30 Themed Meeting Ideas

Ok, so a while ago I mentioned having theme meetings at camp in this post and another camp pro Dan Laubach pointed out to me that I’m a big weiner who never followed up with the list of themes I promised (ahem, ok maybe I’m paraphrasing *a little*, Dan was actually much more polite and kind in his request for a list of themes.)

Thanks Dan, for putting this back on my radar, it’s something I wanted to share.

Most of these are pretty ridiculous and came about out of weird things my staff were doing that summer or just sort of happened organically.

Before we get into the list, here are some tips.

1. If you’re going to do a silly or stupid theme meeting, make sure you don’t have to discuss anything too serious.

2. Be aware that if you do a theme, it might take a little longer to get through the meeting, because people are likely to burst into giggles every so often.

3. Most of my meetings used to be in the evening, so a lot of these themes make a lot more sense to do at night.

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Masks

This one came about because a staff member really wanted to see someone wearing a funny mask, so we demanded that everyone put on a mask as they came in for meeting. No one asked any questions, they just went with it, it was silly and hilarious.

Things TKD would like

Sometimes we like to make it all about us… (TKD is the nickname for the assistant camp director and I) We left it open-ended, staff showed up dressed in a lot of plaid, toques, tie dye, and drinking coffee. All of these things were accurate.

Let’s be honest, there’s nothing funnier than impersonating your boss so the staff got a kick out of it. (Ok, if I’m being reaaaally honest, we were hoping they’d bring us food we liked… maybe next time we need to be more specific hahaha)

Bob…

Do you have an infamous person at your camp? Maybe a volunteer or alumni? We have an amazing volunteer who does so much for the camp and is completely adored by campers and staff… so we themed a meeting after him. One staff member dressed as him and did an entire entrance scene as Bob, another staff person dressed as a lobster because Bob always hosts a lobster dinner at the camp for the club we partner with (we ARE on the East Coast of Canada after all).

As long as your staff know that this is supposed to be silly and fun, and make sure they’re being kind, I highly recommend this theme. It’s hilarious.

Bed meeting

Ok, this is one of my favourite meeting themes. I haven’t done it in years, but when I used to have a smaller staff (and we would split into two groups for meetings) we would all throw our pjs on, bring a pillow, and pile onto my bed to have snacks and meet. FUN!

I like, I wish, I wonder

I really like this one. I don’t know where I found it, but it’s not my original idea.
I always like to go around the circle and ask the staff how their day/ week is going at meetings so this is just a nice way of getting some feedback without always asking the same questions.

Each person has to say one thing they like, one thing they wish, and one thing they wonder.

Upside Down

I honestly have no idea how this one came about… but I know it happened more than once. We would all lie upside down on whatever piece of furniture we were on and go through the meeting notes as though this were a totally normal situation.

Bunk Bed

At my old camp, we had two dormitory style rooms on either side of a common room. So sometimes we would all climb up on the top bunks on one side and have our meeting up there. It’s such a simple, stupid thing, but it was so much fun.

bunkbed

This is an old one, from waaay back in 2001.

Describe your day as a colour

This one is pretty straight forward, and a nice way to get a feel for how their day went. Bonus points if everyone comes to the meeting dressed in the colour that represents their day.

“Serious Face”

Ok, so this one is just weird. I recognize that.
There was a summer where we constantly made the “hand glasses” whenever we needed to have a “serious conversation” (but not actually serious… more just… mundane).

Not familiar with hand glasses? Well, here’s a brief tutorial.

Step 1. Make a circle out of your thumb and pointer finger on each hand, with your other three fingers kept straight.

Step 2. Place the straight fingers on your jaw line below your ears, your elbows should be at about shoulder height and the circle you already made should be pointing down.

Step 3. Swivel the heel of your hands up towards your eyebrows and “connect” the two finger circles over the bridge of your nose.

