For the winner in all of us
July 3, 2014 5:05 PM   Subscribe

10 tricks to appear smart during meetings " Like everyone, appearing smart during meetings is my top priority. Sometimes this can be difficult if you start daydreaming about your next vacation, your next nap, or bacon. When this happens, it’s good to have some fallback tricks to fall back on."
posted by mooselini (84 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

The trick is to pipe up early so everyone knows you're in attendance and awake and then gently settle in for the duration at the back of the meeting room. I had a colleague who used this to great effect at my last company, he could be napping for the rest of the meeting but everyone knew that he'd been there and had contributed.
posted by arcticseal at 5:15 PM on July 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

+10 if you run screaming from the room yelling "They will be trapped for all eternity" if someone says "When all is said and done"
posted by srboisvert at 5:21 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you happen to know the answer to a technical question, it's best to lean back a little, tilt your head back, and close your eyes while slowly and surely reciting it as if it were written on the inside of your eyelids. Everyone will think you know everything about your job and theirs, too.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:24 PM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Most of these would not work so well in the environments of education, non-profits, etc. These are Dilbert strategies. I'm just guessing here. These pointers hint at a nightmare work environment in which I am blessed to have never encountered.
posted by kozad at 5:26 PM on July 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Let's watch some of these rules in action.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:26 PM on July 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

I enjoy the trick that Dave Eggers mentioned as being employed by a colleague of his father's:

When you could normally say "um" when you can't think of anything, instead say "Now:" It's just as effective in stalling for time, but it sounds really forceful and competent.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:27 PM on July 3, 2014 [22 favorites]

For added despair, have the Meeting cost ticker open.

It looks like the Corporate Meeting Challenge is sorta back up and running, at least.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:28 PM on July 3, 2014 [13 favorites]

All I know is that if you and I are in a meeting together and you use the word "paradigm", I will punch you in the face.
posted by davebush at 5:28 PM on July 3, 2014 [13 favorites]

I'm not sure if a venn diagram is impressive enough, but one time I drew a state diagram on the board during a meeting and people talked about it for weeks.
posted by a dangerous ruin at 5:33 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

For added despair, have the Meeting cost ticker open.

Ha. I've experienced this particularly strain of virulent stupidity at the awful tech startup I last worked at. This idiot fraud of a boss would be like "I don't if we should have a 30 minute meeting- People's time is so valuable!"

30 minutes to make key decisions on the direction of a project that everyone would work on for months or a year, and would significantly affect the future of the company. I guess this "Never plan! It's not agile!" stuff is of those new tech ideologies that seem to be the result of a bet about who can say the most moronic thing with a straight face?
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:34 PM on July 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

kozad: Most of these would not work so well in the environments of education, non-profits, etc.
Let me just re-iterate what kozad said: Most. Of. These. Would. Not. Work. So. Well. In. The. Environments. Of. Education. Non-profits. And also others.

Just kidding. What he really means, obviously, is that we all need to take a step back.

Gosh I'm glad an intellect like that is on our team.
posted by Western Infidels at 5:52 PM on July 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

Let me just re-iterate...

Don't forget the hand gesture of embellishment.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:03 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh god. Since getting laid off from government a half decade ago and getting a job at a small marketing agency, I haven't had to sit in meetings for years. I mean, we have meetings but it's generally to review deliverables etc. Very focused, because time is money, and time spent in meeting means time not adding value for the client. I hate billing for meeting time.

However, I recently got a job as a sessional instructor at the local commuter college, and I've had to sit in "curriculum planning meetings" run by someone who has never worked outside of the college system.

The meetings are a complete mess, and the organizer shows absolutely no strategic thinking whatsoever, depending on the cats in the room to somehow come to consensus. And the meetings are three hours long! And most of the participation is basically posturing, people making an opinion not to move the ball forward, but to assert their presence.

I feel like telling the organizer, who regards me as an ally, that she really has to go into the meetings with an end in mind (the purpose is to create a new certificate program and we have to achieve consensus on what the courses are). The project needs vision and a visionary who can herd the cats and act as a lion tamer.

But it ain't happening.

