The new book by author / comedian Sarah Cooper teaches you how to make it look like you are the owner of the room (conference).
See if this sounds familiar. You are sitting around a table in an airless conference room with your co-workers as you strive to understand the importance of the PowerPoint presentation that shines before you. Everyone in this meeting seems focused, or maybe they are asleep with their eyes open. It's hard to tell the difference, really.
The meeting leader is pointing to a pie chart that has been mercilessly divided into a hundred small slices of pie chart. People start writing things. What are they writing? Never mind. You better write something too.
Time progresses slowly. At the end of the meeting, someone suggests a follow-up meeting. Someone else agrees. He nods enthusiastically: he has no idea why, but I hope he seems to know what is happening. End of the scene.
If you only read the hilarious new book by author / comedian Sarah Cooper, 100 tricks to look smart at meetings: how to survive without even trying, your meeting game would have been much stricter.
The book was born from the success of the Cooper TheCooperReview.com website, which is largely dedicated to idiosyncrasies that are an integral part of the workplace. Among the invaluable tricks that simulate intelligence, there are 21 meaningless diagrams you can draw, tips for looking smart in forced social situations and an illustrated guide on what to do with your face.
Monster talked to Cooper about his meeting-rich career, how he developed his cheat book and what a successful meeting is like.
Q: What is the professional history that has given you this knowledge about how to look smart in meetings?
A: I have been working in the corporate world for about 15 years. At first I worked in a small agency; I worked at Yahoo for some years; I worked at Google for almost four years, where I ran a design team for Google Docs and participated in five or six meetings per day. So I have been to many meetings.
On top of that, I have experience in comedy and writing experience, and I love watching people. Combine those things together and you will get this manual of what people do at meetings to impress each other when many times they really have no idea what is happening.
Q: Was there a particular meeting or moment in your career when you realized that "I am qualified to write this book"?
A: It took a while. I started writing down these observations when I was on Yahoo in 2007 and I really didn't think about anything. I remember seeing someone say, "We have a click-through rate of 20% on this button," and someone else said, "Oh, then one in five." I immediately thought: "Wow, that was really smart for that." the person said that, and it didn't take a real understanding of what was going on to make that person look like he really understood what was going on. ” I thought it was a funny observation.
Many years later, I found my notebook again while reviewing the things I had saved, and decided to finish this list of things that people do to appear intelligent at meetings.
Q: There are so many articles, including complete books, about how we can improve the way we organize or attend a meeting. What are all these items wrong?
A: I think everyone treats the meetings as if they were something sacred, once in a lifetime, when in reality they are this repetitive, predictable and daily work that people go through. For me, that was what I fought the most: the fact that no one really felt present at the meetings. Of course not! It's just an opportunity to let your mind wander. You know exactly what is going to happen, exactly what each person is going to say. Your brain just wants to go elsewhere.
But the interesting thing about meetings is that we all hate them, and yet, if there is an important meeting, we are very upset if they don't invite us. Then, we demand that we be invited to the meeting, and we arrive at the meeting, and we ask ourselves: "Why did I demand that you invite me to this meeting? I really don't want to be here." It is a strange and codependent relationship.
Q: Of all the tricks in your book, which one have you most personally trusted in your career?
A: There are so many. I definitely said, "Let's go back here" more times than I would like to admit. There is another trick in the book for an open office environment, where people always approach you and want to have impromptu meetings, and you say: "Let me check my calendar to make sure I don't miss anything else" —I've done that a million times.
P: A big part of the humor is the strange vernacular we use. Why don't we say what we mean? What's wrong with announcing to a room full of people "I don't know the answer to your question" or "I don't understand the words that came out of your mouth"?
A: Good question. In my experience, especially in the technological world, we did having to invent a language to speak with each other, just because it was easier. We use terrible acronyms for everything. Talking to a researcher versus an engineer versus a product manager, we develop a shorthand.
From the outside, and especially if you're looking at yourself and the way people talk, it feels very uncomfortable and weird, but if you're inside and you're really trying to do something, it's supposed to be a more useful and faster. Of talking about things.
But I will say that I have worked with several leaders who were very firm about getting rid of jargon and acronyms and speaking in very simple terms. So, I believe and I hope there is a way to speak more clearly. That path begins when leaders start doing it and people see that it is a better way to communicate and move forward and be promoted.
Q: It seems that it doesn't matter what meeting we attend, from the sneak attack meeting to the big speech meeting, or we are faking our importance or our interest or, let's be honest, our intellect. What does a successful and guaranteed meeting look like?
A: I will sound very cliché here, but a successful meeting needs a clear end point, which means we will know that we are finished when we have achieved is. Many meetings simply do not have that, or deviate.
Or we schedule a meeting with the idea of "OK, we have an hour to decide once and for all Forever what are we going to do about "x". "And, yes, we are do not We will decide that in an hour, and even if we do, by tomorrow we will reconsider and decide that something else is a better way to do it, so we will need another meeting to follow up on that. A good meeting needs a clear objective that we can measure, but it also has to be something that can be achieved realistically in that period of time.
Q: How is the future of meetings?
A: I worked in a joint workspace for about six months, observing smaller startups and how they interacted with each other. There were many quick and frequent meetings, and also a lot of communication and decision making about Slack or Instant Message. The future of meetings is to get in and out as quickly as possible, and if you can, just make the decision through a chat room.
Probably the future avoids meetings at all costs; It is a good and bad thing. Sometimes, you will find yourself in an email thread that goes on and on, and someone finally says, "You know, it could be easier to talk face to face about this." You may have to have a meeting.
Since 100 tricks to look smart at meetings: how to survive without even trying © Sarah Cooper (Andrews McMeel Publishing).