Start Late, and Other Tips for Miserable Meetings

Leading unsuccessful meetings is unfortunately not that difficult. By doing any of the things listed in this piece is a sure fire way to leave your meeting's attendees scratching their heads, and begging for mercy. Avoid this caustic list and take your meetings to a new level.

Want to hold meetings that are unproductive, mind-deadening, and a total waste of time? It’s easy; just do what some meeting-holders, unfortunately, do routinely:

1. Hold meetings whether they’re needed or not. The more often,the better. Meetings help people stay connected. And theyensure that people don’t fritter their time away doing usefulwork. Back-to-back meetings are especially effective inmaintaining meeting momentum.

2. Start late. First, catch up on yesterday’s game. Vacation plans. Whether it’ll ever rain (or stop raining). Cover these crucial matters thoroughly before settling down to business, so people don’t have to cut into their off-hours to exchange this chit-chattery.

3. Don’t set a time limit. Let the meeting run from now until whenever. Or maybe longer. Too much pressure isn’t healthy, so why feel limited to a finite amount of time? There’s nothing like that relaxed feeling of having absolutely forever to get to the point.

4. Don’t distribute an agenda before the meeting. And don’t open the meeting with an outline ofmeeting topics. That way you can raise issuesthat nobody’s prepared to discuss. Besides, if there are no loose ends from this meeting, it’llbe harder to find a reason to hold the next one. (Thoughnot all that hard. See #1.)

5. Arrive unprepared. Just grab a stack of stuff from your desk. Then, as you present each topic, look through your pile of paper and mumble, “I know it’s in here somewhere.” Pull out each piece of paper, gaze at it, pause, then say, “Nope, this isn’t it.” This is an excellent technique for learninghow to think on your feet.

6. Present gaudy graphics. Create slides filled with a migraine’s worth of clashing colors. Use charts and graphs in every slide. Dazzle everyone by using every feature available. Redundancy is good, so show several slides for each point you make. Use tiny type so you can pack in more content. And don’t forget: Saying, “I know you can’t see this.” is a real crowd pleaser.

7. Pontificate. Never let the facts get in the way; bellow your opinions and stifle all others. That way, you can steer everyone to your way of thinking. Explain that you don’t need their opinions—you have plenty of your own. If they want to have their say, they can hold their own meetings.

8. Permit interruptions and distractions. Leave your cell phone on and answer all calls. Extend the same courtesy to everyone else, and if they’re needed elsewhere, call a break. Everyone will appreciate knowing that the meeting won’t interfere with the timely completion of unrelated activities.

9. Allow side conversations. These buzzings aren’t superfluous. If people can get a load off their minds while they’re together, they can save time later on. Besides, you wouldn’t want every insult and wisecrack to be voiced out loud, would you? Everyone has two ears. Only one needs to be focused on the meeting.

10. Change the subject frequently. You’ve got a captive audience, so this is the time to raise all those other issues on your mind. Staying too narrowly focused makes for dull meetings. Attendees will appreciate the diversity of your subject matter. Remember those famous far-from-last words, “That reminds me of another thing ...”

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