I can see why it takes an eternity to get anything done in the post-secondary world.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:04 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm guessing (or hoping, anyway) that this is a sarcastic article, because most of these tips would make you look like a douche in my workplace.
posted by KGMoney at 6:06 PM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

I've had 12 of these pulled on me this week. (O u thot 1ly 10? totes adorbs)

I'm not even mad, as I do the pen and notepad thing constantly, and it's all a huge stationary nerd fight, coolest pen and notebook wins. I currently win, because I have a Koh-I-Noor 2mm lead-holder and a genuine surplus government "Skilcraft" engineering notebook.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:06 PM on July 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'm on sabbatical this year. You know what that means? No meetings! For a whole year!
posted by sfred at 6:07 PM on July 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

^ I hate you.
posted by arcticseal at 6:12 PM on July 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

#2.5: Add up the last digit of any column of numbers. If the last digit of that number doesn't match the last digit in the Total field of that column, you can say, "I don't think Column X adds up right..." and look like a math whiz (or at least look like you're deeply pondering the numbers).
posted by Etrigan at 6:13 PM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

My tip for when all you can hope to do is appear at least somewhat competent:

When you sense it's your turn to talk, just say something you're pretty sure is true and at least tangentially connected to the topic at hand. This works surprisingly well.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 6:17 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another code for "I have no idea what's going on here" that I heard last year:

"I like it... but do I love it... Hmm... What do you think?"
posted by Etrigan at 6:20 PM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

I almost did this in meetings this week. Twice.
posted by 4ster at 6:20 PM on July 3, 2014 [14 favorites]

instead say "Now:" It's just as effective in stalling for time, but it sounds really forceful and competent.

If I recall correctly, Depeche Mode also used this to great effect in some of their lyrics around the time Music for the Masses was released.
posted by weston at 6:21 PM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'd like to put a pin in what arcticseal said and circle back to it later. KokyRyu, can we take that discussion offline? I think we're losing sight of what we're doing here [without actually saying why we're here].
posted by adamrice at 6:29 PM on July 3, 2014 [22 favorites]

I just tell everyone I'm the smartest person in the room at the beginning of meetings. That's what really smart people have to do sometimes. Just be clear and upfront about it. No games.
posted by chasing at 6:31 PM on July 3, 2014 [16 favorites]

Oh my god. If my colleagues see this I am sooo busted.
posted by Floydd at 6:40 PM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

My trick: I decide who the alpha manager in the meeting is, listen briefly, then, when I offer my own idea, I begin with, "Let me build on what Bob said..." and then explain something that is totally unrelated to what Bob said. Bob is pleased because he feels like those leadership books he's always reading are paying off, and everyone else pays attention because Bob's mantle of alpha-ness now rests upon my shoulders.
posted by SPrintF at 6:41 PM on July 3, 2014 [41 favorites]

I have a boss who gets to the point of being ridiculous in constantly asking for updates on where we are and where we are going with a project |I'm coordinating. I tried regular reports both in writing and verbal and nothing seemed to stick.

Finally one day I and my team got a little fed up and I found myself sketching out this flow chart for her in an attempt to get across what we were talking about. It was the most basic a + b gets you to C sort of thing and she was absolutely amazed. Now when she asks I just show her a 'chart'. I swear as long as the project words are there to be skimmed it doesn't even matter if the chart or diagram makes much sense or is actually that useful to the project team, she's happy because it looks like something important.

It's turned into a bit of joke with my team. We call them our happy boss charts.
posted by Jalliah at 6:45 PM on July 3, 2014 [21 favorites]

My trick: I decide who the alpha manager in the meeting is, listen briefly, then, when I offer my own idea, I begin with, "Let me build on what Bob said..."

Ah, fahk, yeah, exactly. One of the other "stakeholders" in the meeting was an older guy (but not that old for heaven's sake) from a neighbouring hick community. His age and his hick status made him defensive, and I spent most of the meeting trying to massage the guy's bloody ego while trying to present my point of view.

