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The off-site experience does not stop with the space; it should affect all aspects of the meeting. Just because you made it out of the conference room, generic PowerPoint presentations do not become acceptable. Take in the atmosphere of the new creative off-site space and sit in beanbags, diner booths, couches, anything but straight-back grey chairs. Here are some tips for transforming your meeting to take advantage of all that off-sites have to offer!

  1. Shake things up

Resist the temptation of the PowerPoint and instead try holding interactive group activities. Opting for a large, open space rather than the typical conference room allows you to get creative with your meeting. Move around, play games, do yoga, bring in puppies- do everything you can’t in the office!

  1. Buy a round

An off-site meeting venue gives you the opportunity to explore a new neighborhood and you know what that means? Quality coworker bonding time. Hit up a nearby restaurant for drinks or dinner to celebrate the completion of your meeting. The new location will entice coworkers to spend time together after the workday is over.

  1. Get some private time

A long rectangular room with a long rectangular table in the middle. Sound like your conference room? Not only do off-sites break this structure but they also have an added bonus: breakout rooms. These breakout spaces are ideal for brainstorming or training sessions. Small groups can step away from the main meeting area and converse in private.

  1. Decorate

Off-site spaces are at your disposal. This means that you are free to decorate the space to match the theme of your meeting or product. You do not have to worry about other employees needing to use the room after you; go ahead and post giant blown up photos of your products and cover the walls in sticky notes.

  1. Step up the catering

A meeting can be draining, even dreaded, by employees so why not treat everyone to a nice lunch? An off-site offers a great opportunity to get creative with the catering. Instead of ordering from your standard lunch spot, try out a local restaurant in the neighborhood of your off-site meeting venue. Treat participants to new delicious meals, rather than the same old salads and sandwiches.

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SoHoSoleil recently discovered Deb’s Catering and we are very impressed, to say the least. Deb’s uses fresh, seasonal ingredients to create amazing dishes that truly taste homemade. Operating for almost 20 years now, Deb’s knows how to make their catering stand out. The company offers to create custom menus that follow the theme or topic of your meeting. With food like that, it doesn’t matter what ideas are generated; the meeting will be talked about for days to come.

SoHoSoleil chatted with Deb’s Catering to get the scoop on off-site meeting catering from the pros.

1. What is the story behind Deb’s?

Deb’s was opened 20 years ago by our founder Deb Barall Miller. Deb finds the inspiration for our recipes from the city of New York– always exploring different neighborhoods, cuisines, and farmer’s markets. We call our cuisine Big City Homemade because we are inspired by the city and know our way around it backwards and forwards. We have the insurance requirements to get into all of the most difficult buildings and have mastered the art of delivery in this great metropolis. We do traditional corporate catering and have an event division bursting with creativity– we offer servers, rentals, and a full design team to make your every wish come true.

2. Why is Deb’s catering ideal for off-site meetings?

Deb’s is ideal for meetings because we have 20 years of perfecting our understanding of corporate catering. Not only does the food need to be delicious, but it also needs to be delivered by a staff who understand corporate structures and the need to deliver all items as they were ordered. No nuts means no nuts! Our customer service is unparalleled– we get it and we deliver (literally and figuratively).

3. What sets Deb’s apart from other catering options?

Deb writes our recipes so that they are infused with a creative force that is created and nurtured in the Big Apple. Deb chooses our purveyors and while our menu is extensive, we are always going above and beyond, creating new items for clients based on their inspiration and the demand to remain creative and innovative in this forever-evolving city.

4. What are some of the creative things you have done for corporate catering?

People love the make your own – make your own omelet bar, smoothie bar, s’mores bar.  They also love the fun kitschy things we do for holidays- our Halloween menu is off the charts fun, creative, and delicious.

5. What are some of the most popular items on your catering menu?

Yogurt shots, mini French toast skewers, fondue, sandwiches, eclectic seasonal salads, and fun happy hour menus featuring NYC favorites like pigs in a blanket.

