Toys at Meetings
Introducing toys in a meeting is a shortcut to an informal, creative environment. Toys can help with stress relief or simply work as an icebreaker, giving cross-functional groups some common ground to smile about. Who doesn't enjoy fiddling with a Slinky or watching a wind-up toy make its way across a tabletop? If your meeting is about change, why not acknowledge the stress that the discussion might bring up with squishy squeeze balls for everyone? If brainstorming is your goal, toys can get the creative juices flowing. How about asking attendees to map out the company's current purchasing process or customer service system using Legos — then to re-imagine it and rebuild it in a more streamlined design? If nothing else, you can be sure that toys will make your meeting memorable.
What Toys Work?
To break the ice and set the tone, try Silly Putty, Wiki Sticks, wacky pens, gel-filled balls or other squeezable toys, Gumby figures, crayons and markers with a draw-on table covering, clown noses, wind-up toys, Mr. Potato Head parts, or Rubik cubes. At an outdoor coffee break, could your attendees resist trying some stilts; hopping on a pogo stick; showing off their yo-yo, jump-rope, or hula-hoop skills; or tossing water balloons at the competitor's logo? If you're really daring, how about a selection of kazoos and other noisemakers, allowing attendees to provide high-volume feedback. In a brainstorming session, Play-Doh, Legos, and Tinkertoys bring back memories for attendees, as well as illustrate their ideas and engage their creative sides. Magnetic marbles and K'nex are also interesting for group building projects.
Where to Find It
Numerous Web sites offer large selections of toys and novelties that translate to the meeting environment. They include Trainers Warehouse, www.trainerswarehouse.com; Office Playground, www.officeplayground.com; The Oriental Trading Co., www.orientaltrading.com; Playthings Past, www.playthingspast.com; and Rhode Island Novelty, www.rinovelty.com.
Share Your Toys
Expect the smaller items to disappear with your attendees, but if you've invested in Legos, hula hoops, Tinkertoys, or other more substantial toys, consider donating them to shelters, daycare centers, or local child-centered charities.
If management is uncertain about injecting playfulness into the workplace, a book might change their minds. Matt Weinstein's Managing to Have Fun and Leslie Yerkes' Fun Works are two of the many authors preaching the gospel of fun — be serious about work but don't take work too seriously.
TOY (noun) 1. Something to play with
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