Meet up at what you intend to bring up

 A recent presentation-turned-party in a largely vacant shopping plaza. A stark contrast from the typical boardroom setup, this event featured local food and attracted over a hundred people, many of whom had no idea there was even a meeting that night. 

A recent presentation-turned-party in a largely vacant shopping plaza. A stark contrast from the typical boardroom setup, this event featured local food and attracted over a hundred people, many of whom had no idea there was even a meeting that night. 

We collaborate with developers, cities, and neighborhoods who are tirelessly working, oftentimes behind the scenes, to unlock vitality in places that are important to them. One thing that they cannot avoid is meetings. Some, no question, require a small group and a tight agenda to push forward. However, where we have seen most of these initiatives fall apart is the missed opportunity to leverage meetings to become active events that appeal to the greater public. When done best, they strengthen connections between the owner and the community, inform the end result, and, yes, are just flat out more fun.

For example, we were in Troy, Ohio, recently to help the City and developers bring back a 1960s neighborhood shopping center that had gone dark. Rather than holding the important stakeholder meetings off-site, at City Hall, or some other disconnected venue, we went right at the heart of the matter and held the meetings on-site, in the very vacant center we were trying to bring back.

Some takeaways:

  1. Don't call it a meeting
    We all go to more meetings than we care to admit. What you are really trying to do is offer something different. What is more, you can use this "dreaded" meeting to prototype the very experience you're trying to promote in the development proposal. Do not forget the food, music, drinks, and even the entertainment (this does not include the powerpoint!). 
  2. Notices are important, but so is unexpected visibility
    Facebook, fliers, and the like are important tools to get on people's calendars. But what might be more important is positioning your event such that guests discover it more organically. Half the people who came to the Troy meeting were passerbys who saw parked cars and lines of people streaming out doors they had not seen opened in a decade. Curiosity took care of the rest. 
  3. Keep the agenda short
    Sometimes there is a lot to say and the tendency is to try and explain everything in an over-designed powerpoint. Keep it tight and to the point. Remember it is not a meeting but an event. Most of the "presenting" will happen over a beverage or snack in smaller conversations where people feel generally more comfortable speaking their mind anyhow. 

For more tips and guidance on how to transform an ordinary meeting into something more engaging and fun, check out our field guide to activation, The Neighborhood Playbook. 

More images from the Troy experience