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How to Attend a Meeting

MEMO 10/20/95 10:24:00 How to Attend a Meeting by Dave Barry To really succeed in a business or organization, it is sometimes helpful to know what your job is, and whether it involves any duties.

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MEMO 10/20/95 10:24:00How to Attend a Meetingby Dave BarryTo really succeed in a business or organization, it is sometimes helpful to know whatyour job is, and whether it involves any duties. Ask among your coworkers. Hi, youshould say. I m a new employee. What is the name of my job? If they answer long-range planner or lieutenant governor, you are pretty much free to lounge around anddo crossword puzzles until retirement. Most jobs, however, will require some are two major kinds of work in modern organizations:1. Taking phone messages for people who are in meetings, and,2. Going to ultimate career strategy will be to get a job involving primarily , going tomeetings, as soon as possible, because that s where the real prestige is. It is all very welland good to be able to take phone messages, but you are never going to get a position ofpower, a position where you can cost thousands of people their jobs with a singlebonehead decision, unless you learn how to attend first meeting ever was held back in the Mezzanine Era. In those days, Man s jobwas to slay his prey and bring it home for Woman, who had to figure out how to cook problem was, Man was slow and basically naked, whereas the prey had warm furand could run like an antelope. (In fact it *was* an antelope, only nobody knew this).At last someone said, Maybe if we just sat down and did some brainstorming, wecould come up with a better way to hunt our prey! It went extremely well, plus it wasmuch warmer sitting in a circle, so they agreed to meet again the next day, and the the women pointed out that, prey-wise, the men had not produced anything, andthe human race was pretty much starving. The men agreed that was serious and said theywould put it right near the top of their agenda . At this point, the women, who wereprimitive but not stupid, started eating plants, and thus modern agriculture was born. Itnever would have happened without modern business meeting, however, might better be compared with a funeral, inthe sense that you have a gathering of people who are wearing uncomfortable clothingand would rather be somewhere else. The major difference is that most funerals have adefinite purpose. Also, nothing is really ever buried in a idea may look dead, but it will always reappear at another meeting later on. If youhave ever seen the movie, Night of the Living Dead, you have a rough idea of howmodern meetings operate, with projects and proposals that everyone thought were killedrising up constantly from their graves to stagger back into meetings and eat the brains ofthe are two major kinds of that are held for basically the same reason that Arbor Day is observed -namely, tradition. For example, a lot of managerial people like to meet onMonday, because it s Monday. You ll get used to it. You d better, because thiskind account for 83% of all meetings (based on a study in which I wrote downnumbers until one of them looked about right). This type of meeting operates theMEMO 10/20/95 10:24:00way Show and Tell does in nursery school, with everyone getting to saysomething, the difference being that in nursery school, the kids actually havesomething to it s your turn, you should say that you re still working on whatever it isyou re supposed to be working on. This may seem pretty dumb, since obviouslyyou d be working on whatever you re supposed to be working on, and even if youweren t, you d claim you were, but that s the traditional thing for everyone tosay. It would be a lot faster if the person running the meeting would just say, Everyone who is still working on what he or she is supposed to be working on,raise your hand. You d be out of there in five minutes, even allowing for this is not how we do it in America. My guess is, it s how they do it in where there is some alleged purpose. These are trickier, because whatyou do depends on what the purpose is. Sometimes the purpose is harmless, likesomeone wants to show slides of pie charts and give everyone a big, fat you have to do in this kind of meeting is sit there and have elaborate fantasies,then take the report back to your office and throw it away, unless, of course,you re a vice president, in which case you write the name of a subordinate in theupper right hand corner, followed be a question mark, like this: Norm? Thenyou send it to Norm and forget all about it (although it will plague Norm for therest of his career).But sometimes you go to meetings where the purpose is to get your input onsomething. This is very serious because what it means is, they want to make sure that incase whatever it is turns out to be stupid or fatal, you ll get some of the blame, so youhave to escape from the meeting before they get around to asking you anything. One wayis to set fire to your tie. Another is to have an accomplice interrupt the meeting andannounce that you have a phone call from someone very important such as the presidentof the company or the Pope. It should be one or the other. It would a sound fishy if theaccomplice said, You have a call from the president of the company, or the Pope. You should know how to take notes at a meeting. Use a yellow legal pad. At the top,write the date and underline it twice. Now wait until an important person, such as yourboss, starts talking; when he does, look at him with an expression of enraptured interest,as though he is revealing the secrets of life itself. Then write interlocking rectangles likethis:(picture of doodled rectangles)If it is an especially lengthy meeting, you can try something like this(Picture of more elaborate doodles and a caricature of the boss)If somebody falls asleep in a meeting, have everyone else leave the room. Thencollect a group of total strangers, right off the street, and have them sit around thesleeping person until he wakes up. Then have one of them say to him, Bob, your plan isvery, very risky. However, you ve given us no choice but to try it. I only hope, for yoursake, that you know what you re getting yourself into. Then they should file quietly outof the room.

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