Here’s How to Get More Out of Your Next Meeting

A walking meeting can boost creative thinking and productivity.

Do you feel like chunks of your workday – not to mention billable hours – are eaten up in meetings that are often unproductive?

Maybe next time instead of the usual sit-down, try holding a walking meeting. As the name suggests, the idea is to conduct your business while taking a stroll.

Studies – like this one in the Journal of Experimental Psychology – show “walk-and-talks” enhance creative thinking, boost engagement and increase productivity. Plus, you’ll get some exercise.

Or you could follow the lead of billionaire Mark Cuban and conduct the bulk of your business by email rather than in person.

Yet another alternative is the Methodical Meeting, which employs a problem/outcome approach to group sessions.

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The Walk-and-Talk Meeting
“A walking meeting is simply that: a meeting that takes place during a walk instead of in an office, boardroom, or coffee shop,” says this article in the Harvard Business Review. “Research finds that the act of walking leads to increases in creative thinking. This certainly supports the usefulness of walking meetings. Plenty of anecdotal evidence also suggests that walking meetings lead to more honest exchanges with employees and are more productive than traditional sit-down meetings.”

Here are five tips for making walk-and-talks a success:

  1. Keep the group small. Too many participants will result in nothing of substance being accomplished. Experts recommend a maximum of three participants.
  2. Pick an interesting route. This will incentivize participants and keep them engaged.
  3. Have an agenda. Keep it concise. Focus on one or two items. Schedule a start and end time – and stick to that schedule. Fifteen to 30 minutes is ideal.
  4. Tell people in advance. “If you’re planning ahead to spend your time with someone in a walking meeting, have the courtesy to notify them in advance,” recommends the Harvard Business Review. “This allows them to arrive dressed for comfort, perhaps having changed shoes. You might also keep water bottles on hand to offer on warm days.”
  5. Have fun. “Why not take in a favorite local hotspot or a great local cafe?” says StepJockey. “Keeping it low key and fun is a surefire way to ensure a bounty of creative ideas. If you work in a multi-level building you could even take your meeting on the stairs, climb just three flights of stairs ten times and you could burn over 100 calories!”

The Methodical Meeting
“Many bad meetings are more adequately explained by a simple, flawed assumption,” writes Al Pittampalli in the Harvard Business Review. “We assume that intuitive problem solving, a highly effective approach for individuals, will, in the context of meetings, prove just as effective for groups. But often, it does not.”

The better option, says Pittampalli, is the Methodical Meeting, which emphasizes problem-solving over intuition.

Here are the five stages of the Methodical Meeting, courtesy of Pittampalli and the HBR:

Stage 1: Define a specific problem. Example: We need to select a venue for our upcoming seminar.
Stage 2: Make a list of possible solutions. Come up with as many quality options as you can.
Stage 3: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the various solutions. Create a list of pros and cons for each.
Stage 4: Debate and choose. Put the final choice in writing.
Stage 5: Select a solution. “If you’re able to leave the conversation with a comprehensive list of actions, assigned owners, and due dates, you can celebrate a remarkably profitable outcome,” says Pittampalli.

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