Volia, you’ve got yourself some sweet hand glasses, so now you can have serious meetings without laughing at all.

*Note: Upside down hand glasses are hard on some people’s wrists. If someone doesn’t want to do it, I recommend the following alternatives: Regular hand glasses, hand binoculars, or a hand monocle.

Ice cream floats

I do this at least once a summer. Buy a large tub of ice cream, a bottle or two of root beer and invite your staff to make a float to have at the meeting. It’s fun and easy and usually a big hit.

Roses/ Thornes

As I mentioned earlier, I like to go around the circle and see how everyone is doing. This is a simple way of getting your staff to talk about something good and something not-so-good. A lot of cabin counsellors use this for their lantern time too.

Fancy Dress

Honestly, this came about because one of the staff had a new dress she was sad she hadn’t had a chance to wear on a break yet. So we had a ‘fancy dress’ meeting, and everyone came dressed up, and we drank punch (*ahem* sprite and frozen juice) and went about our meeting as usual.

Describe your day as a song

You get some pretty funny answers with this one.

Campfire

Sometimes I like to keep the campfire going after the campers head off to bed and pass the word along that the staff are to join me back down there for meeting. And SOMETIMES I bring marshmallows, or s’more supplies to that meeting.

campfire

Pool/ Glowsticks

This was another one that was by request. Ok, we happen to have an indoor, in-ground, heated pool, so it made it a little easier for us to run this meeting. But we told all of the staff (well, the ones who were coming to the meeting) to get changed into their swim gear and meet us in the pool. When they arrived, we had taped glow sticks all over the flutter boards, beach balls, and scattered them along the pool deck, etc.

It was fun, but a little ineffective. All of the floating stuff kept flipping over… because it was heavy on one side… lol … science. And it was kind of a pain in the butt to clean up but the staff loved it.

Questions

Run your entire meeting in question form (Kind of like the parlour game) It’s fun if your staff are in on it and they can only speak in questions too… OR you can start off the meeting speak in questions, wait for the weird looks and see how long it takes them to catch on. That’s fun too. haha

5 words or less

When you’re pressed for time, ask everyone to tell you about their day using 5 words or less. Some people just list five words, others craft clever sentences.
To be honest, this is my least favourite one, because I really like to hear about how everyone is doing, but sometimes staff really appreciate a quick meeting – and you can always follow-up after the meeting if something someone said caught your attention.

Parachute

Who doesn’t love a good parachute game? This is just a fun, silly way to have a meeting. Either use a large indoor space, or head outside with a lantern or two and create a parachute dome with everyone sitting on the inside.

That’s it, nothing special. But I promise most likely they’ll enjoy it! (I won’t make any promises, because I don’t know your staff… and what if they’re opposed to parachute fun? Then everyone will be disappointed. It’s about managing expectations, friends.🙂  )

Pass notes

Ok, so this is stupid, and hysterical.

My ACD and I used to do this, many moons ago. Whoever wasn’t running the meeting would randomly pass the other one a note during the meeting and they would have to somehow incorporate it into the meeting.
For example: The note said ‘bark like a dog’ the person running the meeting might say “you guys did such a phenomenal job making sure every camper had sunscreen on all day, woof, woof, woof, WOOF, I’m just… just so excited that I needed to bark.”

Of course the staff catch on (or already know about it from previous summers), and start passing their own notes, and it’s just pandemonium.

The trick is to not get caught passing the note though, because if another staff member sees you doing it, then the person running the meeting doesn’t have to use it.

Something you’re proud of 

I love this one, it encourages staff to focus on something positive from their day. AND it’s a great way to learn about the things that are important to them.

Highlight/ low light

Just another fun way to find out how everybody’s day went. Bonus points for passing around a flashlight that can be used as a spotlight for highlights and under the chin for lowlights.

