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Meeting Survival – Meet the Neighbors

While meetings are often considered a wasteful timesuck in the office, especially by upper management, they can still bring unified solutions to problems quicker and easier than emails.  They also make up the majority of the time that large groups of coworkers interact, often cross-departmentally, and they give each attendee an opportunity to contribute to a discussion and also leave an impression on the rest of the team.  Learn how to thrive in our “Meeting Survival” series.

Office Thermostat believes that the most important factor of any meeting isn’t the agenda, it’s the invite list.  Knowing who’s attending can provide insight into what sort of office dynamics to expect, what the temperature of the meeting will be, and even if the meeting will actually get anything done at all.  Here are some of the main archetypes found in a meeting below:

The Meeting Organizer:  the owner of the meeting, and (hopefully) the subject matter expert on what the problem is that the meeting is meant to solve.  This person should already know what each individual in the meeting is there for and how they can contribute, as well as an agenda of how to guide the meeting in a productive manner.  But it’s not like anyone has to get a certificate to add a meeting to an Outlook calendar, so it’s not uncommon for the organizer to just call everyone else in the room and expect them to know what’s going on.

  • Best case scenario:  there’s an agenda, the right people are in the room, and there are clear next steps.  Just kidding, he ordered pizza.
  • Worst case scenario:  not only does no one know why they’re in the room, neither does the meeting organizer.  And he booked it from 12-1pm without ordering food because “it was the only time that everyone’s schedule was free.”  Of course it was, that’s when normal people take lunch.

The Commentator:  convinced that there’s a meeting scorecard based on how much he talks.  It’s also a volume game; the commentator is looking for quantity over quality.  He’s definitely more Ryan Seacrest than Jon Stewart.  There’s no project he doesn’t want to have his name attached to.

  • Best case scenario:  every now and then the commentator says something helpful and/or funny without slowing down the tempo of the meeting.
  • Worst case scenario:  the word vomit isn’t even tied to work anymore, it’s now going into personal stuff.  And not boring stuff like his kids or commute, really awkward personal facts like why he’s now divorced, or which toe he lost to diabetes.  The most important goal in this meeting is to not be the last person in the room with him.

The Bricklayer:  actually responsible for doing whatever the meeting organizer is hoping to accomplish.  Will be told how to do his job by people that have no idea what he actually does.

  • Best case scenario:  “sounds good, I’m on it.”
  • Worst case scenario:  he hates this project, and this meeting is the perfect time to list the many many roadblocks that can’t be solved.  Including his forgotten password.

The Statistician:  driven by data, this is the person that will actually review the numbers and metrics provided by the meeting organizer.  Lives to check Excel formulas on the fly, repeatedly using the phrase “stat sig” instead of “statistical significance”.

  • Best case scenario:  provides data-driven insight into various reports while also providing a framework of how to best measure progress.
  • Worst case scenario:  can only speak in numbers and has no idea how the business actually runs.  Will also disregard any result that he doesn’t understand how to measure.

The Devil’s Advocate:  his sole purpose is to come up with worst-case scenarios or poke holes in other peoples’ ideas.  Pretty easy to identify since he will literally refer to himself as “playing devil’s advocate”.

  • Best case scenario:  he keeps it in the realm of reality.
  • Worst case scenario:  “sure, that solution works today, but what about – glances at Techcrunch’s homepage – cryptocurrency?”

The Daydreamer:  isn’t needed in this meeting and he knows it.  Probably invited on accident.  Just happy to be sitting somewhere besides his desk for an hour.  Also happy to stick around if the meeting runs long.

  • Best case scenario:  he remembers to mute his phone before watching Youtube.  Sometimes, when the sun and moon are in perfect alignment, he’ll make a salient point that the rest of the attendees can appreciate.
  • Worst case scenario:  honestly, nothing too bad, even if the volume is maxed out.  As long as it isn’t porn.  Then that’s a problem.

The Dissident:  similar to the devil’s advocate, but convinced that the goal of the meeting is a terrible idea to begin with.  Or he just doesn’t like the meeting organizer, and everyone is going to be very aware of that by the time the meeting is over.

  • Best case scenario:  he’s taken the time to think through use cases that the meeting organizer hadn’t considered and makes his point without making anyone feel stupid.  Also, this point is made in the first five minutes of the meeting so everyone can go back to work.
  • Worst case scenario:  he’s spent every minute since the meeting invite was sent looking for a hole in the agenda, and last night at 4am he found it:  a typo on the 15th Powerpoint slide.  This is his hill, and he’s looking forward to dying on it.

The Space Cadet:  has no clue what the actual goal of the meeting is but isn’t afraid to let that stop him from derailing it completely.  Get ready for irrelevant anecdotal evidence and explaining basic functions of the business very slowly and by dumbing it down as much as possible.  This person will also be completely unaware that these explanations are only for him.

  • Best case scenario:  you gain respect from everyone else in the room because of how well you can make finger puppets on the fly.
  • Worst case scenario:  this person is also the meeting organizer, and you just lost an hour of your life.  Wait, no, an hour and a half, because he’s going to need everyone to stick around longer for no good reason whatsoever.
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