by Andrea Doyle | February 02, 2018

Not all disruptions are destructive. As a matter of fact, some may help you break out of your meetings rut. A disruption is a surprise element that triggers and sustains interest and attention, often leading to transformative experiences.

"Disruptions are really ways to make traditional education more 21st century -- meaning it is more hands-on, exploratory, peer-oriented, integrated, and memorable," explains Sharon Fisher, CEO of Play With a Purpose, an interactive learning company. With that in mind, here are 30 ways you can disrupt your meeting using methods attendees will never forget.

Lighten Up
 Fun is an effective way to disrupt meetings. "Who says general sessions have to be all about sitting and watching either endless speakers, or some kind of entertainment?" asks Fisher. "Why can't they be interactive, participatory, and high energy?"

2. LET MUSIC STIR EMOTIONS. For a recent insurance client, Fisher arranged for 350 of its attendees to bang their way into a musical frenzy. "Everyone in the audience was given a musical tube that played a specific note, then in a Guitar Hero--like game, thumped their tube to create beautiful music together," she recalls.

3. ENCOURAGE GRAFFITI. For another meeting, Dale Hudson, knowledge and events director, IMEX Group, collaborated with Fisher to create an exploratory learning center during IMEX America, and the PlayRoom was born. "It was an instant success. An entire day of hands-on learning was created where the attendees experienced interactive education, including walk-the-walls learning, which is a way to stir up conversations about a specific topic with things like stick-ons and graffiti, experiential learning games, and corporate social responsibility and networking activities," says Fisher.

4. GET CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING. Meetings that are infused with creativity will be more productive. "Anything that breaks up the boring meeting mentality and gets people smiling and laughing helps break down any walls employees may have, and it also helps relax employees and get their creative juices flowing," explains Claire Pearson, president, CP Inc. & Creatives, who after 15 years left her position as chief operating officer of a national retail company to start the organization.

 Belly dancing, yoga, Hula-Hooping, anything that gets smiles on faces and energy levels up should be included in the meeting, says Alecia May, CEO of Eventistry by Alecia.

 Some corporations have had success with a whatever's-old-is-new-again approach. "Go back through time and find games from the '50s, '60s, '70s, and '80s. Twister, Toss Across, and Trouble are attention-getting and will draw attendees over to watch the fun and join in," notes Julie Austin, CEO of the consulting firm Creative Innovation Group.

7. BRING ON THE PACHYDERMS. At the association meetings he has planned, Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa, a marketing and behavioral psychologist, has arranged disruptors that have included bringing in a baby elephant for attendees to pet and hiring a juggler who juggles screeching chainsaws.

 Surprises, good and bad, are disruptors. Jaffa got the attention of a group he was addressing when he arranged for a hotel employee dressed in uniform to rush onstage and hand him a note. He pretended to read it and exclaimed, "Did anyone use valet parking this morning?" Lots of hands went up and he said, "Management apologizes but they have no idea who those guys who claimed to be valets are." As Jaffa recalls, "I not only got a laugh, but I scared the hell out of those who used the valet."

Convene encourages attendees
to scribble on its walls

Participants Drive Content
 At a recent conference at the 237 Park Avenue, New York City, office of Convene, an operator of a network of full-service meeting and event venues, a software company, asked the attendees for help with the content. A loose agenda based on overarching themes was refined with the input attendees had scribbled on a large wall regarding topics they wanted addressed and questions they wanted answered. "By using this event format, the content of the conference was impacted by the attendees," says e-book author Julie Starr, regional production manager at Convene.

10. CLOSE WITH QUESTIONS. At another gathering, the ACCED-I annual conference in Orlando last March, Diana Hackenholz, director of meetings and education, held a closing session attended by all the presenters and challenged participants to ask questions to get any additional information or elaboration that was not covered in the session. By doing this, she made sure the attendees left without any lingering questions.