 

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People have all sorts of rituals to boost their creativity, some more orthodox than others. Here are some of the little known ways used to get those creative juices flowing:

1. Zone Out
Yes, you have our permission to zone out. Letting your mind wander can sometimes bring you to even better ideas than if you had stayed focused the entire time. Allowing your brain to drift lets it form new connections between varying topics, spurring ideas that you would never have thought of if you were constrained solely to the subject at hand (APS).

2. Look at the color blue
According to a study performed by the University of British Columbia, the color blue has been proven to augment productivity and creativity. The calming color spurs people to think of openness and tranquility, causing them to be more comfortable with taking risks and as such, more comfortable generating unique ideas (Science Daily). This is partially why SoHoSoleil lofts have the color blue incorporated into the décor as much as possible.

3. Eat better
Eating Cheetos and chocolate chip cookies may be satisfying in the moment, but an hour down the line and you will be feeling pretty groggy and slow. Fruit or a salad, however, will give your body the energy it needs to think up fantastic creative ideas. You will feel more awake and focused by eating healthy food than you would from eating processed, junk food (Livestrong).

4. Give yourself a huge goal
Tell yourself you have to come up with 20 ideas in the next hour. This will force you to go beyond your initial ideas and into the deep realm of creativity. The added pressure of a time limit doesn’t hurt either.

5. Cue the background noise
A little bit of background noise is actually more conductive than pure silence. Silence can be too strict and somewhat stifling whereas lots of noise can be distracting. A low murmur of sound is perfect for a creative mind as it helps people not to be too consumed in their own thoughts but not distracted (New York Times).

6. Sit outside of a box
Yes, this sounds absolutely ridiculous but hey, this is “little known ways” to boost creativity- we warned you. It has been proven that sitting outside of an actual box helps to boost creativity. Perhaps this is due to a psychological resonance with the cliché adage. Next time you are in a brainstorming session, try putting some kind of box in the middle of the room and sitting beside it (APS).

7. Turn off your phone
No phone = fewer distractions. Without the constant vibrations and bings from your phone, you are free to focus solely on the task at hand. Even if you don’t check your phone while working, the incessant wondering of who sent the text you just received and what it says is distracting.

8. Wake up early or go to bed late
If you’re a morning person, try doing your creative work at night. Night owl? Wake up early. You are at your most creative when you are a little tired and when your routine is somewhat disturbed. That sounds miserable and insane? Maybe, but it helps you to have a fresh perspective and boosts your creative thinking (Washington Post).

 

Image source here
Image source here

Check out these five Twitter accounts for worthwhile articles on boosting creativity. Now you don’t have to feel guilty when scrolling through your Twitter feed at work; you’re merely garnering inspiration.

1. Mike Brown – The twitter account for Barinzoomng.com reflects the essential mission of the website: to spur creativity and innovation at work. The twitter account constantly links to new Brainzooming articles posted several times a day. In addition, the account regularly connects with industry leaders and shares their insights.

2. Creative Digest – As if the name isn’t enough to tip you off, Creative Digest offers in depth content on creativity. With articles such as “How to be a More Creative Person” and “Messy vs Clean: What Your Desk Says About You,” readers can gain valuable insights and inspiration.

3. LDRLB – Leader Lab is a podcast series that focuses on leadership and innovation. Their Twitter account is one of the best for creativity news and tips. They curate great articles from sites such as Harvard Business Review and Psychology Today that consistently provide noteworthy insights on creativity.

4. Inc. – SoHoSoleil is always retweeting Inc.’s articles. While the content shared on this account might be broader than the content from other accounts on this list, it is just as valuable. Inc. covers all aspects of business, but also regularly shares enlightening posts focused on boosting creativity in the workplace. Their twitter account is mainly used to share articles from the Inc. website.

5. Fast Company Leadership – Fast Company’s thought-provoking content is certainly no secret, however, their leadership Twitter page is a little bit less well known. The FC Leadership Twitter account acts as a platform to share articles from the Fact Company website that are focused on getting creative, developing company culture, and perfecting leadership techniques. Articles range from “How to exercise your creative muscle” to “Louis CK’s lesson about getting things done at work”.