In retrospect, what was needed as some sort of kickoff meeting that allowed trust to develop. God, maybe I should be organizing these things. My career in government as a cat herder allowed me to work closely with some very strategic thinkers (depending on the stakes, meetings are like poker games) and to sort of suss out how a meeting would go depending on who is in the room and what was on the agenda (and what was not).
posted by KokuRyu at 6:49 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bob makes a good point. Can we unpack that for a minute?
posted by The Deej at 6:50 PM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

*10 minutes of pointless chitchat*
*/me gets up and draws nonsensical diagram*
*/that one person you hate makes long monologue that conveys no information*
*/everyone silently screams*
posted by bleep at 6:55 PM on July 3, 2014 [10 favorites]

I struggle because often people get lost in a tangent (or worse, in an example) and can't seem to come back to what the meeting was supposed to be about in the first place. I've walked out of meetings that not only failed to produce a direction for a project, but muddied the waters so completely the project itself became under question.

What I've learned is to take suggestions that are off-topic or criticisms that are rooted in extreme edge-cases and say "That's an interesting point. Let's table that discussion for now and come back to it in a future meeting." I then try to avoid the topic until everyone forgets about the the suggestion or criticism. Luckily people with little focus have short memories, so this works most of the time.
posted by elwoodwiles at 7:12 PM on July 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Follow it up with a quick, “What problem are we really trying to solve?” and, boom! You’ve bought yourself another hour of looking smart.

Duuuuuudes, this isn't a trick, this is a survival strategy. I have been in countless meetings where we were about to adjourn after an hour-plus of bluster and I was the only person who bothered to point out that we had met with the intention of making a decision about X and no one mentioned what were going to do with X the whole time.
posted by psoas at 7:13 PM on July 3, 2014 [14 favorites]

I mean, "next steps" is of those terms that's dangerously close to being treated as a silly cliche, but if we're walking out of a meeting and no one is clear whether there is anything they have to do as a result: that's how you can tell you just sat through a complete waste of time.
posted by psoas at 7:23 PM on July 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

"So, we happy with that?" is magic shut-up fuel around here, and I find myself saying it a lot. People like to whinge, but they don't like other to realise that they are whingers.

As for meetings in general, I find that 90% of them are unproductive but that last 10%, where you just smash stuff to pieces and come out an hour later with a week's worth of stuff done, are pretty gratifying.

There is one new meeting I would like to convene, however. I would call it the "Friday meeting". Not because it's held on a Friday, which it would be, but because it would gather together everybody in the building, put them in a big room, and we would say in unison "Pretty good, it's Friday!" and then go back to work.

That way I won't have to hear "Pretty good, it's Friday!" individually from every dead-eyed mouthbreather who roams the halls and is keen on a stop-and-chat. Yeah, we get it. Friday. It was nice when we were childs and it's still nice now.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:44 PM on July 3, 2014 [12 favorites]

Have to agree with kozad here. I'm in academia. I would get laughed out of a room for using these "techniques".
posted by Sophie1 at 8:05 PM on July 3, 2014

Where does the actual work get done?

I swear that 90% of companies could get let go and no one would notice.
posted by rebent at 8:08 PM on July 3, 2014

At a meeting where only some of the departments participate, think of reasons to loop another department in, no matter how weak those reasons, and offer to give them a heads up on these "relevant" issues after the meeting. "I can take point working with IT on this, make sure they've got it on their radar," you say. Boom, you just caught a potential interdepartmental communication issue before it became a problem, and now you get to waste an hour talking about video games with your friends in IT after this is over.

Also, if you know the answer, don't always say it. "I'll run a report on that and get it to you after the meeting," "I've got the perfect contact at corporate for that, I'll touch base with them"*. Sure, you knew the answer and could have looked smart for a second, but now you look like you're putting in extra work just for the sake of the person you're talking to.

*By the way, even if you only have one contact at corporate, never name them. Treat them like multiple, nebulous contacts. You are a networking genius. You have secret ways and means to circumvent red tape. "Typically something like that would take a while, but I've got a guy at corporate who might be able to put some pressure on and make it happen sooner..."
posted by jason_steakums at 8:10 PM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also: "Now is that net, or gross?"
posted by jason_steakums at 8:14 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

All I know is that if you and I are in a meeting together and you use the word "paradigm", I will punch you in the face.

