Organizational Development Consultant and Leadership Coach

20 Techniques to Improve Meeting Productivity: #17 Toys

February 26, 2014

“After an hour or so I start to see the signs. People start to fidget, they seem uncomfortable, and they lose concentration. We take frequent Breaks and use Movement in our meetings as well, but I’d like to learn another alternative for getting active people to sit still enough to listen and participate for extended periods of time.”

17. Toys

What Is Toys?

The use of Toys is another technique designed to keep people focused and attentive for long periods of time.

“Sit still and pay attention!” Many of us learned this strict rule of behavior as children, but it isn’t helpful advice for everybody. Not all people listen better when they are sitting still and at attention. In fact, some listen much better and for longer periods of time when they can do something with their hands. Toys is an uncomplicated and effective technique that involves allowing meeting participants to play with quiet toys during the meeting.

The Toys technique is not designed to replace Breaks, technique 15, or Movement, technique 16, but to work with them in concert to help keep your participants relaxed, comfortable, attentive, involved, and productive.

When to Use Toys

  • When people must sit and concentrate for a long time
  • When your meeting participants rarely sit as part of their job
  • When you want to introduce an element of fun into your otherwise serious meetings

How to Use Toys


1. Go to your local toy store and purchase some simple toys. The cost will be minimal. Buy only toys that won’t require any mental concentration, won’t make noise, and won’t distract others in the group.

Examples of excellent toys are:

  • Cush balls
  • Silly Putty
  • Colored pens and paper for doodling
  • Magnet toys
  • Finger puppets
  • Play-Doh

NOTE: Don’t be afraid to try this technique with serious or upper-level groups. They may need Toys the most.  However, if using Toys will be counter to the culture of your organization, test the idea with a few participants first.

2. Randomly place your Toys on the table(s) as you prepare the room for your meeting. If the tables are large, be sure that some Toys will be within easy reach of everybody who will attend the meeting.


1. As your meeting begins, explain that the Toys are there purposely for participants to play with during the meeting. Emphasize that this activity can occur at any time and without permission but is an individual exercise. People who choose to use Toys shouldn’t distract others from thinking or participation. This technique can be linked to the ground rule “fun is allowed.” See my recent blog on Ground Rules, technique 3, for details.

2. At the end of the meeting, ask participants to leave the Toys for the next meeting. (Unless you want to give them away as mementos.)

NOTE: The first time you use Toys in your meeting, ask for reactions from your meeting participants at the end of the meeting.


The use of Toys is a productivity technique for keeping people relaxed, focused, and attentive for long periods of time.


1. Purchase some simple Toys at your local toy store. Be sure to buy only Toys that don’t require any mental concentration.

2. Randomly place the Toys on the table(s) as you prepare the meeting room.


1. As the meeting begins, explain that the Toys are there to be played with during the meeting.

2. Ask the participants to leave the Toys as the meeting ends.


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