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If you’re spending 6 hours in a meeting, it better be worth it. Try using these 6 hacks to make the most of your meetings.

  1. Put away the tech

Ask attendees not to use their phones, laptops, iPads, etc. while in the meeting. In fact, suggest that they put their devices in their purses or in a different part of the room. Stowing devices in pockets will not do; the enticing vibration of a mysterious new text makes it difficult to focus on the meeting. Likewise, taking notes via computers is essentially just another form of distraction. With new emails popping up every five minutes and breaking news stories every two, staying solely on Microsoft Word is quite the challenge. Try to avoid this altogether and recommend attendees take notes on paper instead of on their laptops.

  1. Establish a time keeper

Elect someone to be in charge of keeping track of time. This person should make sure the group stays in line according to the scheduled agenda. This could mean giving 10-minute warnings before it is time to move onto the next topic or simply changing the conversation all together if necessary. If attendees are hesitant to move on from the current subject, take note of where they left off and ask them to follow up via email. It is essential for everyone’s sanity to stick to the scheduled agenda.

  1. Physical activity

Break up the meeting and get moving! After sitting for several hours, your body needs some rejuvenation. Participate in some light exercise. Try walking around the room, going out for a coffee run, or taking a stroll through the neighborhood. If you don’t have time to leave the meeting site, break out a few stretches. If you want to lead the group in a series of crunches and downward dogs, even better, but it’s certainly not necessary.

  1. Leave the office

Try leaving the office and working in a new location; a fresh perspective can make all the difference. Help employees get out of their comfort zones and be inspired by inviting them to work in innovative, creative spaces. The less like an office the meeting venue appears, the better.

  1. Loosen up

Helping attendees to relax in the meeting space can aid them in feeling comfortable expressing their ideas. You can achieve this conductive atmosphere by establishing an informal setting. For example, ask people to dress in casual clothing or try making attendees laugh in the beginning of the meeting (a chubby cat wearing a sweater can almost always do the trick).

  1. No sugary foods

Try not to serve particularly sugary foods to meeting attendees during the break times. While cupcakes are far cuter than carrots and hummus, they are quick to stifle productivity. Consumers of sugary foods are lulled into a hazy mindset, generally counteracted by myriad cups of coffee, which only dehydrates employees. A healthy, balanced assortment of lunch and break foods will best serve your employees and sustain their energy levels throughout the meeting.

Image from viewology.net
Image from viewology.net

In an age when people own more versions of iPhones than notepads, laptops have become a staple in the meeting space. Do laptops, however, help meetings or hurt their productivity? We determined the pros and cons of laptops in meetings, letting you be the judge of what to consider acceptable meeting etiquette.

The Pros:

More engagement
Portable tech makes it easy for meeting attendees to further engage with the speaker. They can quickly look up supplementary material online, live tweet their opinions and questions, and connect with other attendees. The constant online interaction helps people to stay interested; it spurs attendees to really think about the content rather than merely absorb it.

• Easy to follow up
I will be the first to admit, my handwriting is far from Times New Roman. Typing notes makes it much easier for attendees to review what was discussed in the meeting; they can simply copy and paste sections of notes or quotes into emails, to do lists, etc. Furthermore, typing along with the speaker allows you to take copious notes, jotting down exactly what the speaker is saying rather than paraphrasing in an effort to save time. There is no denying it: typing is much, much faster than handwriting.

• Environmentally friendly
Typing notes and doing everything online eliminates the need for speakers to bring in paper copies of handouts or for participants to bring paper notebooks. This saves a lot of paper in the long run!

The Cons:

• Bad retention rate
It has been proven that hand writing notes leads to better retention rates than typing notes. The slow process of writing forces you to synthesize the information you are listening to since you are not able to absent-mindedly write down the presentation word for word.

