How to survive a meeting - Part 1

May your laptop be prepared for enduring meetings!

May your laptop be prepared for enduring meetings!

Surviving long-lasting meetings can be a challenge – even for well trained project workers.

When being on a project meeting, different problems may occur:

  • Opponents not reaching a consensus.
  • Presenters presenting irrelevant details.
  • The wannabe-lobbyists explaining the obvious once more to everybody who didn’t agree.
  • Your blood pressure will be dropping to lethal levels.

The only valid conclusion: You will need help for meeting survival. Here comes a short list of things you should have in mind.

Things to avoid

  • Activated sound on your laptop (in general, but specifically before clicking on links from potentially untrusted persons). We have heard a story that this video came up in a management session of an software-developing project.
  • Do not discuss all the minor issues with your subordinates beforehand. Experience shows that they will quite happily take on all and any bizarre tasks you agreed to on their behalf.
  • Do not stay in the same place for too long, unless you are sure that no one can find you (“camping”). Experts in the field refer to this strategy as “Management by helicopter“. Assigning work-items to others and disappearing before anyone realizes what has happened is an especially effective variation. Warning: This behaviour could have a negative impact on your reputation in the long term. Make sure to keep your subordinates in a dark room without contact to the outside world for maximum effectiveness (This is also a key element of “Management by mushroom“).
  • Do not schedule meetings to late evening hours and or Friday afternoon without having a good reason. People need some rest. Not respecting this rule will normally be rejected with laughter. The time after midnight is especially critical, as it may make you the object of ridicule within 24 hours.

Things you should do regularly

  • Look busy (doing your mail is a great way to achieve this).
  • Volunteer for taking notes. Notes should reflect your personal truth of what has been agreed on.
  • Get some people and work on joint publications. Defining a break-out session somewhere at the other end of the meeting location could be helpful. Beach break-outs are particularly popular.
  • When meetings happen in parallel, deploy your troops strategically to different meetings (also see next bullet).
  • In the case of meetings with uncooperative partners, bring more of your own troops to the meeting than the “evil side” has. Give them the order to nod and smile in the case you are speaking. It will ensure your success and reduces undesired comments from your opponents. It might lead to absurd masses of people discussing minor issues, but who cares – you will be the winner of an issue nobody ever wanted to discuss. So be careful in using this method, unless you want everyone to believe that this is the reason for your always showing up with an army of subordinates. Make sure your travel budget is high enough well in advance.
  • Real-time chat can be quite useful during meetings. For more information read this paper.

How to relax

  • Make sure you bring along a multi-player computer game. Meetings can and will become boring and it never hurts to have a second option. Depending on your personality structure, e-mail may qualify for this.
  • Funny (and sometime manipulated) pictures can provide much enjoyment and relaxation. Pass curious pictures of meeting participants to other participants of the meeting. Please be careful: You might start a deadly laughter cascade that cannot be stopped. Deploy strategically.
  • Play bullshit bingo. The rules are easy to understand ;-)
  • Leave the meeting for one or two hours and get some fresh air. This is especially nice if you can convince stimulating meeting participants, preferably of the opposite gender, to join you. Tourist attractions are also a plus, consult the destinations section!

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