Now, i don't know about you.
Running a game for me has been a constant evolution of ideas since i first picked up a set of dice.
How to run a game that is engaging, quick and fun is a challenge for the best of us. Good thing there is a great deal of advice out there, sadly most of it just doesn't seem to jibe with my way of thinking. I don't fault the authors, just my odd way of looking at the universe.
So to that, i shall endeavor to tell you what works for me. I have spent a great deal of time listening and reading about the topic that strikes very close to my heart and i hope that it sheds a bit of light on how you can run a better game.
1) Speak with confidence.
Being a DM is about leadership. Being a good leader means having a handle on your situation at all times, or at very least looking like you do. Don't let the rules and regulation of any game get in your way as a DM, they are only tools and tools are only as good as the one using them. If you find a rule that gets in your way, stomp on it. If you find a rule that allows you to wax poetic and frame your adventure in a pleasing manner, use it. Being the DM means never having to back down to the words on the page. You are there to create a story with your players and to run a fun game, nothing else matters.
2) Do your Goram homework.
Each setting has it's own flavor. If that flavor does not fit well into your headspace, play a different game. Going into a game with little to no clue as to what you are doing is as Sun Tzu would say "entering dangerous ground". Being unprepared does not automatically mean that your game will crash and burn, just that running without a good conceptualization of setting and mechanics will make your life that much harder and slow your game down. Crack open a book before you start each game. Read over the rules briefly and familiarize yourself as best you can. Any time put in before a game has a tendency to pay you back in a better game experience.
3) Group dynamics are important.
Be it a D&D game or any real world work environment. a good group dynamic can make or break any situation. Be sure that your group understands who is in charge of your sessions. Do not allow unruly players to damage your mission. Often times speaking in a professional manner to a troublemaker will end many an issue. Sadly sometimes problem players will not take instruction and will continue to cause problems.
As a leader this can pose a challenge and sometimes simply booting a player is not an option. But luckly for you, you have a group. Peer pressure and peer policing is the best method for curbing problem gamers. You have a group because they want to play and have a good time. If it is not patently obvious that there are issues, speak calmly and plainly to your group about it. Odds are you are not the only one who is frustrated and the more people who voice their displeasure the better.
4) When in charge take charge.
When you are running a game you are the Alpha and the Omega of your little virtual universe. Take your players suggestions and review them thoughtfully. But at no time kowtow to a player. You can seek counsel in your players and find a great deal of wisdom in their words. But constantly backing down will set an unhealthy paradigm in your group. Feel free to take advice, listen and try to understand but this is your game and the better the players understand and agree to it the better.
5) Semper Gumby!
A good DM has to be quick on their feet.
There is a certain amount of mental dexterity that comes into play when running a game. Being able to react and always leaving yourself room for the unexpected is a skill that is vital to the successful running of a game as well as a handy life skill. Being able to think on your feet is the first prerequisite to being a good DM and a good leader. Never forget that you have a group of people who are invested in having a good time and that as the DM they are your team. If you ever find yourself floundering for new ideas, talk to your group and listen to what they have to say. Stay flexible but never lose sight of your goal.
6) If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong.
Finally, these things that we spend so much time and energy on are just games. They are meant to be grand distractions. They are flights of fantasy and adventure that the vast majority of people never experience in real life. They are good excuses to spend good time in good company and if you ever find yourself not thinking so, something is wrong. Talk to your group, see if there has been a change as of late that has influenced gameplay in some manner. This may cause your group to have an adventure of their own if one of their party is facing a challenge in real life.
In the end, running a game is very much about leadership and team building.
The skills you learn running a RPG are directly translatable to life and work, so let your game time be a time of learning and honing your skills. Let your lifetime be one of fun, confidence surrounded by your team, family and group.