Sitting in a conference room has become a thing of the past for some companies that have turned to more unconventional meeting methods to spark creativity and innovation among their employees.

Take Pittsburgh-based Crons, for instance.

The company, which creates motivational apparel and nutritional products, has employees doing push-ups at its meetings. Even if they're in dresses or suits.

"There's always a little glare in the eye and people say, 'What?' " said Sotiris Aggelou, vice president of brand development for the company. "The reason we love the exercise is you don't have to be dressed a certain way or have equipment on hand. You can do it anywhere. Wherever there's a flat surface, you can do a push-up."

Unconventional meetings have gained popularity in the past 10 to 15 years, according to Kelly Peacy, senior vice president of education and events for the Professional Convention Management Association in Chicago.

"People have come to expect more for their time. Their time is very valuable," Peacy said. "The experience you're trying to create is competing with a lot of different things. You want to give them something they feel is an experience so they find it valuable and want to come back."

According to Aggelou, push-up get-togethers are valuable because they bring out the personality and work ethic of employees – and prospective employees.

"We're looking to create a team, to set a goal. If the time comes and we're looking for someone to stay late or finish a project, we don't have to worry about someone not thinking the same way we are."

Others, like Nathan Martin, CEO of Deeplocal, a Pittsburgh-based innovation company, try to avoid formal meetings altogether.

"We're pretty unconventional in the way we work, so we try not to have many scheduled meetings," Martin said. "Generally, a lot of day gets eaten up by meetings that are unnecessary or unproductive. To me, it's really about a culture for us. I think it's important to pay attention to when a meeting is not necessary."

Martin said his company tries to create a mindset where meetings come second and productivity comes first.

"We will sit together at some point in some space and we'll use that time to think about what our insights are, and then we go away from there. We do happy hour every Friday, and we use that time to try and think about ideas," Martin said.

Left Field Meeting Space in Pittsburgh is one venue that focuses on unconventional meeting methods. The setting features a pingpong and billiard table and even a keg refrigerator.

Kristina Korade, the accounting and business coordinator for Smith Brothers Agency, which owns the venue, said conferences in places such as hotel meeting rooms make her want to go outside. A setting like Left Field can give people that option.

According to Peacy, planning an unconventional meeting should really boil down to what a company is trying to accomplish.

"If it's a meeting to inspire people – that's the objective – you might take that meeting outside because that kind of environment is going to be the most effective to meeting your objective," she said.


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