30 seconds and some were up to a couple of minutes. Many involved talking to someone.

Here are 5 Creative Ways to start your next meeting that will get people talking — in a good way!

  1. Use a Riddle

When participants came in I handed them a card. The card was one half of a matching pair.

The following message was up on the screen:

Can you figure out what A.A. Milne was referring to in this verse from his “When We Were Very Young” book?

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.“

Find your “card partner” and share your guess!

This required people to get up and move.

2. Move the Venue

Don’t meet in the conference room — meet outside, or at the park or in someone's space which is not the norm. Taking people out of what is exected can generate some new thinking.

3. Personality!

For the last two years, I have asked my teachers to take the 16 Personalities inventory to find out their Myers Brigg letters. It turned out to be a very interesting experience that had a ripple effect I did not expect. This opened up such great conversations for teacher-student relations as well as teacher-teacher relations. People starting approaching conversations differently with certain people based on the conversation at the meeting. We put the letter types up on large posters and they were referenced often! Some teachers even went home and had their spouses take it — then friends when the came over for dinner!

People took the quiz before the meeting and shared their letter configuration and a thought or two about the quiz results. It is not scientific, it is a powerful conversation starter!

4. Games

Take a popular game and play one round. This Brain Drainer is one of my favorites!

TABOO is a word game. A word you are trying to get everyone else to guess is at the top of the card. Below the word are words you are not allowed to say to get the rest of the people to guess.

Cards Against Humanity I have used with selected cards. A black card has a sentence with a blank in it. Participants choose one of the white cards they have picked from the pile to make a funny phrase. Some of these cards can be racy. There is a calmer teacher version available online. When my teachers saw the cards on the table there were lots of “oooh's” and “This is going to be fun/interesting!” with big smiles.

Box of Lies

This is a Jimmy Fallon favorite and mine. For the adults, I put some interesting things in the box but the lies and the descriptions took me a back and everyone was cracking up. They were creative for sure! You also can figure out who can deadpan lie to you or what a tell is!

I challenge teachers to then create a game for their own students based on the Brain Drainer after the meeting is over. Teachers have used the TABOO for class vocabulary and the ways to describe the words get creative. Based on the Box of Lies they had made their own guessing boxes which is great for teaching inferencing. The students liked it so much they made their own without any prompting.

I have used Survivor like games as well. These are a bit more active and can require more room. The competitiveness will come out so be careful!

5. Bring Your Favorite Book

You can vary this idea for whatever kind of meeting it is. It could be the physical item or just a picture. I have done favorite things as an option as well. It allows you know more about the person when they only have to bring one favorite thing. Right now I would probably bring my brown ink fountain pen.

Hopefully, these ideas will get you thinking about a different way to start a meeting and throw your people off in a great way.

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Tammy Breitweiser is a writer and teacher who is a force of nature and woman of honor; seer of nuance; an accidental inspirationalist; a keeper of the little red doors, and a conjurer of everyday magic who is busy writing short stories. A future Minnesotan temporarily hiding in Indiana, her poetry has been published in The Storyteller Magazine and her flash fiction in The Ninja Writers Monthly and Elephants Never. Her essay is published in the I Wrote it Anyway anthology. You can connect with Tammy through Twitter @TLBREIT.

Tammy Breitweiser

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Tammy is force of nature; woman of honor; seer of nuance; ultra runner and ultra reader; & an accidental inspirationalist who writes.

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