How to Screw Up a Meeting
The following steps are by no means all-encompassing but experience shows that if you follow them carefully, you can sink any meeting:
- Don't have a goal. Better yet, have a vague goal and change it during the meeting. Just never let anyone know that you're doing so.
- Forget the agenda. Get a bunch of egos in a room and let them drone on. Ask your secretary to summon you after an hour. Turn over the meeting to the biggest bore. Don't return.
- If you must have an agenda, rigidly stick to it regardless of reality. Has the third item become moot? Discuss it anyway.
- Circulate the agenda to only a few of the attendees. The others will enjoy looking over their shoulders.
- Pick the meeting room with care and select either of the following: a spartan, poorly ventilated cell with hard chairs that the participants will be eager to escape or a comfortable, lavish board room with large, leather seats that induce fantasies and napping.
- If it is to be a long meeting, don't have refreshments. Empty stomachs produce creative minds. If some malcontents insist upon food, bring in the left-overs from an earlier meeting. That'll teach them.
- Address the most difficult item at the beginning of the meeting. If discussion bogs down and no time is left for the other subjects, that's no problem. The agenda for your next meeting is already written!
- Call on the senior people and ignore the junior. Rank hath its privileges. Besides, after listening to their betters the junior team members won't be inclined to interrupt with semi-rebellious witticisms. They'll either be comatose or mentally composing their resumes.
- Get as many people as possible into the room. Line the walls with smirking staffers. Pack the table with those who possess only a remote knowledge of the subject but are armed with plenty of opinions. The more people, the more complicated the personal relationships and alliances. In large organizations, you can usually count on having at least four people who hate one another. That always livens things up.
- At the close of the meeting, make sure that responsibility is unclear and deadlines are hazy. Don't schedule the next meeting. Let that be a subject of mystery. Linger with other participants so you can squelch any questions that might clarify matters. Drop a few acerbic remarks to encourage acrimony. Stroll back to your office. Mission accomplished.