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Top Tips For Productive Brainstorming

Meetings are a great way to get ideas flowing, and brainstorm together for new and innovative ideas…but how do you ensure productivity? Trying to get everyone on the same page can be difficult, especially when everyone is trying to tap into their creative side.

Though there is no foolproof way to guarantee a productive brainstorm session, here are some tips that might help get things started on the right track, and help you maximize your time together:

Lay Out Aims Early On

Believe it or not, articulating your ideas even before the meeting can really help. It gets everyone in the right frame of mind and sets out expectations early on. A lot of brainstorming sessions tend to be on the fly, and while spontaneity can generate results, why not do some advanced planning.

Before you send out the calendar meeting invite, think about what you really want. Is it just to get some initial ideas, or do you want more concrete actionable steps? Explain this to your invitees in the appointment, so that everyone knows what is expected of them beforehand, and they have some time to prepare.

Ask Everyone To Bring A Few Ideas

On a similar note of advanced notice, ask everyone to come into the meeting with some suggestions or initial thoughts. The key here is to create an inviting, and welcome environment so that everyone is comfortable to share. When you ask for this, make sure to mention that no idea is unwelcome – this will help speed up the ‘sharing’ process a little bit.

With expectations set out beforehand, this gives meeting attendees a clear agenda about what needs to be discussed and gives them time to develop their suggestions for a more organized brainstorm session.

Go Off-Site Every Once In A While

Sometimes, the office can stifle creativity. Everyone is burnt out from their meetings, responsibilities, and tasks…and they just cannot seem to get in the right mindset. If you find that is happening often, it might be a signal that it is time to switch it up.

Go outside for a walk and talk, or for a change of pace all together bring your team meeting to an AMA Executive Conference Center. Sometimes conversations in new environments yield great insight and solutions – why not give it a try?

To learn more about productive meetings and what AMA Executive Conference Centers in Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco and Washington DC have to offer, contact us today.

Vacation Time: Don’t Let it Go to Waste

662 million days.

That’s how much vacation time Americans let go to waste in 2017. More than half of Americans (54%) failed to use all of their vacation time, and the results have broader implications than just fewer visits to the beach and a reduction in backyard BBQs.

Why Vacation Matters

Vacation is more than just a chance to explore hobbies and spend time with family (though both are important). A true vacation is a mental break from work that allows for more innovation when one returns. Without this kind of rest, employees are more prone to burnout and less likely to work at their optimal abilities when they are on the job.

What’s more, employees know that vacations matter. Even though so many people let their vacation time expire without using it, 96% of them reported that paid time off was an important factor in their jobs. If people know that vacations are important and they want them, why aren’t they using them?

Why Vacations are Challenging to Take

Forbes explored the phenomenon to try to answer this question. While they found that some of the blame lies in fewer positions offering vacation in the first place, the more pernicious reason has to do with subtle shifts in how we view work. More and more people are being paid based on the tasks they complete, so they see time off as work delayed. In other words, taking time off just shifts their responsibilities into the future, compounding the amount of work they’ll need to do when they return.

What’s more, even those who do take vacation time (often in short bursts to avoid the work pile up) are likely to continue to do work remotely while they’re “off.” The ease of connecting via email and remote computing makes true time off a luxury that is hard to access. The chime of the inbox is just too much pressure for many workers to avoid.

What Can Be Done

In order to give workers the kind of break they truly need to return refreshed, energized, and ready to give it their all at work, companies need to shift the culture around vacations by promoting time off and encouraging workers to truly disconnect while they’re away. Finding ways to cover workplace responsibilities to prevent employees from returning to a mountain of work would also make them more likely to use their vacation time in the first place.

Vacations are also somewhat contagious. If influential employees talk about their own use of vacation time and its benefits, it will have an effect on those around them, creating a sense that a vacation is truly a well-deserved break rather than a shiny illusion too burdensome to reach.

As you consider the importance of well-rested employees, keep AMA Executive Conference Centers in mind for your next meeting in Atlanta, New York City, Washington DC and San Francisco.

Tips for Building Better Relationships With Your Co-Workers

In business as in life, it’s impossible to make it alone. This is even truer if you frequently work on team projects or team coordinated meetings and events. Having good relationships with others ultimately makes you happier, more productive, and can help you get ahead in your career. Use these simple (yet effective) tips below to improve your interpersonal relationships and get along better with your coworkers!

