Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 16, Issue 26;   June 29, 2016: How to Waste Time in Virtual Meetings

How to Waste Time in Virtual Meetings

by

Last updated: March 19, 2019

Nearly everyone hates meetings, and virtual meetings are at the top of most people's lists. Here's a catalog of some of the worst practices.
A Great Grey Owl

A Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa). Some birds aren't angry. Some are sleepy.

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.
  • Mumble.
  • 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
    disconnection service
  • 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  Go to top Top  Next issue: Cognitive Biases and Influence: I  Next Issue

101 Tips for Effective MeetingsDo 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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See also Effective Meetings and Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

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Group problem-solving sessions sometimes focus on where to begin, even when what we know about the problem is insufficient for making such decisions. In some cases, preliminary exploration of almost any aspect of the problem can be more helpful than debating what to explore. Available here and by RSS on October 2.

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