notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Business Meeting Survival Guide

My company and I are working on my retirement.  The management – now that they have passed through the denial stage – are hoping for a nice smooth transition. In the best scenario, they identify my successor, and then I stay on, gradually reducing my hours as the new Controller takes on my responsibilities.

I have gained a lot of knowledge of the company specifically and of business in general over the years. It is satisfying to see that my company recognizes that, and wants me to pass on what I have learned.

But in thinking about all this knowledge acquired over more than forty years of work, I realize that there is so much more I can share.

Sure, forecasting skills and pricing theory and generally accepted accounting principles are important.

But I know a whole lot of other useful shit.

Like Business Meetings.

Business meeting are unavoidable and for the most part, awful.

But here’s a few tips that will help you survive the dreaded Business Meeting.

1. Bring two pens. The probability that your pen will quit rises in direct proportion to the importance of the meeting.

2. Make sure you have a nice notebook. Preferably leather. Besides, you will look smart if you take notes.  Underline. That looks cool.

3. Have a response prepared for when you are not really listening. Because when your mind wanders, that is the most likely moment that your boss will ask you a question. Here’s a good all-around comment for those moments: “I have seen some research on that. I’ll see if I can dig it up.”

4. Sit facing the clock. Looking at your watch is very obvious. But not half so obvious as needing to turn around to see how slowly the time is moving. It it’s right in front of you, clock-watching is much easier.

5, Bring coffee. You will need it. But sip slowly and carefully. You don’t want to always be the first one to ask for a bathroom break.

6.. Food. Sometimes there will be food at this meeting. Only nibble on the neatest of tidbits. Although it makes you look healthy to pick fruit, only eat grapes or cut fruit that you can eat with a spoon or fork. No sticky fingers. NEVER choose an apple or a banana. You lose all credibility if you’ve got a banana peel or apple core sitting by your intelligent sophisticated notebook. Absolutely forbidden: Powdered donuts.

7. Always have a tissue handy.  There is no such thing as a dry sneeze in an important meeting. There is some kind of perverse law that  if you sneeze in a meeting, you will get a handful of snot. You will need to be very subtle about wiping your snot-filled hand. Practice this at home. You’ll need it.

I’m sure there are more tips that will help you in your business-meeting-filled career. I think I’ve seen some research on that. Let me see if I can dig it up.

 

Me on the right. Surreptitiously wiping snot off my hand.

Me on the right. Surreptitiously wiping snot off my hand.

38 Comments

  1. Hahahaha! Once again I dance with joy that the work world I live in is NOT in business. Our three weekly meetings are laid-back laugh fests. We do good work, but the main goal is to see who’s the funniest on any given day. But I’m SO glad to have this guide should things ever take a serious turn!

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    • I have had some fun meetings. But basically, I’d rather not.

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  2. The most important contribution to a meeting I can recall is coughing. The air became so dry, it had me hacking. HACKING. Without a bottle of water, gum saved the day.
    Sounds like all your meetings were perfect. I am in awe of you. Happy soon retirement. Had I known it would be this great, I’d opted for retirement before that silly mess of ‘working’. Really? Why hadn’t someone told me?? 😀 😀

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    • They (the big THEY) want you to think working is fun. No. Working is work. Fun is fun.

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      • THEY can’t pull that one over on you, Nancy. You k.n.o.w. work is work and fun is fun. Brainwashing everywhere! ^^’

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  3. Nadine

    Ahh, meetings. I frequently like to be the provider of food so I can be sure there is something I can safely eat, which wont be left over in my teeth! Recently, after a smoothie disagreed with me, I’ve learned to also pick a seat with an escape route that isn’t super disruptive or obvious if you have to make a swift exit more than once!!!

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    • Do you recognize the drawing? I drew that one a few years ago…you may see yourself there!

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  4. Another reason for not bringing a banana is the – shall we say – undercurrent of sexual connotations while eating it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve peeled a ‘nana – and put it where it belongs – only to look around the room and discern that such fruit eating was a bad move.

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  5. Tissues. Yes — or paper towels. I was at a meeting where someone spilled water — and there was nothing to mop it up with. The folks on that side of the table watched as the water slowly spread towards vital documents that would be hung up at a meeting of International smart folks to gape at. WITH WATER STAINS!!!.

    It was my spill. I used my sleeve to soak the water. Everybody laughed at me. Me too, in fact.

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    • A sleeve is a reasonable alternative to water. Not so reasonable for snot.