Be Friendly and Courteous

When trying to improve your office relationships, start with the simple steps. Say hello or smile at others when you walk down the hallway. Simple exchanges like these can show your coworkers that you are a warm and kind person, which is the ideal foundation to build a friendship on.

Learn to Communicate Effectively

There are two parts to effective communication: sharing your thoughts clearly and respectfully and listening actively. When talking to someone else, try to be polite, get your point across succinctly, and, most importantly, think about what you’re going to say before you open your mouth. Practice active listening techniques like being attentive, asking open-ended questions, and staying engaged in the conversation.

Show Gratitude

Another way to strengthen your relationships with your other coworkers is by showing your gratitude. If someone helps you, no matter how large or small the task, show your appreciation for them and their work. Say ‘thank you’ and compliment the people you work with when they do a good job.

Stay Away From Gossip

Though gossiping about other coworkers can be a fast way to connect with others, it will only hurt your relationships in the long term. Instead of gossiping about someone in the group, speak to them directly about the problem you are experiencing. Talking about the issue behind their back will only make the problem worse and will make you look less trustworthy. Confront your issues kindly and openly so you and your coworkers can all move forward and improve.

AMA Executive Conference Centers are experts at planning professional meetings and gatherings. Visit an AMA Center in one of four convenient locations: Atlanta, New York City, Washington DC and San Francisco. For more great resources and ideas for your upcoming meetings contact us at AMA Executive Conference Centers!

Three Fun Ways to Recognize & Reward Your Team

If you’re a manager or team leader, then you need to know how important it is to recognize your team’s efforts. If you make it clear that sweat equity gets noticed and appreciated, then everyone is more likely to go that extra mile. However, while it’s important to get into the habit of seeing and pointing out when people are doing something right, it’s equally important to offer some kind of tangible reward.

For those looking for ideas, you might want to try these:

Reward #1: Points

While it might seem like something out of Harry Potter, rewarding points to teams and individuals who do good work provides a tangible number to represent how well they did. However, as Snack Nation points out, these points should also be used as a kind of reward currency that can be redeemed for actual items (gift cards, prizes, gadgets, etc.). This makes them functional rewards, instead of just a numerical mood booster.

Reward #2: Company Apparel

There’s a reason promotional items tend to be clothing; it’s useful, it’s comfortable, and when you get something for free you make a connection between the brand on your shirt or ball cap with that nice feeling. Insperity suggests that when someone is doing a notable job, you should give them a reward. A free tee shirt, a hat, a sling bag; something that’s useful, that shows your appreciation, and that reminds the employee that their company and team appreciates all their hard work.

Reward #3: Something Small, But Unique

If you want your employee recognition to be really unusual, then make sure it’s something unique. Whether it’s a commemorative coin, a custom action figure, a small print or painting…the sky is the limit. But if you want your recognition to feel really unique, make the reward an “experience!” Maybe “hard to get tickets to” a concert or special event. Experiences over items really helps to set your reward and recognition of your team apart!

AMA Executive Conference Centers offer some of the industry’s best executive meeting and conference venues. We work to help companies and corporate planners across the U.S. facilitate meetings with the best possible outcomes. Click here to contact us today to see how we can help in planning your next meeting in Atlanta, New York, Washington DC or San Francisco.

How to Make Effective Use Of Your Time

Time is the most precious resource we have, but too many distractions threaten to slow down progress and steal time. If you want to make the most effective use of your time, you’ll have to learn how to avoid distractions and maintain momentum.

Identify and Remove Distractions

Covey’s Time Management Grid is a four quadrant grid that divides the things that take up your time based on their urgency and importance.

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and important (like an approaching deadline or family emergency.)
  • Quadrant 2: Not urgent but important (like a long-term professional or personal goal.)
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important (favors or tasks other people want you to do urgently.)
  • Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important (like watching television or browsing social media.)

It is ideal to remain in quadrant 2 as much as possible. The more Q3 and Q4 activities you can avoid, the less time you’ll spend scrambling in Q1. Remove unimportant distractions by:

Build and Maintain Your Momentum

One of the best ways to make the most of your time is to not procrastinate in the beginning waiting on perfect circumstances. According to Business Insider, it’s better to get working in the beginning, and worry about quality later. Once you get the ball rolling, it’s important to keep it rolling. A few things you can do to maintain your momentum are:

  • Keep your mind on the task at hand, and worry about your long-term strategies later.
  • Split your project into smaller tasks to build momentum and progression.
  • Your mind can wander when your tired, so be sure to start the day with your biggest tasks.

