No-one likes meetings, especially if they do a lot of them. Many of them I hate myself. And you can always tell how a meeting is going by how much the other parties in it actually say.
If they don't say anything very much, it is a very good sign that no one really cares. On the other hand, animated conversation is a very, very good indicator of interest that might lead to action.
This is problematic when you're dealing with bankers, though. As a rule, we don't like to say much at the best of times. Getting animation out of a banking meeting is like scraping your fingernails down a chalkboard.
But the real hallmark of a great meeting is achieving the eye-blink moment.
The eye-blink moment is where you contribute something that causes a mental model in someone's head to shift. You can see it happening: there is silence, followed by an eye-widening as the cogs all move. The tenor of everything else that follows is quite different.
Eye-blink moments are the ultimate goal for innovators: by changing the way people think about things, we are able to change our institutions as well.
But they don't come easily.
You have to have the courage to challenge people's convictions head on. And the wisdom to do it without backing people into corners. One walks a delicate line. Too much caution and you waste the meeting. Too much challenge and you get thrown out.
A successful eye-blink moment has a ripple effect, though. Decisions which were previously blocked suddenly aren't. And, more importantly, the team that delivered the eye-blink moment raises its credibility, since they are now perceived as thought leaders. People talk about that, and it makes opening other doors easier.
Not everything one does has the potential for an eye-blink, but many things do. And its a gamble to go for it, since you have the risk of annoying people, but when the eye-blink happens, it is invariably worth it.
Another reason, I suppose, that you can't have a risk-averse innovator in your institution. Taking risks with relationships is as important as taking risks with everything else we do.