Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Meeting-Participant Field Guide

Meetings. Got to have 'em. Hate 'em. Especially those scheduled to last more than 2 hours.

The best meetings have 5 or fewer very busy, very efficient people. Those meetings last about 10 minutes because a) these people are busy and b) these people are efficient.

And then there are the other meetings. Loooooong meetings. Meetings with too many people. Meetings that include a variety of meeting-breeds. Here are a few types I've encountered recently:

The Conversation Hog - No matter the agenda topic, the CH cannot resist sharing his "expertise." Constantly. Because this person's opinion is so valuable (er, in his own opinion), the CH must spread the brilliance. Constantly. Neverendingly. Did I mention constantly?

The Repeater - Believing that the group didn't hear her the first (and second and third . . .) time around, the Repeater says the same thing over and over and over.

The Naysayer - Can't be done. Nope. Not that way. Not with those people. Not there. Not at that time. Won't work. Never.

Mr/Ms Off-Topic - Forget the agenda or tasks at hand, O-T shoots off into another sphere of interest and meanders in space, sucking up valuable meeting time.

The Silent Type - Whether they can't get a word in edgewise (thanks to any/all of the above types) or they really have nothing to contribute (so why are they here?), the silent types are just that. Shhhh. (They often call the facilitator later to say all they wished they'd said at the actual meeting. Sigh.)

The Patronizing Bastard/Bitch - "Poor little meeting attendees. I know you see yourselves as having insight, leadership ability, experience, etc., but trust me. I'm the one with the all the knowledge and class here." (Add head-pat or two for people around the table.)

Left-Behinder - "I'm sorry, where are we? What are we doing? We've already discussed that? Where was I?"

Dr. Sidebar - Must have a running conversation, complete with sarcastic remarks, with the person next to him, even if that person is trying to pay attention to the actual meeting. The Conversation Hog often turns into Dr. Sidebar if the group has managed to put a halt to the hog.

Professor Huff-and-Puff - Sits through the meeting sighing heavily, shaking her head, rolling eyes, tapping pencil. When asked to comment or join in the conversation, PH&P sighs and shakes head. Huff!

Often times, these types combine to produce a really painful (for the rest of the group) meeting attendee. For example, the Off-Topic-Naysayer-Repeater-Patronizing Bitch. I know that's just bringing tears to your eyes, dear readers. Sorry. And pity the poor busy/efficient types when thrown into a room any of these folks!

I'm sure there are a lot more "breeds" we can add to the field guide. Go ahead - pile on!


Anonymous said...

The sleeper. Sleeps right through every meeting and lets others fill her/him in on details later.

Mr./Ms.Excuse Me. Leaves meeting faining gas pains or other such bodily necessities.

The Artist. Creates the most beautiful art on paper or cups through the meeting, only to dispose of it when it's over. There's probably some great artwork trashed daily.

MaryB said...

Three great additions to the guide! (And after Mr./Ms. Excuse Me leaves the room, he/she usually goes back to their desk and plays a couple of rounds of computer solitaire, picks up a Coke and bag of chips, and makes several phone calls before returning to the meeting.)

jomoore said...

The Carry On Regardless. The meeting's in the diary so we're having it. Particularly prevalent in recurring meetings. Leads meetings attended only by Mr/Ms Off Topic, The Silent Type and The Sleeper.

Pointless waste of time. I have one in 30 minutes!

(Excellent post, Mary!)

Elsie said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane -- I'd almost forgotten the dreaded meeting. Back in my olden days, whenever the "Executive Committee" met, I'd look around the room and think of (label them) the seven dwarfs -- Sleepy (Sales), Grumpy (Finance), Dopey (R&D) Happy (Marketing), Sneezy (HR), Bashful (Manufacturing) and of course Doc (Engineering). But I knew that my prince would never show up there.

Hilarious post, Mary, thanks.

tamarika said...

BRILLIANT! I will take tis post with me whenever I go to a meeting and will feel supported and comforted! I love the additions too! Thanks - my day has been made.

PT said...

Oh, yes an excellent post today Mary.

Only slightly spoiled by the fact that it has brought last night's committee meeting swimming back into my memory. That's 2.5 hours of my life which I'll never get back.

Maybe we can add:

Mr Sarcastic: Unable to take any of the meeting topics seriously, he makes a series of facetious, sarcastic or (sometimes) even humorous contributions to the meeting. This doesn't help anyone to make any decisions, but it keeps people (well, himself mostly) entertained.

Can you guess who that is based on? :-)

Chris said...

Damn, Pete beat me to it! He describes himself to a T (what does that mean?). I was at the same meeting and am still feeling the effects of the mental fallout today.

And, because it's not 'work', we don't even get paid.

Stitches212 said...

I love this, though I must admit to being "The Artist" in most meetings... I have a boss who emails anyone who invites him to a 2 hour meeting and asks which 20 minutes does he actually NEED to be there?!?!... He's crazy but ya gotta love him for it.

Clare said...

Gosh, Pete and Chris are really making me pleased that I've asked to join the committee!!

Great post Mary, I know lots of people who fit those types!

MaryB said...

I love the additions! Seems this topic resonates with lots of folks. Now, excuse me - I have a meeting to go to . . .

Liz said...

The 'I am going to talk slowly and in great detail because I like being the centre of attention' man. (Always a man.)

The 'I'll ask this question because I wasn't listening and missed the answer first time round' type.

Not forgetting Mr 'I know you've just said this but I'll say it again in a different order so you don't notice and you will think I am clever.'