The 3 best reasons why meetings exist – and the Skype toilet metaphor
1. Meetings exist to help you skip work
You can’t work solidly all day – that’s crazy talk. You need a reason to leave your swivel chair and sit on a slightly less swivelly chair while people talk at you.
Meetings are like raisins in the porridge of a working day. On their own, the oats would sap the life out of you with endless, gloopy monotony. But throw in a few raisins and you will make it through breakfast. That’s a Best Things guarantee.
2. Meetings exist to make you feel included
When you have an idea at work you have two options. The first is to just do it. The second is to try and make your idea into a group idea. For this you need to run a special type of meeting.
The trick is to ask for opinions on the stuff you don’t care about and accept everyone’s ideas. Then when you come to the crucial point you talk vaguely enough about it so that people aren’t outraged. By this point the meeting has overrun.
Congratulations! The meeting is over and no one explicitly rejected your idea. You now have permission – and if everything goes wrong, you can blame the group!
3. Meetings exist because we’re lonely
If you’ve ever been to work and clicked away all day at your desk, without saying much more than hi and bye to your coworkers – well you know that work can sometimes be lonely and demoralizing…
Enter the meeting – a format that means you have to acknowledge other humans in a way that is not typed. I think sometimes we have meetings just so that we can reassure each other that we exist. It’s like group therapy but with more flipchart paper.
The skype-toilet analogy
Yesterday, I joined a meeting in London using Skype. But we didn’t have a premium account so all I could do was listen. To make the situation worse, they were trying to capture the whole discussion using one laptop mic which wasn’t up for the job.
So I could hear the chair of the meeting, I could hear the other skypees but I couldn’t hear anyone else. And we were having an ideas-sharing time…
It felt like the meeting was happening around the sinks of a public toilet – but I was still sitting in the cubicle, taking a dump and trying to join in. Let me represent that visually…
So I do my best to listen in – all the while my fellow skypees are typing about how they can’t hear anything and they might log off.
When finally we are asked for our opinion we come clean that we couldn’t hear what people we saying. Everyone is sad about this. We eventually log off but not before one brave woman shares five minutes worth of her opinion despite not having any context for what she should be saying. It didn’t make any sense but at least she was brave.
So what’s the point in that story?
Well I guess the moral is, if you want the Skype experience but you forgot your laptop – just go sit in a toilet cubicle and listen in to sink-side conversations…