Specials and Promotions
New call-to-action
Specials and Promotions
New call-to-action
Specials and Promotions
New call-to-action
Specials and Promotions
New call-to-action
Back to Insights

6 Steps for Creative and Collaborative Meetings

New Project Manager - 5 Tips for a Good Start

Troy King, Principal Consultant of Change Management at MetaPM, shares 6 steps for creative and collaborative meetings. Originally shared on Troy's LinkedIn page, June 15, 2023.


Hey there, I'm Troy, the Principal Consultant of Change Management at MetaPM. I have had the privilege of working with MetaPM for seven years and in this current role since July 2022.

As a senior team member, my professional journey has led to a proven track record of delivering Agile Change across a variety of disciplines, including program management, change leadership, facilitation, training, strategic planning, project management, business development, marketing, process and technical architecture, technical infrastructure, software deployment and technical support.

Having garnered such exposure over the years, I now own a well-balanced understanding of all organisations and an intuitive ability to find the best in people, business processes and technology.

I also have a passion for neuroscience, particularly in leadership–snippets will surely pop up as you read my tips ahead. And if there is anything I’ve learnt, it’s that,

“Brains are weird, and humans are messy.”

So, to enjoy a creative and collaborative meeting, we must understand them.

The Neuroscience Behind Effective Meetings

Every individual's brain functions differently, and tailoring meetings to accommodate different thinking styles and preferences can enhance overall effectiveness. Applying neuroscience principles alongside effective communication, organisation, and facilitation skills can optimise meeting outcomes and promote collaboration.

If we are going to enjoy creative and collaborative meetings, my approach would be to start with the ABCDE model—let me share it with you.

Before I begin, I want to reiterate the value of engaging in small talk at the beginning of a meeting. How the meeting starts sets the tone! Be on time, be calm, be in control, and be human! It might sound simple, but showing interest and creating common ground with small talk invokes In-Group Bias in the brain, establishing trust right from the start.

For instance, if I were to start a meeting with, “Okay. We've got an agenda, and I need you to pay attention. Close your laptops, and let’s get started.” It’s a very different experience from “Hey, how are the kids going? Or how was your holiday? You'll have to show me some photos later.” Followed by, “Hey, we've got a lot to get through today. I really value your feedback and experience on this because of the impacts on your area, so we need your help to get it right.”

Although there are two starts to the meeting, the latter is a brain-friendly way of kicking the meeting off, giving you a greater chance of creating a cohesive group willing to be creative and share their ideas because a circle of trust has been established. From here, become attuned to the room by watching body language, facial expressions, and vocal tones and cues, understanding that it's much harder to do in an online meeting world.



The ABCDE Model

A | Attune to the Room

Be on the lookout for social domain triggers, facial expressions, verbal tones and cues, and body language. Tap into the superpower of cognitive empathy and read if those reactions need to be followed up in the meeting or in private.

B | Be Curious

Ask exploratory questions. Listen intently and with attention and focus. If you recognise limbic arousal while you’re attuned to the room, then respectfully ask for, and explore feedback.

C | Celebrate Questions

Great collaboration and ideas halt if we dismiss a question or opposing view. This creates a threatening response in those asking the question. Diversity in thinking and ideas gain better results! Celebrate it!

D | Divergent and Convergent

Encourage your team to examine all sides, maybe create time boxes to examine multiple solutions divergently, and then convergently narrow down which possibilities are realistically workable.

E | Experiment in Role Play

Once you’ve narrowed down the possible solutions, test the theory in practice. Examine if there are any gaps or unforeseen broader impacts that the change could make. Rely on the collective knowledge and experience in the room.

Key Principles

Highly effective meetings involve a combination of factors, including clear communication, active engagement, and a focus on achieving desired outcomes.

While neuroscience can provide insights into how the brain functions during meetings, it's important to note that a variety of factors beyond neuroscience alone influence the effectiveness of meetings.

However, understanding some fundamental principles from neuroscience can help optimise meeting dynamics. Here are a few neuroscience-based considerations for highly effective meetings:

Purpose and Goal Setting

Clearly defining the purpose and goals of a meeting is crucial. Neurologically, our brains are wired to seek clarity and meaning. When participants understand the purpose and desired outcomes, their brains can better engage and focus on the tasks.

Attention and Engagement

The brain is likelier to engage and pay attention when information is compelling and relevant. Meetings should incorporate techniques to capture and maintain participants' attention, such as interactive discussions, visual aids, and relevant examples. Breaking the meeting into shorter segments with breaks can also help sustain attention.

Emotional Connection

Neuroscience tells us that emotions play a significant role in decision-making and memory formation. Creating an environment that fosters positive emotions, trust, and psychological safety can enhance collaboration and creativity during meetings. Encouraging open and respectful communication can help establish such an environment.

Cognitive Load Management

The brain has limited cognitive resources, and overloaded meetings can hinder effective decision-making and problem-solving. It's essential to manage the cognitive load by structuring the meeting agenda logically and in an organised manner. Breaking down complex tasks into smaller, manageable steps allows participants to process better and retain information.

Active Participation

Neuroscience research suggests that active participation improves learning and retention. Encourage participants to contribute ideas, ask questions, and engage in discussions. This activates their brain's neural networks associated with learning and promotes a sense of ownership and commitment to meeting outcomes.

Feedback and Reinforcement

The brain thrives on feedback and reinforcement. During meetings, provide constructive feedback, acknowledge contributions, and celebrate achievements. Positive reinforcement activates the brain's reward system, releasing dopamine, which enhances motivation and engagement.

Mindfulness and Stress Management

Neuroscience demonstrates that stress negatively impacts cognitive functions and decision-making. Incorporating mindfulness techniques, such as brief relaxation exercises or moments of reflection, can help reduce stress levels and improve participants' focus and well-being.

Final Thoughts

Building a psychologically safe environment is the most important thing about a creative meeting. We might not necessarily have that within the culture of the organisation that we're in, but as facilitators of the meeting, we can create little pockets of psychological safety. We do this by getting to know our stakeholders and building trust, even by having coffee beforehand.

If you are pursuing a culture that supports development, facilitates success and moves the industry forward, then MetaPM is where you need to be.

MetaPM was founded in 2006 by a group of management experts with a vision to do project consulting in the best way possible. In 2022, they joined MI-GSO | PCUBED, a world-leading PMO & Project Management Consulting group.

Kickstart your career with the best project management courses on offer.

Weekly Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter today to keep up to date on what’s happening.