I can no longer recall the topics of discussion in any of the thousands of meetings I attended over my long, and illustrious careers. And many of those meetings I chaired.
First, allow me to briefly apologize to all the victims called to my meetings over the decades. There, I feel much better. Shall we continue?
All of the absolutely incredible wisdom poured into my brain during the myriad of meetings attended over many decades and thousands of hours, alas appears to have slipped somewhere into the ether.
And all the pearls of wisdom I shared with others in the numerous meetings I facilitated, gone. Vanished into the ether. The horror! Do any of my former colleagues and direct reports still have their notes? Never mind.
If only I recorded all the knowledge imparted and received in meetings over the decades into a document. Perhaps it would be beneficial as a book for all humans everywhere. After all, every single one of the 755,000 (rough estimate to date) meetings previously attended in my lifetime were each billed as the most enlightening, game changing, paradigm shifting, performance expanding experiences available. Or, they were just plain mandatory.
In any case, imagine if one had the foresight to record the content of every meeting ever attended over a lifetime. The resultant compilation of wisdom would be deep and rich enough to solve any human problem real or imagined on this planet, right? If I compiled my personal collection of meeting wisdom into a book, electronic of course because it would be tens of thousands of pages in length, it would be massive.
But, it’s all gone from my memory, most of it at least.
Is this the first stage of dementia setting in, forgetfulness-about-meetings-gone-by? Oh my, I need to check the DSM-IV (Psychological diagnosis book – FYI) to see if such a symptom exists.
While I’m searching the DSM-IV, I’ll check for a “meeting trauma” category. So many of the meetings we attend are thinly veiled punishment or torture sessions, and this is certainly true in my experience. Many meetings are analogous to the electric collar shock fence for dogs.
There is a high probability of mental trauma lurking in my brain ready to rear its ugly head. I need to trace it down and root it out. Perhaps attend a meeting recovery group? No, no, that’s a meeting too.
It is likely there are trigger words that may send the meeting traumatized into emotional distress. “Team,” is the most ubiquitous term used, but no anxiety arises when I utter that word. How about “take-aways.” Yes! My blood pressure immediately jumped 20 points just typing that word.
Oh, and this one, “group-exercise.” Now I’ve gone and set my anxiety on fire. I suddenly have the urge to use the restroom, duck under my covers, or call 911 for a ride to the ER.
We can continue now. I apologize to anyone who needed to leave this article and seek solace or respite due to those two words in the previous paragraph. I can’t go back and edit it out without inflicting further trauma on myself. Moving along.
Perhaps we just need to accept the brazen reality that all the conscious space that past meeting topics capture among our floating brain cells just drain from the mind as soon as they pour into it, like water through a sieve. Or perhaps like spicy burritos that go in quick and head out even quicker. Not much nutrition in those things either, at least the fast food variety. All around good analogy to most meetings.
What I recall most about the meetings are the faces. Sullen, somber, distracted, daydreaming, fearful, annoyed. Doodling hands. Twitchy feet. Uncomfortable chairs. Sugary snacks. Not enough potty breaks.
I recall the blank stares from people hugging their coffee, too early in the morning for team building rah-rah. I think people want to kill cheerleaders between the hours of 7 and 9:45am. Rightfully so, and a well-deserved demise for the lot. Saccharine cheeriness before 10am is just plain evil.
“It’s too early for cheerleading. Someone needs to die for planning this,” the majority of meeting participants are thinking as they wallow in their coffee.
Many fellow meeting travellers’ names come to mind. We all suffered together.
I remember sparse laughter, but there are some exceptions. The meetings with tearful, hardy, extended laughing are the uncommon gems seared into my memory.
There was one meeting where I played an April Fools joke on my immediate supervisor, President Bill. Oh, it was good.
During a weekly executive meeting, I ask my assistant to ring my cell phone. I quickly mumble some excited words of shock into the phone and excuse myself from the meeting with a panicked look on my face.
I run out the door, but quickly turn into the President’s office.
As V.P. of Academic Affairs, I am working with tennis magnate Venus Williams. I put together an education plan for her so she can earn her degree from our college while maintaining her daunting tennis tour schedule. She eventually finishes her college degree and by the way she is an absolutely wonderful lady.
Well, Venus doesn’t know that she and her sister, who attends the college for a short time, are the focal point of my dastardly April Fools joke, a hacked Miami Herald story.
I am up late the night before the April first meeting writing a phony investigative hit piece about the Williams sisters trading grades for cash at our college. I backward engineer the Miami Herald’s web front page and place my story and photos into it.
I was a darn good web designer in my prime, and a good news copywriter.
I plant my doctored story on the President’s computer in his office, pulling it up on his Internet Explorer (from floppy disk – remember those?). There it is, headline news.
The reconfigured Miami Herald web page with my concocted story is posted on the President’s computer screen. I toggle back and forth to the real Herald web site to make it look legit. Then I wait a few minutes for the suspense to build back in the meeting room before my return.
Well, only one other member of the executive team is in on it, but she has not seen the article or page yet. I quickly report to my colleagues that we have a public relations crisis at hand, and I invite them into the President’s office to read the news.
Ha! They all read it and great panic ensues. The President calls over our public relations director and she rushes in, reads it, panics, and we all reconvene in the conference room to decide a course of action to counter the horrible breaking headline story. Oh, I got them good.
When the President begins dialing the attorneys, I fess up.
I remember the meeting well! What were the agenda topics of the day? Who the hell knows. We laughed until we cried.
There were two other great meetings I recall in detail. Both of them involve the hiring of a comedian, unbeknownst to the meeting attendees. One of the events I managed and even got to write comedy (roast) material along with the comedian who was introduced as a special guest from the main corporate office.
The comedian performed and even sang songs roasting particular staff members, including me. I gave him all the best material about myself, being an easy target. I remember this very well. The agenda topics for the rest of the day? Fiscal reports, bla, bla, bla. Who remembers? Who cares?
Humor is a message that lasts. Laughter is the best motivator. Period.
My fellow meeting victims, those now cloistered in hotel conference rooms, lecture halls, boardrooms, classrooms, and the co-conspirators planning such events, remember the future recollection of the meeting holds no value. Don’t take it to seriously.
Meetings suck away so many hours of our lives that if many of us could recapture the time, we might all actually revert to teenagers in an instant.
So yuck it up. Laugh. Don’t wait for April Fools to play a damn good joke. Hire a comedian, or write your own material for presentation. Play a song. Find something to laugh about until you cry. All the rest of it is folly for the moment. Laughter, good laughter, shared with friends, lasts a lifetime.
Four simple words tease meeting sufferers with great hopefulness, and inspire motivational attention, “we may end early;” it echoes in all our ears. Oh the joy and rapture those four simple words can bring to the cloistered minds of the meeting milieu. It is like a glass of ice water to the desert wanderer.
There are more funny meeting examples to share, but this little expose is coming to an early conclusion. Perhaps we will meet again another day for more sharing. Maybe, not.
And for all my fellow travelers who perhaps languish with guilt for once disrupting a meeting with hilarious anecdotes, sardonic humor, general merriment, and even fart jokes, go in peace. For yours is the only touchstone we carry forth in our brief lives to recall in our golden years, a small crumb from among the many meetings, perhaps poignant, always punctual, often painful professional development sessions.
I absolve you of your guilt. I am the Patron Saint of Meetings. All is forgiven.
Now, what are your take-aways?
“Copyright © 5AUG17 by Steven A. Schwab”