If you’ve ever attended a business meeting of any kind, you’ll be familiar with the grinding tedium that can ensue when a group of people are thrown together in one room and forced to make decisions and/or eye contact.
In an age where most conversations now take place over email, you can sometimes forgive people for forgetting how to act when confronted with a real-life meeting scenario.
But – and it’s a big but – is it too much to expect from our fellow humans that we make the whole experience as painless as possible for all involved?
To illustrate my point, here’s a small selection of the horribly familiar situations that arise when we co-ordinate diaries, and pencil something in for next Tuesday…
“Why don’t we go around the room and do introductions?”
This person is at the top of my list of people who need to have a firm word with themselves.
I think you’ll find Steve, that out of the five people in this meeting, 100% of them shook hands as they walked in, repeated their names, and felt that was enough by way of an introduction.
This haphazard attempt at ‘making everyone feel comfortable’ has just prompted a collective toe-curling worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records, and the eye-roll heard around the world.
Hug, kiss on the cheek, or a swift leap out of an open window?
I’ll level with you, of the options above, I would choose option C every time.
Whilst I’m fairly certain that I was born in 1987 (it says so on my birth certificate), I can say without hesitation that mentally, I hail from a time when the handshake was enough when introducing yourself to new people. Especially when said people are professionals with email signatures and mortgages.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re all human beings. I’m not averse to the occasional hug – but if the most I know about you so far is that you’ve parked your car around the corner at Tesco and will need to run out at some stage to top up the meter, I think I’m fine to keep you at arm’s length for now.
Don’t even get me started on the margin for error that comes with switching out a handshake for a peck on the cheek. One PR I know almost found herself Frenching the marketing director of a rather important client thanks to this ‘novel’ way we now choose to conduct ourselves.
Peck at your peril…
Someone introducing you by mispronouncing your name
If you have a conventional name you’ve probably never experienced the pure cringe that comes with being introduced to another person by the wrong name.
You’re generally faced with two scenarios:
- Correct the person who got your name wrong, and risk coming across as some sort of self-important knob-jockey
- Say nothing, and go through the entire meeting – and possibly the duration of your time in contact with this person – being called the wrong name
Being British, I couldn’t possibly confirm which option I would choose.
“How about we do some star jumps to get the ideas flowing?”
You probably think the above example is mere whimsy thought up for this blog post, but this happened. At a meeting. Attended by people over the age of 30.
Save that shit for your personal trainer, Yvonne.
A few honourable mentions:
- Arriving late
- Not arriving at all
- Using your phone to check Facebook
- Leaving the room to take phone calls
- Chatting to other people in the room while someone else is presenting
- Using phrases like ‘going forward’, ‘think outside the box’, ‘re-group’ or any additional unnecessary guff.
What would go on your list of the absolute worst/most cringe-worthy scenarios to arise at meetings?