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      • Cnut probably used for that purpose more often than we’d like to think about!

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  6. Our boss used to arrange our department meetings over breakfast at 8am on a Friday. OK, it wasn’t in company time, but it was on company expenses, and was always very positive and productive!

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    • Breakfast meetings are the BEST.. no powdered donuts though, and think twice about the jelly. A bagel with a schmear is probably best.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh no, always the full English, with toast and marmalade all washed down with a pot of tea!

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  7. 2 pens b/c often people don’t bring THEIR OWN! Gah!

    Your post reminded me that we so rarely have meetings anymore – most of my co meetings are conf calls. My sit-down meetings are face to face with officials — and sometimes standing with several people trying to talk to me at once.

    Retirement = such a nice word 🙂

    MJ

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    • Oh conference calls! Holy crap, how does anyone pay attention if no one is watching you?

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      • I love Conf calls b/c I have no poker face!! 🙂 I can frown and guffaw and holler if I need to – on mute, of course 🙂

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  8. I loved it! Had to forward your tips to my daughter as she is just beginning to be included in business meetings.

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    • Oh – she will need those tips! Also tell her to never fall asleep in a business meeting. Let me say FROM EXPERIENCE that you never live it down.

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  9. Hysterical advice could only come from much experience. You’re the Meeting Pro. (maybe that’s something to amuse you: do training sessions and consulting. You’ll be an in demand speaker!) Great fun.

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    • I could never be a trainer or consultant – because there would be MEETINGS!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post and awful reminders of the humungous number of hours wasted in meetings, second only to waiting for the sodding lift. I’d add 1. avoid comfy chairs to postpone the need for a snooze 2. never face a window because either the sun will blind you or something far more interesting will be happening outside 3. avoid being near paperclips – countless times I’ve unwound these little brutes through boredom and impaled myself 4. if in a video conference ensure both picture and sound are off before you start bad mouthing or rating the person on the other end of the line 5. If possible sit next to the note taker – looking over their shoulder reduces the chance they will note something unflattering about your contribution.

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    • These are all excellent! But I have to say – I’m very jealous. You have WINDOWS in your conference room????

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, is that posh!? I recall a deal we did where the MD of the target company insisted on screens across the windows so he could both not be filmed by someone in the building opposite meeting with our clients but also not have the sound picked up by a super-sensitive microphone. Curtains were not good enough!.

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  11. Ray G

    Very good tips. For the “normal” meetings. But, what if the boss, the guy who called the meeting, accepts interminable phone calls from his wife (talking 20 minutes here, more than one per meet) and expects all to wait while he discusses with her the babysit challenges, the new paint for the dining room, etc., ad nauseum? The most senior meeting attendees can leave with an “important” chore to perform, but what about the gathered lowlifes?

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    • That’s when you have permission to head for the powdered donuts.

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  12. Oh, where were you with your fabulous advice when I was still sitting through business meetings?!? I’m delighted to say I haven’t had to deal with one for about 20 years now, and I hope to keep it that way.

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    • I am so looking forward to the end of business meetings!

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      • Ray G

        Wait till you see the other numerous perks to retirement!

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  13. My number one tip for meetings is always: don’t sit next to the person who makes snide or inappropriate comments through the whole thing. There are only three possibilities that can come from that:
    1. You laugh at something they say, and the person running the meeting chooses just that moment to look at you.
    2. You miss something important because you’re trying to ignore the person next to you.
    3. You reach a breaking point and yell, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! I’M TRYING TO PAY ATTENTION EVEN IF YOU AREN’T!”

    In any of these cases you’re the one who comes out looking bad.

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    • Uh-oh… I’m usually the snide person that everyone is avoiding.

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  14. Christine

    Another tip: know the participants’ peculiarities. We had a CEO who was one of those lucky thin people who was always hungry. Once we caught on, we would try to schedule meetings around 11:30 in the morning, knowing that he would always adjourn in time for lunch.

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  15. Also, beware comfortable chairs. Our boardroom has supple leather swivel chairs that glide around like butter. Resisting the urge to go into rag doll mode and spin in my chair like an idle child has always been my biggest challenge in long meetings.

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    • Oh my, a chair that swivels or rocks would be way too much temptation for me!

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  16. as usual – important stuff we need to know! 😉

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  17. he he great blog and nice image of you :). Keep posting awesome blogs. Here are few points on effective business meetings. I hope you will like these. https://ridhichhabra1.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/how-to-conduct-effective-business-meetings/

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