Have you seen this rather hilarious (and somewhat devastating) set of slides, created by blogger Sarah Cooper? These slides poke fun at 10 things people do in meetings to “appear” smarter, and basically fill up the time until they can get out of that room again. Kind of like you’re doing right now. You’re totally in a meeting right now, aren’t you?
I’m guessing the author has spent many hours in meetings. How else would she be such an expert on all the typical BS-y behavior I’m sure we’ve all experienced at some point? The fact that most of us will recognize the behavior in these slides is a little scary, and our first step to recovery is the ability to laugh at ourselves, then we can stop doing these things. Yes, please stop.
Why are we so concerned with “looking” smart in a meeting that we’re actually being completely unhelpful? The problem seems to be the meetings themselves, as no one seems to have come up with a magic solution for making them a productive activity. Instead, they’ve been relegated to some sort of game where we compete for a gold star based on how many times we can say “Can we take a step back here?”.
Here are some ways you can actually be smart, and not just look it:
- Make meetings anonymous and silent with a tool like Stormboard. No stalling tactics or catch phrases here, just lots of space for ideas and discussion.
- Have meetings that have no time or place. The truth is that a lot of people are just not that into your meeting, but maybe they’ll come up with some awesome ideas on their own time. Those ideas are totally lost if your team is only considering information gathered in the 1 hour window you all spent trying to “look” smart.
- Make it clear that everyone who is invited is expected to participate. For example, ask them to add at least 1 idea to each category and then give them 5-10 votes they have to apply to ideas up for discussion. You’ll look pretty not-smart if you’re still standing there with 8 votes left at the end of the meeting because you spent the whole thing playing Candy Crush.
- Stop daydreaming about bacon. Mmmmmmmm, bacon.
Whichever of these 10 tactics you’re guilty of, it’s time to give them a rest, and stop wasting everyone’s time. Now, please excuse me, I have a room to pace. I’ve been told it will make me look smarter.