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 We Avoid Making Decisions
- When an important item remains on our To-Do list for a long time, it's possible that we've found ways
to avoid facing it. Some of the ways we do this are so clever that we may be unaware of them. Here's
a collection of techniques we use to avoid engaging difficult problems.
- When the Chair Is a Bully: I
- Most meetings have chairs or "leads." Although the expression that the chair "owns"
the meeting is usually innocent shorthand, some chairs actually believe that they own the meeting. This
view is almost entirely destructive. What are the consequences of this attitude, and what can we do about it?
- Twelve Tips for More Masterful Virtual Presentations: I
- Virtual presentations are like face-to-face presentations, in that one (or a few) people present a program
to an audience. But the similarity ends there. In the virtual environment, we have to adapt if we want
to deliver a message effectively. We must learn to be captivating.
- Costs of the Catch-Me-Up Anti-Pattern: II
- When we interrupt a meeting to recap the action so far for a late-arriving attendee, the cost of the
recap itself is just the beginning. There are some less-obvious costs that can be even greater.
- Meeting Troubles: Collaboration
- In some meetings, we collaborate not in reaching objectives, but in preventing our doing so. Here are
three examples of this pattern.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 24: The Stupidity Attribution Error
- In workplace debates, we sometimes conclude erroneously that only stupidity can explain why our debate partners fail to grasp the elegance or importance of our arguments. There are many other possibilities. Available here and by RSS on July 24.
- And on July 31: More Things I've Learned Along the Way: IV
- When I have an important insight, or when I'm taught a lesson, I write it down. Here's Part IV from my personal collection. Available here and by RSS on July 31.
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