Moustache on finger

Remember when everyone went through that phase where we all drew moustaches on our fingers and held them under our noses? Well we made a meeting theme out of that. We passed around a sharpie, everyone drew their moustaches, then we said “moustaches up!” everyone raised their fingers and the meeting began.

mustache-2

These are two of my favourite people on the planet. I think this photo is from 2008.

Something awesome about the person to your right

This is a nice way to spread the love. Ask them how their day was, and to tell you something awesome about a colleague. Everyone leaves feeling warm and fuzzy. Cause who doesn’t love getting/ giving a compliment?

Hats

As straight forward and stupid as it sounds. Tell everyone that dress code for the meeting is a hat from the costume bin, or a made hat. Bonus points for those who come to the meeting in a character or with an accent based on their hat choice.

Pirate toast

I don’t know what it is about camp and pirates, but man, we love em’.

I found this really cool pirate toast stamper and made my staff toast for meeting snack. Immediately everyone started talking like a pirate, so that was a fun byproduct of the snack!

pirate-toast-stamper

Shout out or Snaps to someone else

Ask the staff to highlight something awesome someone else did that day. It doesn’t even have to be someone who’s at the meeting, it can even be something a camper did. It just encourages focusing on the positive and kindness. And it’s great!

Goals for day/ week

I love goal setting. Sometimes I ask the staff to set a goal for their day and/ or week. My absolute favourite thing is when staff check in with me a day or two later to tell me how their goal is going.

Good/ bad/ good

It’s like a compliment sandwich … but less… obnoxious…? (I’m really sorry if I’m offending any compliment sandwich proponents… I just feel like they’re insincere and that we’ve moved past them.)

The staff member tells you two good things and one bad thing about their day (really in any order they want, but most do it in the good/ bad/ good order).

Collect quotes or moments in a jar and read one (or some) at meeting

An old director used to do this, I liked it. It takes a little prep work, but it’s a nice way to start a meeting. You can even read a quote that is the “theme” of the meeting – like they used to do at my old yoga class. That was nice.

Something you learned today 

I love this one. I love hearing about things that my staff are learning. And I like sharing something that I’ve learned too (to reinforce the idea that we’re always learning new things, no matter how long we’ve been working at camp).

Sometimes the answers are hilarious and might have something to do with how to turn the water off on a toilet that’s overflowing, and sometimes they’re profound and touch on people discovering a hidden talent, or learning to step outside of their comfort zone. Seriously, I love this one.

Do you guys do themed meetings? I’d love to hear what sort of things you do to make camp just a little more silly and fun.

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We Went Glamping!

We wanted to try something a little different this summer, so we invited friends & supporters of our camp to a “Glamping” weekend.

In case you’re not familiar with Glamping, here’s a definition:

Glamorous Camping; getting to experience the outdoors without giving up any of the amenities or comforts of home. In other words, fancy camping.

 

glamping

If you look up Glamping on Pinterest, you’ll likely just find a bunch of fancy yurts and fairy lights.
Well that wasn’t an option for us, and we also don’t have a resort style camp… and we weren’t about to go into major construction for this thing, so we worked with what we had and created an event that could be described as “slightly less campy camping”. Or “mildly fancy camping”. FUN!

 

We promoted it as a weekend for ladies 19+ (because we’re in Canada, and we were allowing alcohol) and we ended up with a small but great group of gals. It was a great first shot out of the gate.

Here’s a loose schedule of what we did.

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Self Care at Camp

You guys! I have some exciting news… ok well it’s mostly only exciting for me.

But I wanted to share!!

You know how I talk A LOT about self-care, and how we need to encourage and support our staff to practice good self care. Well it turns out that it actually works!!! haha

Ever since I started directing camps two things have always bookmarked my experience, a pre- season cold sore, and a post season migraine. Fun, right?

 

bookmarks
Cold sore & migraine, the bookmarks to my camp experience for 10 years

 

So this year I decided to actually practice what I’ve been preaching and I set some goals for self-care.

