Here are five things that can make a meeting utterly hellish, and how to come out at the end looking like a superstar.
5. The Meeting That Has Actually Nothing To Do With You
You get the meeting invitation and you have to show up, even though you know you have nothing to contribute. How many times does this happen in the course of a work week? Probably waaaaay too often. You show up, you sit there, you nod politely at appropriately-timed intervals, and you leave, offering zero input and getting zero value out of the hour of your life which you’ll never get back.
How to deal: Look busy. Take “notes”. This is a perfect time to write out your grocery list, plan the errands you have to do on the weekend, or just try to list all your aunts’ and uncles’ names alphabetically. Write out the lyrics to Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 album. Write swear words over and over in your fanciest cursive. I have done all of the above more times than I care to count. If someone found my meeting notebook, they would think I was a raging psychopath, but they would have never guessed I wasn’t fully absorbed in a meeting.
4. The Guy Who Loves To Hear Himself Talk
We all know at least one of these people: someone who asks question after question and goes off on frequent tangents that add precisely zero value - but a LOT of minutes - to the discussion. This person is basically insecure. He feels as though, if he’s not talking, no one notices he’s there. So he commandeers the meeting, piping up with questions and suggestions and just generally wasting everyone’s time.
How to deal: What NOT to do is to act all aggravated, huffing and puffing and pointedly looking at your watch. The best approach to counteract an annoying person is by being even more annoying. This guy isn’t used to being challenged. He’s always the one doing all the talking. Make it a competition: see who can ask the most asinine questions. Start a lengthy personal diatribe about your favourite Christmas as a child. Two things could happen here: If you start out-talking him, he’ll either get flustered and shut down (putting an end to the meeting) or he’ll go into fight mode and talk even MORE (at which point, with two of you prattling away, someone else will no doubt pull the plug on the meeting and put everyone out of their misery). Plan B: pepper spray.
3. The Conference Call On A Crappy Connection
I hate conference calls at the best of times. Hate.
There is nothing I hate worse than talking on the phone, except for talking on the phone to a group of people. Add a fuzzy telephone connection into the mix so you’re only hearing 50% of the conversation, and you’ve got my worst nightmare.
How to deal: Mute your phone, blast some tunes, and work on something else. At least you can be productive during this epic waste of time. At the end, request a summary of the call or at least a list of next steps and action items so you get the gist of it. You can also try yelling “WHAT? WHAT?” or pushing buttons on your phone randomly during the discussion so everyone understands that you can’t hear or are generally just a horrible person. By doing this, you also cut your likelihood of being invited to participate on future conference calls.
2. When You’re Asked What You Think...And You’ve Been Completely Zoned Out For 15 Minutes
You’re thinking about your upcoming Mexican vacation and suddenly your boss is saying, “And what do you think about the proposal?” And you’re like, “Cerveza por favor?” Busted.
How to deal: Be a parrot. Say, “I agree with what Kelly said…” and then proceed to basically repeat whatever Kelly last said. By the time you’ve echoed Kelly’s thoughts you’ve probably gathered your own wits enough to put a little bit of a personal spin on it that pertains to you. Or just start talking about something entirely different and steer the conversation in a completely new direction. “Actually, I really like what Apple is doing!” And then go off on your own, possibly unrelated, tangent. Alternative plan: Bathroom emergency. No one is going to ask questions about a surprise diarrhea attack or “female issues”. Just double over, shake your head frantically, and bolt.
1. You Show Up Completely Unprepared.
You get to the meeting and then remember you were supposed to prepare a draft presentation to share with the group. Unfortunately, your draft presentation hasn’t gotten any further than the last meeting, which you spent writing the word “poop” over and over again in five different languages when you were supposed to be taking notes. Oops.
How to deal: There is nothing to do in this situation but blame technology. One foolproof tip, if you’re supposed to be presenting with a Mac laptop, is to not have a dongle. This is the one and only situation where the utter ridiculousness of Macs not plugging into 99% of projectors comes in handy. No one’s got a dongle? Can’t present. You can also feign battery failure/absence of power cord or general “computer is frozen”. A good method is to do a Google search for a “sad Mac” icon, create a blank image that’s just said icon in the middle of a black background, and pull it up to full screen size any time you show up unprepared. “My Mac is sad,” you say, and show everyone your sad Mac. Bingo! Everyone has had a computer crash in their lifetime, and everyone is sympathetic to the perpetual shit show that is technology troubles. At the very least, you’ll guarantee yourself an extension on your presentation.