These days many people are spending upwards of 70% of their working day in back to back meetings. Until we figure out new ways of turning that around, here are some ideas to facilitate dynamic meetings. Note that the word facilitate means "to make easy". Here are some ways to make it simple for people to get their best ideas out, be productive, feel validated and be energized by the end of a meeting session.
Frame The Right Questions
If you've called a meeting, don't just wing it. This may seem obvious, but identify why you are having the meeting in the first place and communicate that to everyone attending. Generate key questions in advance, so that you lead with inquiry- and stimulate people in the room to do the talking and synthesizing. The Institute of Cultural Affairs' Technology of Participation method offers a terrific process for generating questions that guide conversations to start with sharing facts all the way to reflection and culminating with action items.
This form of brainstorming ensures a more democratic process. In response to a prompt question, give people a few minutes to generate ideas on their own, in silence, and then move on to sharing the ideas in small teams. This reduces the chances of extroverts dominating a conversation.
Think on Your Feet
The Navy has adhered to standing meetings for decades. Walking meetings are becoming de-riguer. Get people to post ideas on the walls instead of while seated at tables. The spine is an extension of the brain and adding motion to thinking increases blood flow and therefore oxygen to the brain. Neuro-synapses become more dynamic. Standing and moving also ensure that the meeting is kept short, and that work gets done in energized spurts.
We are hard wired to be visual creatures. That's related to the fight/flight response generated in our hypothalamus. Get your team to communicate complex information through doodles. Visualizing ideas has very little to do with your ability to draw and everything to do with your capacity for abstract, complex thinking. Even in a work culture where quantitative data is valued, try starting with doodling to get the big picture for topline summaries, and then supporting major ideas with the quantitative details.
Flip the Expert
Rotate who leads meetings. In advance, ask someone junior in the team, newer to the team, or from a different department to facilitate the meeting. This brings value from a range of perspectives. Another way to switch things up is to bring in an external expert facilitator. This frees up senior leaders to be true participants and can equalize everyone involved.
Experiment with these ideas for your next series of meetings and witness a new level of energy and dynamism from your team.