Goes double for "synergy." (Though I have to wonder about "synergy." I've never heard it spoken non-ironically, making me think it's not an actual, terrible portmanteau but rather a boogyman word, a go to example of corporate speak that was never actually used, just joked about being used. Like disestablishmentarianism. I may be wrong about this.)
posted by zardoz at 8:25 PM on July 3, 2014

Once I found myself talking about something that legitimately was best described as "synergy", two things the company was working on separately that nobody had realized would work exceedingly well together, and I kept on dancing around saying "synergy" even though it was the perfect word because I had this moment of realization where I was like "I am in a conference room, in a meeting, seriously about to say the word 'synergy' without a touch of irony and I just... I can't do that."
posted by jason_steakums at 8:31 PM on July 3, 2014 [18 favorites]

Before I retreated back into academia, I worked for several years at a biotech startup. It became quickly obvious that management seniority was correlated with metaphor use. The researchers would say, "The ceramic coating dissolved in vivo at a rate of 100 nm/year," which was pretty much exactly what they meant. The director of engineering and VP of product development would say "We have a lot on our plate." "We're underwater right now." There was a lot of "10,000-foot view" and "30,000-foot view." (This was 2002, before that became a total joke.)

I started to take notes in meetings as an alternative to eye-rolling. A highlight was, "We're finding the blind alleys in the minefield."
posted by Mapes at 8:38 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I told someone today if they invited me to a particular meeting my sole purpose would be to crack jokes and contradict everyone, because I was in a punchy mood and didn't need to be there and had insight on the outcome. My secret is to always basically be working on what the meeting is about in the first place so I can be quietly toiling away and pop in at the end, or doing something more important because I know someone else will better represent me, knowing my abilities and tendency to overcommit. Sometimes it seems meetings are about ensuring that nobody is on the hook except the overcommitted, the person(s) with no time people go to. Still a learning process.
posted by aydeejones at 8:50 PM on July 3, 2014

The correct edge-case weak point in any plan being discussed in a meeting can turn it from a boring waste of time into something actively painful for everyone involved, and it's kind of great to torpedo the odd meeting like that.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:54 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

My favorite meeting was one where the question "What do teenage girls like?" came up and 20 neckbeards in their 30s all did the "Heh, well, let me just explain what the female of the species likes...." at once.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:56 PM on July 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

The worst is the rare edge case seekers who torpedo the meeting into existentialism. Why even try? The perfect is the enemy of the good, that's why. That's a good line btw
posted by aydeejones at 8:58 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

The perfect is the enemy of the good, that's why. That's a good line btw

My go-to line in meetings is "politics is the art of the possible"
posted by KokuRyu at 9:44 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

The trick is to pipe up early so everyone knows you're in attendance and awake and then gently settle in for the duration at the back of the meeting room. I had a colleague who used this to great effect at my last company, he could be napping for the rest of the meeting but everyone knew that he'd been there and had contributed.

Hah, this was the classic trick in grad school for not doing readings. Read one paragraph (not the first one!!!) very closely; ram a detailed comment into the discussion within the first five minutes of class; mic drop and surreptitiously sleep for the rest of the hour.
posted by threeants at 9:53 PM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I do care what is said in the meeting, just tell me what my take aways are.
posted by 724A at 9:58 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you all. This has been a very productive thread. We will take all of your input, digest it over the next day or so, and send out the notes with a doodle poll to schedule the next conversation.
posted by salvia at 9:59 PM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

"That needs a card to go on the wall" is the latest thing around here. That and "How do I use Trello?" It's like, did you not even play with coloured blocks as a child?
posted by turbid dahlia at 10:32 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

My favorite trick, it doesn't make me look smart, but it saves a ton of time, and everyone silently appreciates it.

When the meeting has covered all the points its going to and has started to wander into obvlivion/uselessness/people chatting, I slowly stand up. Then I gather my things, and 9 times out of 10 everyone realizes 'oh, the meeting is over' and leaves. Rarely do I have to walk towards the door first, but I'll do that if I need to. This activity has probably saved my employer tens of thousands of dollars in man-hours (not just mine, but roomfuls of people).

