By Lisa Calhoun
It’s no secret that making meetings great is a challenge. Especially the routine ones. Here are a few ways to keep the mojo moving and build a strong rhythm for your important meetings
Walk it out.
Schedule a walk instead of a talk. According to a recent Stanford study, walking improves creativity. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are on the record as fans of the walking meeting—why not you?
Even in the summer, I schedule “coffee walks”—it’s a great first meeting of the day. My Atlanta public relations agency is located right on the Beltline, alongside great firms like Athena Health, Mailchimp, Cardlytics, and King of Pops. I use the Beltline for most of my business walks. For you, think of places near you that are conducive to easy walks. I have a 10 minute, a 30 minute, and a one hour turn-around point near my office so I don’t have to check time.
Instead of taking notes, record key pieces of dialog. If the recording needs to be shared in another format, consider transcribing with a service like Rev. I impressed last week when a Rev transcriptionist ($1/minute) clearly identified all four voices in my recorded walk.
Flatter everyone with frictionless feedback.
When you don’t have the luxury of movement, use fresh meeting formats to keep minds moving. One of my favorite meeting formats is the “start, stop, and keep” approach.
You ask the other party to share things you should start doing, stop doing, and keep doing. This might go both ways. It’s blameless and painless—but when someone asks you to “stop doing” something, you’ve got clear direction. This is a great way to create a stressless debrief between divisions or services teams. It’s a format we rely on at my PR firm for client feedback. It’s easy to understand and simple to apply.
Freak ‘em out with fabulous agendas and follow ups
One of the hassles of great meetings is needing to create an agenda, reminders, and often follow up documents and action items. Making the time to do that can be a challenge—partly because many of us have that next meeting to get to!
Several flat-rate, retainer-based services exist that make meeting document mastery easier.
Try the Uniquely Virtual service from Atlanta entrepreneur Kenzie Biggins. Or Zirtual, which is specifically for entrepreneurs and executives. Administrative support services like these can be trained to fill in agendas, get transcripts, develop take-aways from transcripts, and do appointment setting, lunch ordering, and follow ups. Zirtual has a particular offering for work groups so you can all share one resource to support your meetings.
Feel smarter about scheduling one-on-one’s.
Weaving your schedule with another busy person’s for your one-to-one meetings is a particular time burner. One of the neatest tools for scheduling I’ve come across recently is Assistant.To. It won’t work for groups, but it’s dynamite when you’re trying to get in front of one other person with a minimum of hassle.
Raise the roof on your next big idea.
Two of my favorite places to work from, Write2Market and Atlanta Tech Village, both have rooftop areas. I’ve noticed that taking a conversation “topside” really opens up ideas. It seems I’m not alone: a recent study suggested that time outdoors can improve thinking and creativity. Something about the open sky can create the space to dream bigger. See if your next tough working session needs a shot at having no ceilings. It may open up a world of fresh confidence in the conversations.
Put some sunshine in project kick-offs and project closes
When big projects kick off and when they close could be powerful moments for your team. Accent that power by using the biggest show on earth—the dance of the planets. Some seasons, it’s not hard to hold kick-offs at sunrise. You can celebrate project completions at sunset. Serving breakfast on the one hand, or a toast on the other, you can use the natural environment to plug your project rhythm.
Get hands-on with process improvement meetings.
Process improvement is a big deal—but it sure can get boring. Try having your process improvement “deep dive” in a setting that emphasizes how hard it can be to improve so your team can use their senses. Golf practice comes to mind. Take the team to the range and hit balls before you jump into the session. Gardening can also provide a setting that emphasizes the long rewards of the right process. Most cities have a botanical garden or farm where your team is welcome to participate in seeding, planting, repotting, or harvesting. If you’re working on improving one kind of process—like engineering or debugging—try touring a place where process improvement means something else, like a bakery, an industrial plant, or a chocolatier.
Anything you do to help your team internalize your message in their own physical lives, with their actual senses, turns “meh” meetings into memorable ones. Give your own creativity a walk, and you might find you’re enjoying your meetings more than ever.
This article first appeared at Inc.com