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How to have movement in your meeting

On location in a boring hotel conference room, Craig explains techniques for getting people up out of their chairs and moving in meetings. He explains that there is more to the ground rule “Ready to move” than you might think!


Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. I am speaking to you from a boring hotel banquet room with no windows and grey walls. I have been in a meeting in this room since 8am this morning and I do a lot of hotel meetings like this and I’m going to share with you some techniques to liven up a meeting like this. Let me show you around a little bit.

Here at the end of the day, this meeting room is pretty disheveled. There are tables and chairs all over the place and it’s kind of a mess and one of the reasons it’s a mess is because of this ground rule — up here on the screen that I shared with the group at the start of the meeting — it says, “Ready to move.” I told them that during this meeting we were going to be get up out of our chairs at several points in the meeting and here are some of the ways that we did that.

For one thing we started the day with what I call a line up. I asked everybody to stand up and line up in order by which they joined the company, around the outside of the tables. It was kind of fun to let people find their places in the lineup. And then from that line up they did introductions and I asked some questions and we were able to talk a little bit about the observations of people joining the company at different times, etc.

Another way I asked them to move was we had some small group discussions later in the day and we did those over here in this empty space in this meeting room. I asked them to bring their chairs down here, circle up and have discussions in closed circles, rather than across these tables.

Another way that we moved in this meeting was for lunch. The best way to have lunch in a meeting like this is in a separate room around small table so people can talk to each other across the tables. We didn’t have that option today so I made a split decision and when it came time for lunch I said, “Okay people you remember the ground rule Ready to move. I’m going to ask your help in moving the tables.” And we moved that table clear out of the way and we move this line of tables and this line of tables together in the middle to make one big long kind of boardroom banquet table and we all ate together city face-to-face. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes when you ask people to be eat sitting across from each other rather than sitting in a line. That’s another way that I got people in today’s meeting to move.

There is a last way also that I got people to move in this meeting. Look at the very last ground rule, “Music stretch breaks.” And what we do here is, every time we come back from a break we sit down at our chairs and everything as if were going to start the meeting and then when everybody’s assembled I say, “Okay you know how this works. Everybody stand up.” And I turn on some music and I turn on some pretty lively music, not too loud, but something with a beat, and I start to stretch. A simple standing in place stretch. And I do this kind of stretch for as long as I want — and everybody is following along with me — and when I feel like I’ve done it enough I name somebody else and it’s their turn to lead a stretch. And they might just do a little stretch like this, or a stretch like this, and then they will name somebody else and it will be somebody else’s turn to lead a stretch.

Now if you don’t want to lead a stretch you can just immediately say the name of somebody else to like, pass it along, because not everybody’s comfortable doing that. And a lot of groups I do this with, dancing kind of goes along with the beat of the music and it gets people up out of their chairs stretching. Then when we sit down to meet in this stuffy, boring hotel conference room without any windows, blood is flowing and we are in much better shape to make good group decisions.

When I explain this ground rule — and of course you should know that I don’t spring this on anybody, of course. I would not do this without clearing it with the meeting leaders ahead of time. When I have a planning meeting I’ll ask them, “What’s your appetite for movement? Would you like to get up out of your chairs? Would this kind of thing be okay?” And only if they say this kind of thing would be okay would I do it. But when I explain the ground rule I give him a heads up about what’s going to happen, that we’re going to do stretch breaks, we will sometimes gather in small groups, were going to do lineups, were going to be moving around in this meeting. That’s what “Ready to move” means.

But it also means ready to move philosophically. Ready to move organizationally. I am asking for people in my meetings to have an open mind and be ready to move off of the positions that they came in to the meeting with.

“Ready to move” is a pretty darn good ground rule philosophically and physically. Especially if you’re going to have, like, an eight hour meeting in a pretty typical hotel conference room like this, it’s really great if you can be ready to move.

Thanks for listen everybody and here’s hoping that you help your group make good decisions.

One thought on “How to have movement in your meeting

  1. Good points, Craig. Moving bodies lead to more engaged participants, diverse conversations, and generally speaking, more creativity.

    I really can’t think of any good reason that a room full of adults would ever need to sit in a chair for 8 hours. That would be torturous, not to mention really unhealthy.

    In my work, I draw heavily from the exercises outlined in Liberating Structures. ( I love using “Shift and Share” at the beginning of meetings to have people have a brief discussion with several people they don’t know well, typically to talk about what they hope to “get out” of the meeting, as well as what they can contribute”. Make new connections; hear different perspectives to frame the day.

    I also find that” 1-2-4-All” is a great way for people to generate their own ideas in response to an issue, discuss and build on them with another person ( to “safely” test out their thinking and suggestions) and then couple up with another pair to look for synergistic as well as diverse ideas. Participants love this one.

    Here’s to no “bums in chairs” meetings! @HodgsonKA

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