Something I used to do in meetings, but don't anymore as it is pretty disconcerting: I take notes (quite fast, I'm a relatively fast typer), but with my notebook lid 80% of the way down, so I can't see what I'm typing (again, this is okay, as I'm a pretty good typist, and can read them even if i make a mistake or twelve). This activity makes people nervous.
posted by el io at 10:58 PM on July 3, 2014 [11 favorites]

As a wise man I once worked with used to say: "If there's no agenda or no minutes, it's a gossip session, not a meeting."
posted by nickzoic at 12:08 AM on July 4, 2014 [16 favorites]

My dad was a muckety muck at GM for a lot of years. There was a daily status meeting his boss required of the staff but never attended, it was mandatory for all, etc.

They would drag on, and on, and on, apparently. So my dad's boss, after my dad bitched about how useless they were, took all the chairs out of the room. They never went more than ten minutes after that and then turned into a weekly meeting because they were over so fast. And they STILL only lasted 10-15 minutes because people wanted to go sit down.
posted by disclaimer at 12:18 AM on July 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was lead on a dev team which was pretty tightly knit. Even the Director was an absolutely wonderful human being, and it was probably the best company I've ever worked with. But, everyone has their faults, and one of my Director's few faults was his love of meetings.

So my goal in life was to come up with something at the beginning of the meeting which would prove to be so distracting that the rest of the gathering would fall into chaos. My Director's goal in life was to try to deftly avoid the distraction and keep things focused. I did have one small advantage. Everyone on the team was Utah Mormon with the exception of me, so it wasn't difficult coming up with an outsider's perspective on the culture which would prove more tempting to discuss than something boring like deadlines.

My best success was opening the meeting with a question of "Are Mormons allowed to eat coffee ice cream? Coffee is forbidden as a hot beverage, but coffee ice cream is neither hot nor a beverage." This prompted quite a debate for a couple of weeks, and allowed me to get a ton of work done without interruption.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:46 AM on July 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

I never, ever, ever want to work again at a place where they throw everybody into an afternoon-long meeting to determine why productivity is low.
posted by Spatch at 1:46 AM on July 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

If a back and forth about some stupid thing is taking too long, just pipe in and say it is impossible to make the right decision without the metrics.
posted by snofoam at 2:32 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Downside: someone has to collect data and then you have to talk too much about the stupid thing a few weeks later. But short term, it's a win.
posted by snofoam at 2:34 AM on July 4, 2014

Upside: you can use this technique to make sure the company is tracking data that makes every other department look like a mess. Then your department looks awesome.
posted by snofoam at 2:42 AM on July 4, 2014

Working in a company where English is the official language but not the first is a load of fun when you're a native English speaker. I've heard "fuck" so often, it no longer even makes me blink. Last week a provider said that a deliverable promised over a year ago, still wasn't ready.

Manager: "Why not!!!"
Provider: "We're encountering issues blabla complex blabla diffic..."
Manager, interrupting: "No shit!!! Do you see how surprised I'm not. NOT. Did you get that?"
Provider nods, face red.
Manager continues, bellowing: "When will it be ready!!"
Provider: "We're not able to say, uh..."
Manager: "Oh just FUCK OFF!!!"

It was very cathartic. There is now a date set. Yes, it's tentative. We have another meeting set to, ahem, "discuss" it.
posted by MarionnetteFilleDeChaussette at 2:45 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

If anyone wants to learn more, memail me. I have over fifteen years of experience doing this deploying these techniques at executive-level meetings. I can develop a customized plan for any department (technology, finance, marketing, sales, operations, HR). I will work with you one-on-one to make sure you understand the underlying theory behind these practices and how to deploy them on the spot in any meeting. My rates are quite reasonable, and most clients find that this training more than pays for itself within the first year in the form of faster promotions, salary bumps and larger year-end bonuses. You may not be indispensable to your employer, but you CAN seem like you are. I guarantee it.
posted by snofoam at 2:58 AM on July 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Can you just go over the methodology behind those metrics?"

Kryptonite for marketing meetings.
posted by Devonian at 3:06 AM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

In the spirit of sharing survival strategies, this one ought to be out there:

If you feel a yawn coming on, bite the end of a finger. It stops you from getting that weird trying-to-stop-a-yawn grimace, and makes it look like you're concentrating reeeaaaaal hard.

