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Pass The Pretzels

Meetings not as productive as they should be? Make a party of them.

In most business operations, you have two basic personality types: the creative folks, who often work in sales and marketing or product development, and the business people, whose jobs are to manage the company's money and other resources. Reaching a point where the two can meet and learn to function together can be a challenge.

Daniel Katsin hit on a solution to this problem when he began conducting creative meetings. Katsin, 46, is president of Katsin/Loeb Advertising in San Francisco, where monthly staff meetings might easily be confused with parties.

At the meetings, his 35 employees are required to bring in a recent piece of advertising they either liked or disliked, and critique it in front of their colleagues. A lively, informal atmosphere is enhanced by serving refreshments that might range from beer and margaritas to mixed cocktails, and from popcorn and chips to gourmet hors d'oeuvres. "Variety and surprise are a key part of it," Katsin says. The agency funds the meeting, but the responsibility for choosing a theme and menu and running the meeting rotates among the staff members.

"Bringing this disparate group of people together this way creates an environment where we can practice our craft, play with ideas, keep up with what's going on in the industry, and decompress all at the same time," says Katsin.

The meetings typically start at about 4 or 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday or Friday, when, says Katsin, the week's burnout factor is usually pretty high and a diversion is welcome. And while a party atmosphere prevails, staffers understand that what they're doing is an important part of business, and that they are expected to behave responsibly.

Katsin believes this approach can be easily adopted in just about any industry as a way to encourage camaraderie and help everyone to stay up to date with competitive information.

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 12 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

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This article was originally published in the October 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Pass The Pretzels.

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