Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Staff Meeting – Tips For Survival and Success

Anyone in an office setting has had to endure a staff meeting, some weekly, some monthly or some quarterly. I recently sat in on a monthly one and thought it might be good to review ways to get out of a staff meeting with your dignity (not to mention employment) intact. Like all things in life, some parts of the meeting interested me and some did not. It’s not how we conduct ourselves in the meeting during the moments that interest us that make us good office folk; it’s what we do when bored out of our skulls that really showcase our character.

I’m sure everyone has doodled during a staff meeting. Heck, if Ronald Reagan could doodle while President, I’m sure it’s ok for the rest of us! If you are going to doodle, getting into the habit of nodding every 45 seconds or so helps you to be perceived as interested in what is happening. The same exercise can be used when daydreaming. No matter what is happening, when the rest of your colleagues laugh, do the same. Just make sure that you gauge the enthusiasm of everyone else’s laughter prior to committing to yours. Don’t respond to your colleagues’ chuckles with a hearty ho-ho. I did this once, it wasn’t Christmas and it was a dead giveaway that I was about thirteen miles from where everyone else was in the room.

You should always size up the physical aspects of the room you will be conferring in. Doing so allows you to avoid the one spot in every conference room where no one wants to sit - the chair directly facing the sun. When you aren’t totally paying attention, the worst thing to do is sit there squirming and constantly adjusting how you are sitting because all of the sun’s power is being concentrated directly and solely into your eyes. Speaking of eyes, I did learn one good technique to convey interest even though you have no idea what is going on. If you require glasses to see, simply take them off. Then when you look at whoever is conducting the meeting, you appear to be making direct eye contact with them even though you can barely distinguish their face from the wall clock behind them. I’ll give you credit though since they both have faces.

Some long meetings have beverages or snacks provided, but if the meeting is of a lesser duration, it can pose some challenges. Even when there are snacks, it can be awkward because you don’t want to appear to be a pig and reach across everyone several times to partake in the provided provisions. I have personally found that bringing a PEZ dispenser or tin of mints into the meeting serves many purposes. It lets people see that you are the kind and sharing type and it provides a tiny snack in its own container that can be passed around easily and cleanly rather than having everyone touch the food. A PEZ dispenser can hold 12 pieces of candy and most mint containers hold at least 25, so plan ahead based on the number of attendees that are expected in the meeting.

If you eat during the meeting, chances are you will drink during the meeting, if you haven’t already. Caffeine in the bladder is a ticking dirty bomb waiting to go off. If the necessity to lessen the amount of liquid waste in your system arises, go! Granted, I am not a doctor, but I have seen one on TV. I recommend strongly against holding it, as squirming is not an attractive quality. Just make sure that when you excuse yourself from the meeting you let someone know where you are going so no one mistakes your exit for you wanting to go check your voicemail or stocks and sports scores online. That all being said, there is one scenario where you should hold it at all costs. Now I am no career counselor, although I have seen one on TV, but if your boss is the one individual between you and the door, just stay put.

Also, be respectful of your superiors and colleagues and silence your cell phone. It can be hard to remember sometimes, but try to make it a habit of checking that your phone is on vibrate. You don’t want to turn it off though because then you’ll miss important text messages from friends. When you have annoying or revealing ring tones like ‘The James Bond Theme’ or Johnny Paycheck’s ‘Take This Job and Shove It’ (just to randomly snatch two out of thin air), you really want to make sure your phone is off. Lastly (and perhaps most importantly), no matter how tempting it may seem, don’t draft your next blog post under the guise of ‘taking meeting notes.’ That rule should be self-explanatory – you can’t fully focus on your blog post.

Well, there you have it - a few tips to help you get through your next staff meeting. In case my boss or anyone from work is reading, all of these scenarios and tips are fictional, completely fictional. While I’m sure they have happened to someone, they have not happened to me.

Now, back to work…diversification, uh-huh, uh-huh…market share, yep, I agree…2007 goals, uh-hmmmmm…

15 comments:

Odat said...

Your Pez dispensers crack me up...reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry put one on Elain's knee during a classical concert and she started laughing hysterically....anyway..I have no respect for meetings...and always cut them short...or leave...
(I have the Three Stooges song on my phone...I'm that professional!
Peace
P.S. Michael's boss: I'm sure he didn't do any of this at a meeting. I still think he deserves a big raise!

mist1 said...

I used to work with a guy that ate really smelly cheese and sardine sandwiches during staff meetings. Meetings were always really short.

ian said...

Heh. Three or four jobs ago I had meetings like this.

Ian

Le Nightowl said...

I hate staff meetings, but you do make them sound like a lot of fun :)
Now pass around that PEZ dispenser (not idea what they are, but I want one!)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Good Grief! Is this what people do when I call for meetings?

ShadowFalcon said...

We only have to endure them anually, which would be fine, except I had to go to one on my very first day! three hours of stocks and growth and crap and I just wanted to know if the coffee was free!

captain corky said...

This is some good advise but I have to drink coffee during meetings or else I'll fall a sleep in them. I hate having to stand up because I can't keep my eyes open.

Dan said...

Why limit your strategies to ones that allow you to keep your dignity? I usually fake epileptic seizures or begin making loud animal noises and then excuse myself. And believe me, they're glad when I leave.

Is that Miami Steve Van Zant running the meeting in the photo?

Stepping Over the Junk said...

I love that I work from home, for myself!!

Cece said...

I really HATE meetings. I'm in sales & when we have meetings all I hear, after a while, is blah..blah..blah..blah.

Natalie said...

I truly hate meetings. They are the worst. I used to have to go to wekly managers meetings then my contract was eliminated and although I didn't get demoted I ended up in a department wiht a boss so I didn't have to go anymore. Great. I only had to go to the monthly all staff meetings. Then last wek I was called into a meeting with all the managers and me. The Executive Director asked that everyone share their feelings at the next managers meeting. Of course I opened my mouth and asked ifi should just give my responses to my boss. He laughed and said he would add my name back to the list of people at the managers meetings. Damn.

Pickled Olives said...

Thank Gawd I don't have staff meetings. However, these tips would have been helpful some years ago when I did!!

thethinker said...

Your staff meetings sound like my class lectures... without the food/coffee. And we don't get bathroom breaks whenever we want.

I'd trade you!

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

michael honey i believe you left out one important piece of advice. exactly which pez dispenser should one use to pass around in a meeting? i mean, the wrong one could be career limiting, you know? and what flavor pez? i believe you should blog about this for the totally uninformed.... bee

PARLANCHEQ said...

I am definitely stocking up on Pez before my next meeting. A bonus: the mini sugar rush will help me to stay awake for the entire length of the meeting.