Active and Mindful Meetings

Movement increases energy, which participants can use to make the meeting more productive.

Keeping muscles active and moving can circulate fresh blood and oxygen into the brain, triggering the release of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals.

Making Your Meetings More Active

  • Include items on your meeting agenda that require participants to get out of their seats (breakout groups, stand and write ideas on an easel).
  • Choose movement friendly meeting locations (walkable neighborhoods, on-site gym, nearby park).
  • Hire a professional instructor (pilates, yoga, tai chi, stretching, Zumba) to lead a class before or during the meeting.
  • Point out the stairs and encourage attendees to use them. Consider including the location of stairs in meeting directions or putting arrows to the stairs in front of elevators.
  • Organize a group walk early in the morning, during a break or before/after dinner.
  • Consider incorporating standing ovations after each speaker to encourage participants to stand and stretch.

Standing Breaks

  • At least once an hour, participants should be encouraged to stand up to improve blood circulation, boost metabolism, and relieve physical discomfort from sitting for prolonged periods of time.
  • Announce that it is fine to stand up and move around, as needed. If possible, provide raised tables for those electing to stand during the meeting.

Stretch Breaks

  • Stretch breaks help participants wake up their bodies and minds.
  • Encourage people to stand up and stretch in place. 

Breathing Exercise

  • Focused breathing is an energizing activity that can help relax and clear your mind. Simply inhale for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds.

Suggested Activity Agendas

LENGTH OF MEETING

STANDING BREAK

STRETCH BREAKS

BREATHING BREAKS

MOVEMENT BREAKS

WALKING BREAKS

50 - 60 min

x

 

x

   

2 - 4 hours

x

x

x

x

 

All Day

x

x

x

x

x

Meeting Mindfully

Adapted from Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, 2018

Interested in making your meetings more effective and engaging?  Consider infusing mindfulness into your meetings.  The following are guidelines to support your efforts in conducting a mindful meeting.  Feel free to use all or some of the following tips.

Before the Meeting

  • Agenda: It can be helpful to share an agenda for the meeting to create a shared understanding about the purpose of the meeting.  This will help your participants show up prepared.


During the Meeting

  • Arriving:  During the first couple of minutes of the meeting invite participants to take a deep breath, lower their gaze and be silent. (If you’d like, you can invite attendees to bring their attention to the experience of touching the surface below them.) Silence involves not talking or gesturing and putting aside mobile devices for the duration, too.  This exercise will help your attendees gather their attention and more effectively transition to the content of the meeting. You can set an alarm or ring a bell at the end of the silent period.
    • Attention can become fragmented by ongoing digital notifications on devices such as phones, tablets and laptops during meetings. At the start of the meeting, consider asking attendees to silence their digital devices and put them out of visible reach unless necessary.

  • Establishing Group Norms:  For meetings that will recur, consider establishing norms for discussion. This will help attendees have clear expectations about how to engage in discussions. Below is a list of suggested group norms:
    • Curiosity and Open-Mindedness:  be open to others' ideas and ask questions to clarify and understand before sharing your own.
    • Acknowledgement: Acknowledge that others have a worthwhile view, even if different from your own and you disagree.
    • Attention: Remove distractions so that you can keep focused on the meeting.  If feeling unfocused, participants can ask for a quick break to refocus.
    • Monitor thoughts and emotions: Pay attention to your own thoughts and feelings before responding and be clear about your intention for speaking to avoid responding in a reactive way.
       
  • Check-In: Take a few moments to allow each person to check in.  You can conduct check-ins with the whole group together or in pairs. Check-ins help attendees better understand and connect with each other.  If checking in with the whole group, the leader should go first to model to the remaining participants how to check-in with openness and authenticity.  The following are suggested check-in prompts:
    • How are you right now?
    • What would you like to get out of this meeting?
  • Review agenda and intentions for the meeting (e.g., action items, decisions, answers to questions). 
  • Foster more effective discussions by creating a meeting culture in which people have time to pause before they are expected to speak or respond. The meeting facilitator/leader could explicitly communicate this intention and then model it for the attendees for the duration of the meeting.

  • Closing:
    • Recap action items, decisions or answers to questions.  This helps attendees prioritize and organize information.
    • Consider closing the meeting with a silent 1 minute pause to allow people to more effectively transition their attention to what’s next.

After the Meeting

  • Send meeting notes including any recap of decisions and action items to participants.  This will help attendees stay focused on next steps.


For longer meetings or departmental events:

  • Incorporate breaks throughout the meeting that allow an opportunity for participants to clear their minds. This will help bring focus and energy to meetings.
    • Consider having a trained facilitator offer a guided mindfulness meditation session
    • Consider incorporating opportunities for mindful eating, mindful walking or mindful movement.

Please note that mindfulness meditation and exercises should be offered on a voluntary basis. Attendees should have the opportunity to opt-out to engage in an alternate healthy exercise, if they so choose.