In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself
If you make the unfortunate mistake of reaching a point in life when you have to get a sensible job that involves acquiring a work wardrobe which consists almost entirely of different shades of grey, and pretending to be competent at using Excel, you will probably find yourself having to take part in meetings.
Meetings, just like people or particularly good pastries, come in all shapes and sizes. And because I was feeling like an especially helpful sort of fellow today, here is an Awkward Guide to help you work out which shape and/or size of meeting you’re sitting in.
1. The “what kind of monster would schedule a two-hour meeting that does not involve either sandwiches or quiche for 11 o’clock?” meeting.
We’re jumping straight in at the deep end with no armbands here because this is arguably one of the very worst sorts of meetings. Because as I’m sure you’ll be aware, when you’ve been in the office since 9am, holding out until after 1 o’clock for lunch is simply out of the question. To be honest, hanging on until 12 is sometimes a little touch-and-go.
So being forced to sit in a room and talk to people instead of merrily tucking into a bit of cheese and pickle at 12:01 can start to feel like a severe infringement of your civil liberties. It’s almost enough to make you consider setting up a small picket line and engaging the office in a chant of “What do we want? Lunch! When do we want it? Slightly earlier than everyone else!”
The other, more practical consideration with this sort of meeting is the dreaded affliction of the tummy rumbles. When these strike you can be caught in a terrible dilemma between “this is really embarrassing and I wish my digestive system wasn’t currently making a more coherent contribution to this meeting than I am” and “I hope they can all hear this because it might remind them that it’s high time everyone stopped talking and went in search of food”.
2. The “did you really need me to be here for this?” meeting.
I’m sure you know the ones. Those meetings where you spend most of your time looking like you’re watching a particularly dull game of tennis and thinking “look, why don’t you two just have a conversation on your own and the rest of us can go back to pretending we know how to use Excel?”
But beware. These meetings come with an element of peril as there will inevitably come a moment when you have given up and become completely absorbed in drawing a detailed sketch of a snail wearing a smoking jacket. And this will be the moment you realise that everyone is staring at you and someone has just said “so you can make a start on that important project we’ve just discussed at length then, ok?”
3. The “I really hope no-one asks me a question because I’ve got absolutely no idea what’s going on” meeting.
Or, to put it another way, basically 99% of all meetings.
Where by the time it’s over you’re still trying to work out what on earth BSTG stands for (or was it BSTC, I can’t remember) and, more importantly, why everyone nodded sagely when Pam from accounts said that it’s very serious and the next person to do it will be immediately fired.
4. The “I was so busy writing down that joke Brian made about catfish that I’ve totally missed all the important things I was actually supposed to be minuting” meeting.
Which occur when someone makes the ill-judged decision that you would be the best person to record the meeting – clearly someone who has not yet realised that you spend most meetings wondering about three things:
1) whether this is the sort of meeting that comes with sandwiches, 2) whether you should give your picture of a snail a top hat as well as a smoking jacket, 3) whether there is anyone in the world who does genuinely know how to use Excel.
This sort of meeting usually results in the realisation that you have managed to record with startling accuracy Kate’s precise feelings on the custard creams vs bourbons debate, but sadly nothing about that really important thing that absolutely had to be finished by the end of the day.
The Awkward Guide accepts no responsibility for adverse reactions to the implementation of advice supplied herein. Side-effects can include: smug laughter, mild disdain, and temporary irritation.