When I think about how many times I have done this in meetings it makes me want to weep.
posted by greenish at 4:16 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

This thread is making me giggle so much. In my current job I only have one or two meetings each week. I once had a job where a typical day included 3 to 4 meetings and it wasn't uncommon to have a day where it was just meeting after meeting after meeting for the whole entire day.

When people asked what I did I said I was a professional meeting attender.
posted by Jalliah at 5:01 AM on July 4, 2014

Most of these would not work so well in the environments of education, non-profits, etc. These are Dilbert strategies. I'm just guessing here. These pointers hint at a nightmare work environment in which I am blessed to have never encountered.

The non-profits I worked at were all over this stuff, especially "what is the problem we're trying to solve here?" (Current for-profit workplace is also big on that.) These tactics were also popular:

- Prefacing statements with "I'm going to be totally honest here."
- Saying "Absolutely, but" or "Fair point, but" before making a completely contradicting what the previous speaker said.
- Using the word "empower".
- "How does this fit in with the mission?" in reply to anything.
posted by ignignokt at 5:36 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Incidentally, this link includes the words comedy corner in it in case anyone was wondering.
posted by ersatz at 5:38 AM on July 4, 2014

Actually, "how does this fit into ___?" where ___ is the process, Agile, the product – really anything – always seems to work, too.

Much like "is that scalable?" there's:

- Is that testable
- How do we measure that?
posted by ignignokt at 5:45 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a freelancer, I am sometimes obliged to endure long, painful conference calls, but because I am a freelancer I take them outside, on my porch, with a novel and (depending upon time of day) a cocktail. I finally read most of "The Watchmen" about seven years back during a particularly long and contentious production meeting.
posted by thivaia at 6:12 AM on July 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have been to more meetings than I care to count. Whenever anyone stands at the front of the room with a flip chart writing down suggestions from others about what Key Performance Indicators are (if a thing is perceived to be working well or is not yet up and running) or what needs to be improved (if a thing is not), say "Communication." People will nod sagely at this, even those who in the course of a day might contact you by dropping by your office, texting you, e-mailing you, calling your work number, your home number and your cell number; all will agree that more communication will make the work flow better.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:48 AM on July 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

I once had a consultant this say verbatim during a meeting, "Well... what we do know, we know and what we don't know, we don't know." Thank you so much for that insight--how much are we paying you an hour again?
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 7:33 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

@greenish: Holy moly, that's genius. I'm going to have to use that. Hopefully no one begins to wonder if I have a condition with the tip of my fingers.
posted by TaylorHannigan at 7:34 AM on July 4, 2014

I like to throw in a double eyebrow raise and audible exhale followed by worried glance at a co-conspirator any time a date is mentioned as if to say, "That's impossible!" even though we've already padded it with 50% contingency. This causes the manager person to think "Yes! My deadlines are so ludicrous they are afraid of them and I am using my expensive tech resources to their maximum capability!"
posted by Damienmce at 7:37 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

If someone asks you if you’re taking notes, quickly say that these are your own personal notes and that someone else should really be keeping a record of the meeting.

Ohhhhh, yeah. Or the all-too-familiar "I'm not taking minutes here. Is anyone taking minutes? Because I'm not taking minutes."
posted by blucevalo at 8:42 AM on July 4, 2014

The walk out to take a call trick works best if you never come back. Sometimes I don't wait for a phone call, just look at my watch, get up, and leave.

When I'm in an ornery mood, I sabotage every meeting with insisting on action items. Great idea! Who's going to do that? Pen and paper poised... And what's your estimated completion date? It makes me look like a no-bullshit go-getter, but more importantly, it really puts a lid on any more stupid ideas about what "we" should do.
posted by ctmf at 8:46 AM on July 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I also like to propose plan B way before we even know plan A isn't going to work. Most of the time plan A does work, but when it doesn't I look like a fortune-telling genius. What if, instead of the giant crane, we use hydraulic jacks and lift from the bottom?