(Check out this post to find out what I’ve said in the past about self-care.)

They weren’t anything too lofty, I had checklist of 5 items on my phone, and I would try to do some combination of at least 3 of them every day. (During the camp pre-season I was checking off all 5 every day.)

Here’s my list:

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Supporting Your Staff – Part 5 -Shout Out Wall Update

The Shout Out Wall has been one of my post popular posts.

Kudos to you, camping community, I love that you’re all so concerned with spreading kindness and encouragement!

One of the questions that I get asked most often is, “What are some other themes I can use on my board?”

Well I thought I’d help ya’ll out with a list of themes my staff and I have come up with (and some photos too!)

If you’re new here and you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my Shout Out Wall post to get some tips on how to do one.

 

Shout Out 

You can really draw anything with this, we’ve drawn animals, megaphones, and a man’s face, you can be creative.

ABCD – Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

I went for Buzz Lightyear’s slightly less handsome cousin (because it made sense with our theme) but you could do a medal or something if that makes more sense to you.

You Rock (because…) 

I’ve done both the electric guitar type rock, as well as a poorly drawn picture of a rock, but you could be creative and do Mt. Rushmore or something! Or a KISS face. (The band, not the … duck face thing.)

You Rule (because…) Continue reading

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Making Friends in Blog Land

Hi guys,

Do you know what’s nice about blogging? It’s a lot like camp.

People are supportive of each other, and there’s no feeling of competition (at least not in this little niche of camp blogging) we’re all working towards a common goal of inspiring, educating, and informing current and future camp folk. Because after all, it’s still all about the campers, right? And the more we share and collaborate, the better our individual programs will be.

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So, on that topic (ok, all this was really just to get to that segue.. haha) I wanted to tell you that I wrote a guest blog post over at Summer Camp Programming about the Top 5 Reasons To Work At A Camp For People With Disabilities. 

Check it out!🙂

And while you’re there, check out some of the other stuff that Curt has created, there are tons of resources available.

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I really liked doing a guest post, it was fun to write about something slightly different from I normally do, and I think you should do it too!!

So if any of you fine folks would like to do a guest post on my little blog (and I’d love to reciprocate if that’s something you’re interested in, but if not that’s ok too) I’d love to hear from you. Either let me know in the comment section below, or shoot me an email (you can do that in the contact section).

The focus of this blog tends to be on things I wish I knew when I was starting out and things I’ve learned along the way to make my work better/ easier – so there’s a lot you could do with that AND I have my “Path” series that I would LOVE to hear from you about – because it’s fun to learn about new people.

Ok, that’s it. Looking forward to hearing from you guys! Don’t forget to check out my guest post over on Summer Camp Programmer.

xo

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Celebrate Your Wins

I mentioned in this post a while back that I keep a notebook of the wins I’m excited about from each summer. Some are great big, pat on the back wins and some of them are teeny tiny personal wins.

I like to list the ones that are most important to me so that I can reflect on them later to help keep my work in perspective (especially if I need to balance something that’s challenging me). I also like to include some inspiring quotes, because that’s just the kind of person I am.

So I thought I’d share the last few years entries with you guys to hopefully inspire you to create a win book of your own. Continue reading

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The Path We Take … Curt’s Story

I’m really excited to share today’s post with you all. In my third installment in The Path We Take series we focus on Curt “Moose” Jackson, the creative and dynamic force behind the Summer Camp Programming website among other projects.

While I’ve yet to meet Curt in person, I’ve long admired his brilliant and creative programming ideas – and the fact that he has been able to bring camping professionals from around the world together to share ideas in his roundtable compilations.

(click here for information on how to participate in future email roundtables)

Now that I’ve had a chance to learn a little bit more about Curt through this process, I can also say that I admire his candor (he got real folks – and it was awesome!) and his drive to continue to explore, learn, create, and improve the level of programming we offer in the camping industry. 

