How Great Business Meetings Go Bad


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Some lawyers spend a lot of time in business meetings and phone conferences. This is both a blessing to us (because we are employed) and a curse (because we are employed, and have to spend a lot of time in business meetings and phone conferences). Do you ever feel at times that some of the other attendees have memorized some sort of Guide to Making Meetings Not Only Unproductive But In Fact Physically Repulsive? Perhaps not. But if they had, the Guide would perhaps read something like this:

How To Own Your Next Business Meeting

  1. Always be late for the meeting—in fact, work hard to always be the last to arrive or call in. Being late shows you are busy, busy. Only the lazy or unimportant have the time to show up on time. Being late also calls attention to you—always crucial, as you want to ensure you get your fair share of the credit for whatever quantifiable benefit this project delivers. If any.
  2. Be unprepared, and have nothing to offer other than your very personal complaints about how this project is pulling you away from much more important work that involves people much more important than the losers at this meeting.
  3. If project meetings are held, say, weekly, show up roughly every five weeks or so to make vague, unsubstantiated claims about how the losers who have time to show up weekly (and on time) have completely screwed up this project (not generally, but in a very personal way, for you). But always be aware of No. 1 above, re getting your fair share of credit.
  4. If on a phone conference, multi-task like crazy during the call, and don’t ever mute your phone to hide the fact that you are typing or texting or talking to other people. See No. 1 above re losers. And if you have a chronic cough or sniffles, not muting your phone gives loser attendees the opportunity to hear how you are toughing it out for the good of the company. See No. 1 above re busy, busy.
  5. When you do speak, which should be either often, or loudly, or, better yet, both, don’t sound like a loser (see No. 3 above re losers) who speaks clearly and understandably, and who produces something tangible like a product or service that everyone can see and acknowledge. Instead, use cool, modern business terminology that reaches out to stakeholders and leverages developing tactical integrated cultures while focusing digital scenarios on new-paradigm creative frameworks. Losers who don’t understand this cool terminology may call it “jargon.” Ignore them (when you are not putting them in their place in a very respectful, professional, and diversity-celebrating way).
  6. Always leave the meeting or phone conference immediately upon completing 1 thru 5 above, or halfway through the scheduled time, whichever comes first. See No. 1 above re busy, busy.

Since I’m confident you have never heard of, much less read, the Guide, or engaged in the kind of behavior it suggests, I look forward to my next meeting or phone conference with you. It’s your turn to bring the treats. I like cranberry scones.



Get Lawyerist in Your Inbox, Daily

Current Articles
Current Lab Discussions
  • Cyn

    That is brilliant! I have stumbled across this now after searching ‘when meetings go bad’ – it goes without saying that I’ve had to be present at a few of these already.

    At least I’m always on time hey!

    The ‘showing up every 5 weeks’ kills me, there are a few of ’em floating around the office.

    I think I’ll print this out and leave it lying around on the boardroom table….thanks!