Weeks later when the crane is proving to have unforeseeable "issues"...
posted by ctmf at 8:56 AM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I end up in a lot of meetings that I don't need to be in and have no bearing whatsoever on my job. So for fun, I bring a notepad and pretend to take notes, only I write them in vague corporate bullshit-speak. Something like, "Optimally exploit distinct alignments for intuitive bandwidth in vertical architectures" or "Objectively integrate emerging core competencies via integrated schema and optimal best practices." I make sure it's neat, and large enough that it can be read by the people around me. Then I play buzzword bingo, and give myself extra points if someone in the meeting says one of the phrases I wrote in my notes.

The result is that no one ever asks me any questions, I never have to say anything, but everyone walks away thinking I was a big contributor to a meeting that I really had absolutely nothing to do with in the first place.
posted by sephira at 9:06 AM on July 4, 2014

Ha Ha. Its friday, we had a big audit the past couple of days, I'm tired and waiting for 2 pm when I can go home.

The-auditor gave rave reviews about my projects teams progress so we're glowy. Boss just came in and asked whether I had the revised timelines as per some of the auditors comments. In my head I'm all ''wtf"its Friday afternoon, the guy sent his report 3 hours ago which rocked ....

So I calmly switch from Metafil-ter, to Evernote where my reams of meeting notes are, clicked on the drawing function and proceed to doodle flow chart, looking boxes and connected some notes with arrows. I handwrote some dates and some happy boss charting occurred . By the end of it what I said didn' t matter.

" Holy cow. Thats amazing you just did that with your phone !"

Yep that's me the super smart tech goddess in my workplace. lol
posted by Jalliah at 10:46 AM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

My strategy:

Wait for the inevitable derail by usual suspect.

Exit conference room to take phone call.

Never return.
posted by Pudhoho at 6:11 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm favouriting this thread for future reference. You are now co-conspirators.
posted by arcticseal at 6:27 PM on July 4, 2014

I had a boss who would sometimes call a meeting to address morale issues. He would say, and I know this is absolutely inane but I'm not making it up, "I like to consider this room the 'Trust Bubble', and you can say anything you want in here." And of course, because he was the type of boss who had to try and convince his employees to trust him enough to be candid, nobody said anything (gee, I wonder how those morale issues started). The best thing you can do in that kind of meeting? Call the bluff and be frank. That kind of boss doesn't know how to handle it, they weren't really expecting it, and since everyone heard the boss tell you all to be frank, they're all witnesses, you get off scott free while the meeting descends into chaos, because it's like you dynamited a crack in the dam and it all comes flooding out.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:24 PM on July 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Oh god meetings, I've got a full day planning one coming up in a few weeks. The last one we had consisted basically of everyone, apart from his closest colleagues, trying to tell one guy that, no. He was not going to lose control over his degree program, in fact the rest of us couldn't actually give a fuck about what he taught the hundred or so corporate flacks he was churning out every year. The bastard dug down hard in his corner though and we were there for the best part of 4 hours. 3 of those were trying to explain to him what the meeting was actually about. Again. and Again. and Again. He finally got it, then I had to leave to teach a class. I assume some important things were decided after that?

I've a very good friend whose father is a very successful Academic. He's told me that his Dad advised him to avoid it, and I can understand why. Die on that hill? A hill? Why a hill? We can die on any inconsequential geographical feature. Also we want to raise some issues with geography being included in this department.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 10:25 PM on July 4, 2014

I also like to propose plan B way before we even know plan A isn't going to work.

...but that's just good planning. You're supposed to have B ready ahead of time as a contingency, so in the event plan A doesn't work you can switch tacks immediately. Isn't that standard prep, or have I just been ensconced in the safety/emergency-response world too long?
posted by psoas at 5:44 AM on July 5, 2014

Well, of course. But the trick is to know it's going to be plan B, but propose it as plan A. Then graciously allow yourself to be talked into the real plan A.

It actually does serve to flush out problems with plan A instead of just having a big group-think back-patting session. But also, if you end up using plan B, you get some of that "he was right all along, wow." It's like advertising. Everyone knows it's a trick, but it works anyway.
posted by ctmf at 9:09 AM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

> "How does this fit in with the mission?" in reply to anything

That's a great question. There are some Post-Its right here if you want to stick it in the parking lot.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:30 PM on July 5, 2014

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