I hope you enjoy learning about Curt’s journey as much as I did, and if you have any questions, comments, or just want to tell Curt how awesome he is, tell us about it in the comment section below. 

 

curts-story


Tell us about yourself.

 

Yikes, this is a broad question. It all started when I was a twinkle in my mother’s eye.

Just kidding.

I grew up an only child to a loving single parent in Southern California. My mom was a nurse who worked long hours and I was a latch-key kid. She passed away from cancer when I was 15. Unfortunately, nobody in my family wanted to take on the burden of raising a teenager. So after getting tossed around a bit between aunts and uncles my grandparents took me in. Six months later my grandfather passed away. Those two years were rough and had a big impact on my life, positive and negative.

I’ve always wanted to be an actor or a rock star, but I know that if I really did either of those careers I wouldn’t enjoy them. Besides, camp gives me the chance to do both with camp skits and camp songs. As a young kid I wanted to be a professional baseball player or a magician. Come to find out, I wasn’t very good at either of them, but I still like to pull out some magic tricks when campers are around.

I like road trips, the ocean, Moose Tracks ice cream, campfires and the smell of freshly cut grass.

I don’t like inconsiderate people, Brussel sprouts, humidity, and movie theaters that don’t have stadium seating.

TradingCards-template-SURVIVOR 2.psd

This is one of Curt’s super cool trading cards he offers on his site. You can order them here.

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Summer Book Review

You guys…
I think that BR Myers is stalking me…

Haha, just kidding (I think?) but I did read her adorable book a few months ago called Girl on the Run. Which I happened to pick up by chance, because it was near Tyler Oakley’s Binge book in Chapters (which I also picked up), and I liked the look of the cover.

Once I turned it over and read the synopsis, I knew I had to have it. It was a book about running AND camp!!! Two of my favourite things!!

So I brought it home and started reading it, it was so much fun (and also a little unsettling, but I’ll get into that in a moment).

It’s a YA novel about a 17 year old girl who has given up running after her father’s death, she heads to summer camp to try to get her life back on track (peh. heh. heh. unintentional pun, but I like it and now I’m proud of it!)

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When I started reading it I was reminded of the Sweet Valley High books I used to read when I was young, it was a fun read and I finished it by the end of the evening.

There were a couple of references in the book that made me say ‘YES, this author totally gets me, we should be friends”.

And then there were a few story points that made me think “man, this camp is SKETCHY!”

Let’s get into it, shall we?

*Warning – Spoilers Ahead*

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Sending out an S.O.S

So here’s a (well-known?) fact about me.

I hate asking for help.

I hate it. Seriously.

Especially in my career. I don’t think it makes me look weak or anything like that, I know it doesn’t. I’m just stubborn I guess.

I was “brought up” in a camp culture where we powered through things, and made due, and solved problems with creative solutions… and laughed the whole time at the ridiculousness of the situation.

I still do all of those things, in fact, I pride myself on being able to do all of those things. I consider myself one heck of a creative problem solver, and it typically takes A LOT to really freak me out, and I spend most of my days laughing at the utterly ridiculous things that happen at camp.

But…

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Work/ Work balance

Everyone has heard of work/ life balance… it can be challenging to achieve at times and most people struggle with it. But camp directors have an additional struggle… and that’s work/ work balance. A camp director WANTS to be out with the campers, it’s good for the staff to learn by their example, it’s good for the campers to see them around and get to interact with them, it’s good for the camp because they have their eye on things, and most importantly, it’s fun!!
But, there’s also office work to be done. Phone calls to return, emails to send, reports to write, meetings to be had. All of the things that go into running a business.

One of the things I wish I had done differently over the years is to create a better work/ work balance. It’s something I continue to struggle with today and if I’m being honest, the last few summers the scales have definitely been tipping toward the office work side of things… which is such a bummer.

work: work balance

Based on this photo, I’m not sure why I’m so eager to show up to programs!

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