Keep It Simple

Making things simple is a great way to progress and keep your momentum going. AMA’s Executive Conference Centers have flexible configurations for up to 240 people and are uniquely tailored for training sessions, meetings, and more. Contact us to learn more.

The Top Benefits of Hosting a Retreat for Your Team

Your team works together every day. They have a number of responsibilities and projects that cause them to need to interact and work together. Sometimes, you need to get away from the office for a while with one another. AMA believes it’s time for your team to experience the key benefits of a retreat. Here’s why!

1. Your Team Gets a Chance to Build Relationships

During the work day, relationships may be difficult to build. Some team members may prefer to focus on work during the work day, while others never really have a chance to interact with one another. During a retreat, however, you get a chance to build relationships and bond with one another in a way that often doesn’t happen during the typical business day.

2. You Have a More Constructive Environment to Talk

Often, your team members have great ideas, but they’re never sure it’s exactly the right time to share them. During a retreat, on the other hand, they have the perfect chance to chat with other members of the team, including management, and suggest those great ideas. It could be the next great idea that improves your office!

3. You Can Take a Focused Look at the Big Picture

During a retreat, you’re away from the day-to-day grind of the office: the paperwork; the repetitive tasks that have to be completed every week; the software that refuses to work the way you want it to. Often, this is a great chance to take a more focused look at the big picture that drives your company: the company’s values, its plans, and its goals for the future.

4. You Give Team Members a Chance to Decompress

During a retreat, many team members have a chance to unwind in a way that they simply don’t during any other work activity. Hosting a retreat immediately after your busy season or a high-stress project is a great way to help decrease stress levels and help get your team ready to come back and start working on their next project.

Does your team need a chance to get away together: to enjoy some bonding and experience the other key benefits of a retreat? Click here to contact us today to learn how AMA Executive Conference Centers can offer the perfect retreat and recharge meeting support in Atlanta, New York City, Washington DC and San Francisco!

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone to Achieve Success

The fear of stepping out into the unknown is limiting the majority from realizing success in various aspects of their lives. You need to understand that it is impossible to achieve your dreams without overcoming the fears within, and taking risks. Most people are okay with their comfort zone, which hinders them from achieving success.

Here are some tips for meeting and event professionals who wish to step out of their comfort zone, in pursuit of success:

Begin with Baby Steps

Jumping out of your comfort zone in pursuit of your dream as an event professional is not a good idea. If you want to minimize the chances of failure, you need to exercise some caution when taking risks. Event and meeting professionals who start off with baby steps as they try to get out of their comfort zone have shown a higher rate of achieving success.

The desire to rise in your career fast is sometimes overwhelming, and it may force some individuals to return to their comfort zone when they fail to realize what they are pursuing. If you wish to reach your career goals with a solid foundation, consider stepping out of your comfort zone by taking baby steps at the initial stages.

View Failure As A Teacher

“Experience is the best teacher” goes the adage, but you can also learn a lot through failure. Organizing meetings and events is not a simple task, and the successful completion of activities is not a guarantee. If things fail to turn out as you expect after a specific meeting, take time to consider what you need to adjust, and any missing details you need to examine. Viewing failure as a teacher is a great approach to success for meeting and event professionals.

Embrace Discomfort

Professionals in the meeting industry interact with various professionals from time to time, and engaging particular individuals for the first time is a challenge at times. It is okay to feel uncomfortable when networking or working with new people on projects, but if you want to grow as an event professional, you need to get comfortable with discomfort.

Withstanding the discomfort of being around new faces for the first time for a longer time than usual, and embracing the challenge by practicing some more, will make you feel less uncomfortable. The short-term activity of embracing discomfort will eventually have you realizing success as a meeting and event professional.

Simplify Your Life With These TED Talks

For the average person, life is becoming increasingly complex. Our days are busy, our task lists are full, and prioritization isn’t just a choice, it’s a necessity. Nonetheless, some people have rejected this lifestyle as an inevitability. What if you could simplify your life, accomplish more, and find greater fulfillment? Here are a few of our favorite TED Talks to help you do just that!

A Rich Life With Less Stuff by the Minimalists

These two friends have gained prominence in the past few years for their eschewing of materialism, consumerism, and the traditional life path. Their suggestion? Focus less on material goods, seek out your passion, simplify your life, and find happiness.

As Work Gets More Complex, 6 Rules To Simplify
by Yves Morieux

In Yves Morieux’s discussion of the workplace, he discusses how traditional approaches to solving workplace problems have become too complex. Rather, he favors six rules to increase efficiencies, simplify processes, and improve performance and fulfillment among employees.

