Using music to engage full-throttle energy at meetings

Full brain capacity for new ideas and new decisions occur in meetings that

  • Enliven people
  • Inspire people to transform problems into solutions
  • Have novel topics to on the agenda
  • Are free from anger, fear and frustration
  • Provide for using new approaches and skill learning
  • Leaders and managers engage and listen more than they talk
(source Survey Your Meetings for Brainpower, Dr. Ellen Weber)

Using music

Imagine a movie without its orchestration, or a tv show free from its battle cry.  Hockey Night in Canada wouldn’t be the same without its theme, and surgeons during long procedures use music in the background to aid their craft. Why not leverage themed music for your meetings as well, before they begin, at breaks and when they wrap up.

Music can set help set the tone to invite people to stay open to new ideas and for situations that involve making new decisions.  Telling people to feel free, to tap different kinds of thinking doesn’t always work. They have their presuppositions walking into a room about what the meeting will be like and how it will go ahead, void of human spirit or attention to how people feel  when they are asked to do something out of the ordinary, like using creative thinking.  Music can subliminally influence people’s moods to be open, relaxed and curious.

Dr. Ellen Weber’s post “the brain on music” gives the following recommendations. She runs the MITA Brain Institute in Rochester, NY.  Her blog, Brain Leaders and Learners, offers practical tactics from neuro discoveries.

  • Gregorian chant creates quiet in our minds and can reduce stress.
  • Slower Baroque music, such as Bach, Handel, Vivaldi or Corelli, can create mentally stimulating environments for creativity and new innovations.
  • Classical music, such as Haydn and Mozart, often improves concentration and memory when played in the background.
  • Romantic music, such as Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky , Chopin and Liszt, enhances our senses and increases a sense of sympathy and love.
  • Impressionist music, such as Debussy, Faure and Ravel, can unlock dreamlike images that put us in touch with our unconscious thoughts and belief systems.
  • Jazz, blues, soul or calypso music can uplift and inspire us, releasing deep joy or even deep sadness, conveying wit and affirming our common humanity.
  • Salsa, rhumba, merengue and any form of South American music sets our hearts racing, gets us moving, both relaxing us and awakening us at the same time.
  • Big band, Top 40 and country music engages our emotions and comforts us.
  • Rock music, from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones, stirs passion and activity, and so can release daily tensions. Rock can also mask pain and cover up unpleasant noises. It also has the power to create dissonance, stress or physical pain if we are not in the mood for energizing.
  • Ambient or New Age music such as Stephen Halpern and Brian Eno has no dominant rhythm, so it elongates the sense of space and time, inducing a state of relaxed alertness.
  • Heavy metal and hip-hop music excites our nervous system, and sometimes leads us into acting out dynamic behavior and self-expression.
  • Religious and sacred music such as hymns and gospel moves us to feel grounded in the moment, and leads to deep peace and spiritual awareness. Sacred music often helps us to transcend pain.

Other resources

The potential power of using music in meetings, professor Caroline van Niekirk, Pretoria, South Africa.  Her paper explores the effects which music can have in context such as meetings.

Energizing Staff Meetings, Sheila Eller and John Eller.  Their 2006 book offers suggestions for different kinds of meeting-related music to use at what occasions and for what effects.

Effective Group Facilitation in Education, John Eller. This 2004 book provides examples of different kinds of music, and gives you a checklist to assess which might be best for your group or meeting.

Music and Emotional Responses in the Brain. A Bryn Mawr student paper reveals research in the area.

Scholarly research

Emotional responses to pleasant and unpleasant music correlate with activity in paralimbic brain regions.  Anne J. Blood, Robert J. Zatorre, Patrick Bermudez and Alan C. Evans. Neuropsychology/Cognitive Neuroscience Unit, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Canada 1999 Nature America Inc. • http://neurosci.nature.com

The findings suggest that music may recruit neural mechanisms similar to those previously associated with pleasant/unpleasant emotional states, and different from those underlying other components of music perception, and other emotions such as fear.

Moving forward

I’ve used music for workshops and meetings to the delight of participants for years.  On occasion I’m asked to lower the volume, not that often though. Give it a shot for your next meeting.  Hey, in these times when people are demanding new ideas and new decisions, using music in your meetings may set the stage to break free new thinking to create exciting new futures.

I wonder if creativity professionals of the future will need to know about the influence of music on people’s abilities…