May 01, 1999
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts May 1999 Current Issue
May 1999
Short Cuts:

give a little squeeze

The CEO and director of marketing are at it again in the meeting room. Voices are raised, tension is mounting, but the other executives look amused. Why? There, cradled gently in the hand of the firm’s leader, is a tiny velveteen ducky. He strokes it protectively as he argues his point.

From beanbag animals to sand-filled globes and other cute squeezables, so-called stress toys help break the ice, ease tension, give attendees something to fidget with and add some creative energy to the gathering.

At Chicago’s Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, Kerry Molina, CMP, the hotel’s director of catering and convention services, often preps boardrooms with anything from Koosh Balls to Play-Doh. “It helps create an atmosphere that’s conducive to achieving objectives,” she says.

“These meetings can be monotonous,” says Atlanta-based psychiatrist Dr. Shawn Harvey. “A hand toy keeps the mind sharper. It promotes stimulation of certain areas of the brain.” Harvey, who has conducted stress-reduction counseling sessions for CNN and Merrill Lynch, adds, “The more simple the toy’s construction, the more ideal it is. You don’t want something that’s going to remove the focus from the meeting. You want ‘white noise’ stimulation that won’t detract from the business at hand.”

One ever-popular squeeze toy, the Martian Popping Thing, is on Seattle-based manufacturer/retailer Archie McPhee’s ( best-seller list every year. The handheld, bean-shaped toy has facial characteristics that literally explode with silent glee when you squeeze it. The company recently filled an order for 372 Martians for Therapro, a Framingham, Mass.-based occupational-therapy company.

“It’s a great stress reliever,” says Sherry Holdridge, spokesperson for Archie McPhee. “We’ve been making this toy for 18 years, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down.” Archie McPhee’s Accoutrements division handles large corporate sales (800-886-2221; Bulk buyers can get toys at roughly half off the $7.50 retail price.

Among other suppliers to consider: Napa, Calif.-based OddzOn Inc. (800-755-6674), makers of the Koosh product line, and Dow Corning (800-248-2481), which sells time-tested Silly Putty in 50-pound quantities (without the familiar plastic eggs). Calgary, Alberta-based Logotown Promotions (403-283-6600; has more than 500,000 products, including stress toys, on which companies can print their logos or messages.

Tailoring the toy to the meeting is highly effective, as well.

“We once did a meeting for a predominantly male audience and gave them Matchbox cars,” recalls Hyatt’s Molina. “It was fun to watch. They were able to be ‘manly’ and relive their youths at the same time.”


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