Sweat The Small Stuff by Rory Sutherland

Applicable to both professional and personal challenges, this talk takes a humorous approach to problem-solving. Sutherland’s discussion focuses on how big problems can be solved by simple solutions, rather than applying maximum force. The end state is decreased stress, fewer resources required, and better solutions.

All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes by Andy Puddicombe

This talk discusses the power of mindfulness and encourages the execution of the simplest task: doing nothing. Specifically, it encourages the power of 10 minutes of daily meditation to simplify thoughts, improve focus, and slow down.

While these TED Talks are just the tip of the iceberg, it’s a great start towards slowing down and simplifying your life. At AMA Executive Conference Centers, we are passionate about helping employees maximize their time and improve their work-life harmony. For more information about our executive meeting services and conference centers in Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco and Washington DC, contact us here.

Streamline Your Workflow and Planning Projects With Trello

The devil is in the details when it comes to meeting and event planning. No matter the size of your event, everyone involved needs to be on the same page at all times. Trello is the web-based tool we think is a hidden gem in our industry – one that you need to keep projects organized and on schedule.

How Trello Works

Trello functions like a digital whiteboard to share lists and tasks with your team members. Create a board for each project, then populate it with lists to complete each step of your workflow. The tasks on each list are called cards.  Your collaborators can add comments, checklists, due dates, files, weblinks, or more to these cards. Through labels and color coding, your lists will create clear and straight forward steps to achieve project goals.

By using Trello, all your notes, versions, and attachments are centralized in one place for easy access. Trello works with multiple operating systems and seamlessly transitions across devices through the app. Trello even integrates tools you might already be using, like Dropbox and Google Docs.

Latest Features

Trello Team Playbooks
Team Playbooks are ‘ready to go’ board templates. Whether you are marketing an event, planning a wedding, or tracking your personal productivity, Trello has a helpful board set up for you. Use Team Playbooks to take the guess work out of creating your first project with the program.

Get the most out of Trello by integrating with Slack, Google Drive, and much more. Unleash the power of custom fields, calendars, or even BlueJeans Meetings by customizing the Trello with Power-Ups.

Trello Users

While many large companies – including Google and National Geographic – use Trello, the application is scalable to any size event or team. Whether you’re planning a major corporate convention or the regular weekly team meeting, jump into using Trello to organize your workflow. Contact us to learn more about how you can use Trello to plan your next event.

At AMA Executive Conference Centers, we are passionate about helping event and meeting planners maximize their time and improve their work-life harmony. Click here for more information about our executive meeting services and conference centers in Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco and Washington DC.

3 TED Talks To Get Your Team Working Together

It’s vital in business that you find ways for everyone on your team to contribute their own ideas – so you can find the best possible way to help your clients. Each employee brings a unique perspective and skill set to the table. A group of people working together in collaboration can do so much more than any of us can do alone.

Although you might understand the value of collaboration, some days it feels easier to just sit at your desk with headphones in and your head down working. Take a break from the usual and watch one or all of these TED Talks that discuss working together in unique ways and help remind us about the power of collaboration!

 Dan Cobley: What Physics Taught Me About Marketing

Most people wouldn’t think that physics and marketing are similar disciplines at all, but Dan Cobley proves them wrong. In this funny and insightful talk, he manages to make comparisons that you probably couldn’t have thought of without his unique background. By combining his expertise and passion for two really different subjects, he can look at problems in a whole new way. That’s why it is so important to work with people with diverse experiences and perspectives. You never know what dynamic new ideas could come out of a new combination of unique people.

 Linda Hill: How to Manage for Collective Creativity

It’s easy to sit in meetings and talk about how a group should be collaborating. It’s so much more difficult to actually implement change. In her talk, Linda Hill gives concrete strategies and examples that can help anyone to collaborate better.

Shade Zahrai and Aric Yegudkin: The Rhythmic Beauty of Collaboration

This one might be cheating because it’s not technically a talk; it’s a dance performance, but it did happen at a TED event. Neither dancer is the “lead”. Rather, they are both able to showcase their own skills while building off of each other. The dancers beautifully illustrate the magic that can come out of a good collaboration.

We hope these talks will help you understand the value of teamwork and collaboration in your company. At AMA Executive Conference Centers, we offer meeting spaces that help companies bring their meetings and conferences to life. With locations in Atlanta, New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco – click here to learn more about hosting your meeting with AMA.