How To Run A Kickass Team Strategy Meeting
One of the most significant parts of marketing your brand and company effectively is knowing when and how to pull the trigger on a strategy session and bring your team together to hash out the details and brainstorm. Too often at work, we get into a monotonous cycle where little thought was given into the higher purpose of our work, and instead, we find ourselves checking off tasks and moving on to the next thing where--big surprise--we repeat the cycle!
I have worked for two marketing agencies, before owning my firm, and am familiar with the immense variability in shape of team strategy meetings. Some sessions succeed amazingly to inspire and produce wonderfully creative work, and some crash and burn (I have been guilty of leading a few of the ‘crash-and-burners’). The differences between team (or stakeholder) strategy sessions that kickass versus ones that, well, suck is the purpose of this blog post.
Our goal at Summary Content Marketing is to elevate the industry and help others who are looking to find new and creative ways to improve their brand’s marketing do just that. So without further comment or reflection, here’s my secret formula on how to run a kickass team strategy meeting.
ONE: Diversity Is Your Friend
If you are in a leadership position on a team or are the owner of a company, it may seem like asking for disaster to bring too many people into a conversation about strategy. Moreover, in some ways, you are correct in your thinking (see point number four). However, if your group is not diverse--meaning that the representatives in the meeting not to reflect the full picture of the brand you are strategizing for--your session will fail. For example: If the marketing team for a new Kombucha company, that is growing, meets to discuss marketing needs in two new regions it would be folly not to include the company representative(s) in charge of the area. Your team won’t necessarily know any of the nuances that go on in that region--nuances that could make or break a marketing campaign. Moral of the story: make sure you have equal representation across your company departments in team strategy sessions so that a big oops doesn’t get made just because the right person wasn’t in the room.
TWO: Relocate, Unplug and Dig In
Probably the most relevant tip for seeing positive results come out of your next strategy session, getting out of your company box is critical for success. It may seem silly, too expensive or too time-consuming to take your team out of the office for strategy planning, but of the many sessions I have attended, the most fun, comfortable and productive strategy meetings have been away from the office environment where the attendees work--this means ALL attendees. If you are the marketing firm, having the session at your client’s office is NOT A GOOD PLAN. If you are a part of a big team in a more prominent company, using the company conference room will not produce the best results. Why? It’s common sense. If you work in a place day in and day out, then suddenly are asked to put everything down and ‘get creative’ + ‘strategize for results,’ changing gears doesn’t happen easily. If you have a strategy session in your work environment, your attendees will be half engaged--email, or their next meeting, or the tasks they are missing by being in your meeting will dominate the mood, making it hard to see the big picture. On that note: Another benefit of being off-site is that computers will not be there. So, if your team is entirely dominated by laptop-time at work, leave them behind. You need all the ‘real life’ creative power you can get. Not half-assed attention. Get my drift?
THREE: Use An Ice Breaker
I promise this is not as silly and overdone as it sounds. Let me say that, Icebreakers. Work. They do! Keep in mind that most of the time in a strategy session, you’re working with clients and vendors who don’t know each other well or a team that may see each other every day, but in a work environment--riddled with politics, attitudes, and deadlines. Finding a simple icebreaker to kick off your meeting will put the whole group at ease. Then you can get into the real work of creating a fun, practical and productive strategy session. Here’s a fun blog with lots of icebreaker options for your next meeting.
FOUR: Choose Your People With Care
Not to contradict tip number one: You need a diverse group, not a large group. There is a difference. If you’ve worked in corporate long enough, then you’ve likely heard the saying ‘don’t make decisions by committee.’ That’s why you need to choose your attendees for any strategy session with great care. 1) Make sure the group you choose doesn’t include two or more people who dislike each other or another weird dynamic. 2) Try only to have one representative from each department or company in attendance (you don’t need three copywriters or four attendees from the same team--unless they provide very different points of view.
FIVE: Overplanning Will Overwhelm
You may think that having a lengthy and detailed agenda for the meeting, with tons of detailed questions and activities, will be inspirational for the group. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it won’t. Generally, teams or groups dread these types of meetings for a few reasons. For one, often team strategy sessions are overplanned and too exhausting to be enjoyable. There’s a balance where you can keep your team’s attention, maintain direction during the meeting and produce results. The other reason overplanning is a recipe for disaster is that it allows for ‘egotistical takeovers’ to happen. If you’re shaking your head ‘hell yes!’ right now, then you’ve been in a meeting where one of the team members takes over and dominates the conversation throughout with their two cents, not allowing any other attendees to contribute. No strategy session is complete without one of these a-holes, but if the a-hole is in a leadership position, they create a one-sided conversation--not a good recipe for group strategy planning.
SIX: Invest In The Outcome
Most of us go into creating a strategy with some predisposed idea of what we want the outcome to be. However, sometimes the group discovers a plan for success that is entirely out of whack with our own (individual) sensibilities. Whether you’re on a team and just contributing to a strategic planning meeting, or putting together the meeting yourself, try to go into it with a bright and open mind. Some of the best marketing projects I have had the pleasure of working on have taken weird twists and turns along the way, and developed into something different than I had initially envisioned--an outcome that was much better. If your approach to strategy development is open, the result will be that much more rewarding.
Most importantly and above all else, have fun! If you’re not humorous about the process, what’s the point!
Lis Thomas, Chief Decider