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:
- Discussus Interruptus
- You're chairing a meeting, and to your dismay, things get out of hand. People interrupt each other so
often that nobody can complete a thought, and some people dominate the meeting. What can you do?
- Questioning Questions
- In meetings and other workplace discussions, questioning is a common form of conversational contribution.
Questions can be expensive, disruptive, and counterproductive. For most exchanges, there is a better way.
- The Solving Lamp Is Lit
- We waste a lot of time finding solutions before we understand the problem. And sometimes, we start solving
before everyone is even aware of the problem. Here's how to prevent premature solution.
- The Perils of Piecemeal Analysis: Content
- A team member proposes a solution to the latest show-stopping near-disaster. After extended discussion,
the team decides whether or not to pursue the idea. It's a costly approach, because too often it leads
us to reject unnecessarily some perfectly sound proposals, and to accept others we shouldn't have.
- Rationalizing Creativity at Work: I
- Much of the work of modern organizations requires creative thinking. But financial and schedule pressures
can cause us to adopt processes that unexpectedly and paradoxically suppress creativity, thereby increasing
costs and stretching schedules. What are the properties of effective approaches?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
- Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
- And on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.
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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.