• Sidetracks meeting attendees
You have the entire Internet sitting in front of you; that’s thousands of pictures of cats wearing adorable sweaters. It is incredibly tempting to start surfing the Internet if there is a lull in the meeting. You can check your email, catch up on the score of the game, send an IM to your coworker, however, your full attention is not with the speaker. It is easy to tune the presenter out if you unwittingly become too absorbed in your laptop. And lets be honest, how different is sending IM’s to your co-worker in the middle of a meeting from passing notes to your friends in your fifth grade classroom? Not that different.

• Distracts meeting presenters
Presenting to a group of people whose eyes are staring at a screen in front of them can be a daunting experience. Is that guy typing out notes? Or is it a completely unrelated email? Is she fact checking me? Is he IM-ing his coworker across the conference table? Without the reassurance of eye contact, the speaker is easily led to question what the meeting attendees are actually doing on their laptops. This can lead the speaker to feel self conscious as whether people are paying attention or not.

• Stifles discussion
Laptops create a physical barrier between the users and everyone else. That barrier, no matter how compact your laptop may be, lessens the inclination to participate in discussions. A “someone else will do it” mindset is adopted, meaning laptop users frequently take on a passive role and let others participate in the discussions.

So what do you think, yes or no to laptops in meetings?

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We’ve all been there; you are trying to wrack your brain for a great idea, or really any idea, but nothing is coming to you. Your stress level is steadily rising, making it even more difficult to think of ideas. Before you know it, you’re sweating, maybe even hyperventilating, and can’t think about anything other than drinking a grande soy latte and crawling into bed. Keep the following 7 tips in mind to prevent such situations from ever happening again.

1. Put yourself in a creative space
Creativity breeds more creativity. Whether that means playing music out loud, hanging art on the walls, or decorating with vibrant colors, it is essential to work in a space that you feel expresses the type of inspiration you wish to elicit.

2. Stay alert
Grab a coffee or do some crunches, whatever you need to do to stay alert. And no, alert is not the same thing as awake. Alert means being engaged in and contributing to the discussions at hand, absorbing what is being said, and drawing connections to other applicable material. This way, you are thriving off of the energy the other meeting attendees are putting forward; making you only more alert and engaged.

3. Take breaks
Think about something completely different, go for a walk, remove yourself form the environment you are working in. One ten-minute break every hour will help you stay alert and keep your brain refreshed. That way you won’t get bogged down or frustrated with the task at hand.

4. Write down your ideas
Seeing your ideas physically written out allows you to acknowledge all of the work you have already done. You can see your progress and more easily build off of it. You won’t be lacking inspiration when you see all of your hard work laid out in front of you.

5. Relax
Coming up with ideas can be intimidating but you just need to start; get out those obvious notions, the bad ideas, and the stupid thoughts. You will feel better hearing them out loud and, although they may not be great ideas, they often spark better ones. Clearing your mind of the obvious and the ridiculous will let you focus on the innovative and creative.

6. Find fresh perspectives
A change in perspective, even if it is not directly related to the task at hand, can spark new ideas and let you dissect problems with a different lens. Reading about a new topic, talking with people in other industries, or working in a new space are just some of the ways you can challenge your point of view.

7. Develop a routine
Although it is good to switch things up, when it comes to the time to actually do your creative work, it helps to have a solid routine. Your brain will be conditioned to certain circumstances that signal when to be creative, allowing you to fall into the mindset quickly. Train your brain to know when to be creative.

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Meetings are en essential part of the workday, however, they are often perceived as bland and predictable hours of doom. Recent trends are spurring meetings to become more efficient and engaging than ever. Make your meetings events that employees enjoy going to by adopting some of these trends!

1. Kale Please
It is pretty obvious that gluten-free, vegan food is infiltrating restaurants and cafes all around Manhattan and now the trend has reached the catering domain. Many meeting clients are opting for seasonal and local foods as well as gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. Some venues are even beginning to serve cold-pressed juices as an alternative to coffee!

