The Psychology of Business Meetings
Let me begin by stating a cold, hard fact:
About 90% of business meetings are extremely unnecessary and can be finalized in the span of one email or phone call. However, as Egyptians, we love to move around and mingle -not to mention waste time on our commute to and from meetings on the other side of town.
But it’s okay. Meetings are entertaining, and are a nice of way of enjoying a beverage with people you might not necessarily enjoy being around.
As an antisocial person, meetings are a big no-no for me. I don’t function well in social settings, so when I’m put in the situation where I have to be a normal person AND be strategic as well, that’s when shit hits the fan.
After attending dozens of useless meetings that could have been summarized in one 15 minute call, I’ve started to notice a pattern. My conclusion is this: all meetings are the same. Whether you’re discussing an event, a campaign, a new company or anything else, chances are you’re going to be stuck in the exact same loop as any other meeting.
So without further ado, let’s dive into the traits in which any and every meeting can fall under.
#1 Small talk
This is the easy part. Once you begin, you can expect around 20 minutes of extremely useless small talk. This is because it’s considered rude to immediately dive into the topic at hand immediately. To summarize, these are the topics you can expect to come up at the beginning of any meeting:
a) Traffic on the way to the meeting (emerging into vague comments about traffic in general)
b) One person insisting that the other drink a beverage, while the other politely declines and then eventually gives in after the other is extremely persistent
c) Weather (either warm or cold, you’ll have to complain anyway)
d) Recap of how you got in contact with the other person, for example:
“I didn’t know you knew Mariam from accounting!”
“Yes! We went to college together!”
“Oh my God she’s my cousin!”
“She’s a wonderful person..”
“Indeed she is.”
*You then both pause and the awkward silence implies that you both probably hate Mariam’s guts*
e) How wonderful the beverage is (ex. “This coffee is great!”or “This lemonade is so refreshing!”
#2 Nobody wants to listen
After the above pleasantries are exchanged, you can finally talk business. This is the key word: “Talk”. You don’t want to listen, and they don’t want to listen. You will constantly interrupt each other because each person is in love with the sound of their own voice.
In very rare cases, you may come across a good listener who doesn’t interrupt every two seconds. Cherish these people; they are very rare. In fact, marry them.
My favorite part of any meeting is when I start talking and people ask premature questions and I have to pause, lose my line of thought and make them understand that if they just waited for five fucking minutes they would get answers to all their questions.
#3 Words are like penises
Meaning, each person wants to brag about size. The person with the bigger words wins. This is the first phenomenon I noticed about each and every meeting I’ve ever attended, and I’ve been in SME’s, startups and corporations. So, with all due respect, I know my shit.
Here’s how you can join in; just skim through a thesaurus before going in and find complex substitutions of every word you want to say; this makes you appear smarter and more credible.
For example, if you want to say that something needs to be a priority or needs to be focused on, choose one of the following instead:
a) Maximize on
b) Capitalize on
c) Leverage on
d) Hammer on
For bonus points, keep repeating them in different sentences, like so:
“The main factor we need to maximize on is the size of the words we say in this meeting. I’d like us all to capitalize on the terms and sentences, so we can leverage on how well we used to concentrate during English class at school. In addition to that, we also require you to hammer on the greatness that is our language skills.”
But it’s not just about words, friend. It’s also about using bullshit phrases and techniques instead of going straight to the point. Let’s say you want to ask someone what end result they are expecting from their business plan/event/product. You can’t just flat out ask them that; you have to ask indirectly. It’s like avoiding looking directly into the sun. Instead, ask them what their concept is, what their objectives are and what their business model is.
As a person who wasn’t a business administration major, a lot of these terms go over my head. Eventually though, I found out that 5 different variations of questions asked one after the other all require the same answer, but with different terms because we’re all ultimately there to bullshit each other.
Other common useless phrases include “let’s take a step back”, “let’s look at it from a different perspective” and anything that sounds similar.
#4 The ending is a tennis match
Now that the meeting is finally over, it’s time for the “call to action”. It all boils down to who needs to do their homework when the meeting is done. Usually, both parties play a nice little tennis match where each one tries to throw the ball in the other person’s court.
Think of it as a game of musical chairs.
Tell them they need to send you a proposal, and they’ll tell you to send in their requirements. Respond by asking them to send what they feel is in or out of their scope, and they’ll tell you that you need to send them what you have in mind first so they can discuss with management.
Keep going till someone gives in first.
I would have loved to give you some good advice on this particular point, but this is the part I’m worst at. I guess I need to attend a hundred more meetings to finally get the hang of it.
Anyway, now you can enter your next meeting with a clear agenda in mind and apply these practical methods to become a master bullshitter. It’s a beautiful skill that’s bound to come in handy for future out-of-work situations, such as marriage, big purchases or negotiations with parents.
Godspeed, friend. Godspeed.