02/05/2018 10:01 BST | Updated 02/05/2018 11:13 BST

Creative Meeting Styles To Try When Travelling For Work

Up your productivity, free your downtime.

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When you’re travelling for work, you won’t want to spend all day in meetings. So, what if there are better ways than the boardroom to meet with your colleagues?

Business travel is evolving, and there’s an increasing trend towards informal and flexible meetings. From ‘walking meetings’ and ’20 minutes tops’ to wacky ‘conference bikes’, different productivity-boosting meeting styles help keep you sharp and allow you to enjoy more downtime.

After all, you have the benefit of being away from the workplace and experiencing something new. Indeed, a recent survey by Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts asking for the best things about business travel found that 40% of business travellers responded with ‘escaping the office’. No surprises there!

So if your business trips involve simply relocating from one office environment to another then back home, you’re missing a trick. A sizeable 44% responded with ‘working face to face and meeting new people’, so what better way to do this than by embracing some of these innovative meeting styles that can segue into downtime too? You may be surprised by the creativity they unleash.

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Walking meetings

One study by Stanford University showed that walking has a positive effect on creative thinking, so instead of sitting in a meeting room, get outside and brainstorm ideas on foot. Another study points out the creative benefits of free, rather than regimented walking, and to avoid your walking meeting becoming aimless wandering, plan an ultimate destination with some built-in downtime: to a café or park perhaps. Great for team building, fresh air and exercise, walking meetings can generate creative ideas to bring back into the hotel and, ultimately, back to the office.

One note though: ensure you choose a hotel in a central location, as being close to transport links and interesting sites means organising a walking meeting is more simple and exciting than staying in the middle of an industrial estate way out of town. 

Stand-up meetings

The NHS advises that we should sit less and move more, so build some movement into your working day by including stand-up meetings (being mindful, of course, of any team members who are wheelchair users or find standing difficult). A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that ‘sit-down meetings were 34% longer than stand-up meetings, but they produced no better decisions than stand-up meetings’. Because it’s uncomfortable to stay standing for long periods of time, stand-up meetings are naturally shorter – 15 minutes, ideally - and can be used every day to assess accomplishments, clarify tasks and identify obstacles. Stand-up meetings have also been shown to boost excitement about the group creative process as participants become less territorial or defensive without chairs.  

20-minutes tops meetings

Why are TED talks less than 18 minutes long? Neuroscience shows that people can only usefully pay attention for a maximum of 18 minutes, so why not apply that finding to some of your meetings? Crisp, 20-minute meeting slots pare day-to-day business down to the essentials and are ideal for business travel, leaving space for creative thinking and downtime.

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Silent meetings

We all like being heard in meetings, so a silent meeting seems somewhat counter-intuitive. However, in traditional meetings, sometimes not all voices are heard equally. It takes a lot of cognitive energy to listen, speak, interact and think as well. No wonder we’re often exhausted afterwards. With a silent meeting, participants log onto a group instant-messaging platform such as Skype, with no video or audio, and simply follow the thread, typing silently what they have to say. These message threads can be saved. There’s no hierarchy or hesitations, just silence that allows clear thinking and equal participation. And they are ideal for keeping connected with colleagues back in the office when you are on a business trip; no more having to find an empty meeting room, they simply remain at their workspace as they are not disturbing anyone.

Silent start meetings

Recognising that not everyone can prepare in advance for every meeting, the ethos of silent start meetings is to give participants time to read and think quietly. Everyone gets a paper memo at the beginning of the meeting to read in silence and pencil notes: one study by the London School of Economics found that ‘making handwritten notes leads to greater retention of data than if it is typed’. Depending on memo length and complexity of the topic discussed, this may take up to 30 minutes. For the leader, writing the memo is a great way to present a thoughtful narrative; for the participants it gives a clear idea of what is to be discussed, provides direction, minimises misunderstandings and saves time. Once everyone has read the memo and made notes, the spoken meeting can begin.

And as it is silent, you aren’t limited to a meeting room, they can take place in a hotel bar, lobby or even outside.

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Conference bike meetings

If you’re up for something a bit more unusual, a ‘CoBi’ (conference bike) experience may be for you. CoBi’s manufacturer describes it as ‘seven people sitting in a circle around a table and riding a bike’ and it looks like this. CoBis are popping up in cities all over the world, for the simple reasons that they are fun, and feel more like downtime than work. The Google campus has several, and they’re used for moving between sites, team building exercises, brainstorming and even meetings.

Unfortunately, these are in their infancy so not available everywhere, but imagine the team-building opportunities!

Choose a hotel that supports creative meeting styles

It’s essential that your hotel can support your meetings – whatever style you prefer. Whether it’s a meeting for two or a conference for 200, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts have got you covered, with 96 hotels in premium business locations across Europe. With a highly-rated, dedicated Crowne Plaza® Meetings Director to look after all your needs from start to finish, and a wide range of facilities and rooms for all kinds of events, you are free to choose the style of meeting that suits you, your colleagues and your clients.

Crowne Plaza Nottingham

To find out more about how Crowne Plaza is changing the face of modern business travel, or to book a room, visit crowneplaza.com/businessmostly.