2. Break it up
Energizing activities are becoming a staple in the modern day meeting. Breaks have been proven to boost productivity and creativity. So, rather than streamlining through the meeting, clients are opting to regularly break up the time. Often, these breaks will include interactive activities that get employees moving and out of the dreaded meeting-coma.

3. Drop and give me 20
Using it as a team building activity or as a method for breaking up the meeting, exercise allows attendees to stretch a part of their brain they may not be using. It invigorates employees and brings a sense of freshness to the meeting. Activities can include roller blading, jump roping, taking a walk, stretching; the possibilities are endless, just be sure not to get too sweaty right before you have to present that PowerPoint.

4. Don’t go into the office
Offsite meetings are becoming the norm for companies wanting an innovative edge. A new space that looks and feels completely different from the office coerces a fresh perspective from employees and provides a much-needed change of pace, leading to greater productivity. In addition, offsite meeting venues provide the ideal outlet for team bonding and an increase in office morale.

5. Loose the suits
Establishing a casual environment is a popular meeting tactic right now. Clients arrive in everyday clothing and talk to each other in an informal manner (the occasional pun is even shared). There is no divide between executives and entry-level employees; they all sit together and work on the same tasks. This mitigates office hierarchies and allows for people to feel comfortable expressing their ideas.

6. 10 is greater than 20
Meeting with smaller groups comprised of around ten people is becoming more prevalent than standard meeting sizes of around twenty employees. Smaller meetings engage attendees more and force everyone present to share their ideas and let their voices be heard. The tactic strengthens individuals’ agency and spurs deeper and more detailed discussions.

7. Crank up the tunes
Playing music throughout shifts in the meeting is a fairly new trend that is taking hold quickly. Music helps to signal that a new topic is about to be discussed and that attendees should refresh and change their mindset. It also helps employees feel comfortable with one another and lets people mingle without feeling like they are having their conversations listened to.

8. #TechSavvy
Perhaps the most significant trend of meetings right now is the dramatic incorporation of technology. Creating a twitter hash tag solely for the meeting is a popular way to let employees interact throughout the meeting. Displaying YouTube videos is an extremely popular method of boosting employee engagement, especially if that video includes a baby animal or two. In addition, PowerPoints are becoming a relic of the 90’s and new methods of presentations that are more engaging are becoming the norm.

Post written by guest blogger, Veronica Smith.

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The last two decades have seen an exponential amount of innovation and technological advancement from the invention of a portable music device capable of holding thousands of songs and fitting in the palm of your hand to the invention of ASIMO, the world’s most advanced humanoid robot. The general formula for these success stories is: increased innovation/creativity → increased productivity.

Three ways to increase creativity are to create a work environment conducive to more creative thinking, hire more creative employees, and find ways to build up the creative abilities of the employees you have. Sounds simple enough, right? Then why do companies still get stuck in the same ineffective uncreative cycles? What’s missing from the formula: ? → increased innovation/creativity → productivity? Laughter!

Imagine a company facing some PR nightmare and calling in its head executives and creative team to problem solve and diffuse this potentially catastrophic situation. The tension in the room is palpable, the pressure is high and expectations for your team to perform well are even higher. Several employees have light bulbs go off in their heads, but are too nervous to share for fear of sharing a bad, stupid or unhelpful idea. Now imagine someone blurts out the most ridiculous hilarious sounding idea causing the boardroom to burst into giggles. The tension and pressure in the room suddenly drops and all those withheld ideas that could promote innovation and creativity are released and a true brainstorming session can ensue.

Humor allows one to emotionally distance themselves from the problem so the stress of finding a solution does not hinder creativity. Thinking outside of the box is also made possible by humor because finding the humor in something means making a new or unexpected connection between two things. A punch line is called a punch line because it unexpectedly hits you with a connection between a chicken and why they crossed the road that you didn’t see before. Besides making the workplace a more enjoyable environment, laughter can increase creativity and innovation and give your company the competitive edge it so desires.

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