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:
- Games for Meetings: II
- We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized
games. Here's Part II of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
- Decisions, Decisions: II
- Most of us have participated in group decision-making. The process can be frustrating and painful, but
it can also be thrilling. What processes do groups use to make decisions?
- Problem Defining and Problem Solving
- Sometimes problem-solving sessions are difficult because we get started solving a problem before we
know what problem we're solving. Understanding the connection between stakeholders, problem solving,
and problem defining can reduce conflict and produce better solutions.
- Asking Brilliant Questions
- Your team is fortunate if you have even one teammate who regularly asks the questions that immediately
halt discussions and save months of wasted effort. But even if you don't have someone like that, everyone
can learn how to generate brilliant questions more often. Here's how.
- Chronic Peer Interrupters: II
- People use a variety of tactics when they're interrupted while making contributions in meetings. Some
tactics work well, while others carry risks of their own. Here's Part II of a little survey of those tactics.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
- And on February 5: Unrecognized Bullying: I
- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized. Three reasons: (a) conventional definitions of bullying exclude much actual bullying; (b) perpetrators cleverly evade detection; and (c) cognitive biases skew our perceptions so we don't see bullying as bullying. Available here and by RSS on February 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.