We've already explored how we waste time in meetings generally (See "How to Waste Time in Meetings," Point Lookout for June 22, 2016). But wasting time in virtual meetings requires special techniques. Here's a little catalog of the most popular methods for wasting time in virtual meetings. It's probably unnecessary to say this, but just to be safe: these are bad ideas. Learn to recognize them, but don't do them.
Let's begin with things chairs can do to waste everyone's time:
- Choose a meeting access password with characters that have multiple names, or which can be misread easily, like z, #, 0, O, o, 1, l, and |.
- Ten minutes before the meeting, delay the meeting by two hours.
- Schedule multiple-time-zone meetings for times when the people most important to the agenda would otherwise be fast asleep.
- If technical difficulties occur, sort them out while everyone waits, no matter how long, up to the full length of the meeting.
And now some things everyone can do (not):
- Don't do any meeting pre-work. If asked, deny having received the pre-work.
- For Web-based slide presentations, don't install the software. Say, "IT tried, but they'll get it done next week for sure." If IT succeeded, claim, "They didn't get the right plug-in."
- When preparing documents for meetings, send several corrected versions beforehand, none of them dated or numbered. Send the final version 15 minutes before the meeting.
- Speak only when someone else is already speaking. When he or she stops speaking, stop. When he or she restarts, restart. Repeat until one of you surrenders.
- Speak only when chewing food. It's easier to mumble.
- If you don't understand someone, ask for it to be repeated. Don't use context to make sense of it.
- If someone asks you to repeat yourself, say it completely differently. Don't let people figure it out from repetition.
- Practice saying: "I'm a visual person, I don't understand. Please describe it differently."
- Periodically disconnect yourself from the meeting. Upon rejoining, ask for a recap.All wireless service plans
include free mid-sentence
- To avoid disconnecting yourself, use a cellphone. All wireless service plans include free mid-sentence disconnection service.
- Even if you aren't using a cellphone, when you need a break, say, "I'm coming up on a dead spot. If I get disconnected, I'll call back." Then disconnect and relax.
- To convince people that you're on a cellphone, say, "Does <silence> know why HR <silence> tomorrow?"
- Ignore the meeting. Mute yourself while playing Angry Birds. If your name is mentioned twice in close succession, unmute and say, "Sorry, I was muted. What was that again?"
- Call from an airport while standing under a public address speaker. And don't mute your phone.
- If you're presenting using a presentation system you've never used before, don't practice beforehand. There's no software you can't get the hang of in a couple minutes, except maybe Angry Birds.
Finally, take advantage of the miserable communications environment in virtual meetings to manipulate the group into making a truly horrible decision, the folly of which won't become clear until after the point of no return. First in this series Top Next Issue
Do you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!
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More articles on Effective Meetings:
- How to Eliminate Meetings
- Reducing the length and frequency of meetings is the holy grail of organizational science. I've attended
many meetings on this topic, most of which have come to naught. Here are some radical ideas that could
change our lives.
- Meeting Bullies: Advice for Chairs
- Bullying in meetings is difficult to address, because intervention in the moment is inherently public.
When bullying happens in meetings, what can you do?
- The End-to-End Cost of Meetings: III
- Many complain about attending meetings. Certainly meetings can be maddening affairs, and they also cost
way more than most of us appreciate. Understanding how much we spend on meetings might help us get control
of them. Here's Part III of a survey of some less-appreciated costs.
- Contributions, Open and Closed
- We can classify contributions to discussions according to the likelihood that they stimulate new thought.
The more open they are, the more they stimulate new thought. How can we encourage open contributions?
- Effects of Shared Information Bias: II
- Shared information bias is widely recognized as a cause of bad decisions. But over time, it can also
erode a group's ability to assess reality accurately. That can lead to a widening gap between reality
and the group's perceptions of reality.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 29: Newtonian Blind Alleys: II
- Some of our decisions don't turn out well. The nature of our errors does vary, but a common class of errors is due to applying concepts from physics originated by Isaac Newton. One of these is the concept of spectrum. Available here and by RSS on May 29.
- And on June 5: I Could Be Wrong About That
- Before we make joint decisions at work, we usually debate the options. We come together to share views, and then a debate ensues. Some of these debates turn out well, but too many do not. Allowing for the fact that "I could be wrong" improves outcomes. Available here and by RSS on June 5.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.