Over the years, you’ve probably read countless articles about how to manage meetings so they’re efficient, informative, and productive. You know the articles: Prepare an agenda, start the meeting on time, solicit input during the meeting, don’t allow any person or topic to sidetrack the meeting. Great suggestions! Unfortunately, no one ever discusses how you can make the meeting more interesting. Not for the group, but for you! It may be a group meeting, but that doesn’t mean you have to be bored listening to sales projections, productivity reports, or policy updates.
Here are a few suggestions on how to entertain yourself during any meeting. Your colleagues will appreciate your efforts; perhaps not during the meeting or the next day, but when they look back and reflect on all the years they spent cooped up like a chicken in a factory farm, they’ll have a little chuckle. It may be too much to expect your boss to appreciate your attempt to enliven the meeting. But, hey, it’s only a job, and you were looking for a reason to explain to your children the concept of full-time employment, mortgage payments, groceries, and utilities.
- Remember the episode of Seinfeld where George had an eye twitch and everyone thought he was winking at them? Winking is fun, at least for the “winker” if not for the “winkie.” Winking can be provocative, reassuring, and unsettling. When your boss says something like, “We must cut administrative expenses by 20 percent this quarter.” Give one of your co-workers a knowing wink. When two colleagues disagree about an issue, give them both a subtle but separate wink. It says, “I understand and am on your side.” Oh yes, winking can also get you hauled into HR for sexual harassment, so use your power wisely. Every great power has its kryptonite.
- Here’s another TV reference for anyone over 40. One of the all-time great characters on television was Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo), the braying geek on “Welcome Back Kotter.” Whenever Arnold had a question or comment, he screamed “Oh! Oh Oh!” when he raised his hand. We all instinctively know that animated hand-raising is fun. I prefer the exaggerated hand wave with some subtle finger movement. I strongly disapprove of the combination finger pointing/finger snapping hand-raising. It’s important to know the difference between being rude and being aggressively rude. Rude is OK. Aggressively rude is in poor taste. You don’t need a catch-phrase while raising your hand, although a personal catch-phrase and a copyright could turn your meeting entertainment into a profitable business.
- Taking notes is important. You should be suspicious of anyone who doesn’t bring a pen and paper to a meeting. I don’t know why, except that it’s just plain wrong. You, on the other hand, should take excessive notes. From the moment anyone begins speaking, begin writing. During any conversation, take notes. When there is a pause and no one is talking, keep writing. It’s a great way to stay awake during any meeting, plus you’ll be praised by your superiors for taking the meeting seriously and resented by your colleagues for taking the meeting seriously. It’s also a terrific opportunity to write a thank you letter to your Aunt Eileen for the $5 dollars she sent you on your 8th birthday. You’ll feel better and that’s all that really matters.
- This entertaining exercise takes a little more planning, and since cracking into the company’s HR files is both illegal and immoral, you’ll need guile and acting to pull this off. Start by learning everyone’s full first and middle name. Some people will gladly reveal that information. Those people were never mocked by their family and classmates. All others were named after dead relatives, celebrities, places, pets, or moral aspirations and still bear the emotional scars. They don’t want anyone to know their middle name is “Ottermeirman” or “Saskatchewan” or “Freedom” or “Barrymore.” Once you have that information, use it during the next meeting. Refer to everyone by their full first and middle name. Sue, for instance, becomes Susanna Sunshine and Frank becomes Franklin Graceland. After the initial shock, I’m sure everyone will soon be laughing, patting each other on the back, and singing. Disclaimer: I have not personally tested this so I can’t verify the “everyone will be laughing, patting, and singing.”
- Bathroom breaks are important for any long meeting. Any meeting lasting more than 15 minutes should have at least one bathroom break. Group bathroom breaks are even better since getting everyone back into the meeting usually takes an additional 10 minutes. Just for the record, I don’t find bathroom breaks entertaining, but they are disruptive which I do find entertaining. Low volume background noise of a babbling brook or cascading waterfall should do the trick.
- Staring like winking takes a little practice but once you’ve master it, the fun meter measures between 8 and10. Psycho staring is considered unacceptable. How do you know when you’re psycho staring? Usually someone screams, there’s finger pointing, metal handcuffs, and someone in a uniform or lab coat is involved. To stare correctly, without repercussions, you’ll want to pretend you’re thinking of something really, really important. In case some asks, you aren’t really staring. You’re pondering. It just so happens that there’s someone between you and an epiphany. Another strategy is to stare until you get someone’s attention, then look away. Repeat. Then on the third stare when the hair on the back of their neck is at full attention, motion like they’ve got something hanging from their lip, stuck on their cheek, or caught in their hair. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness, and you’ll have some fun and get to be a little creepy (in a good way).