Atoke’s Awkward Banter: Meetings? I’m Just Here For the Food

Is there anything more absolutely horrendous and time wasting as meetings? No, for real, I really want to know. I mean, other than those meetings where you can at least look forward to the small chops and crackers, where is the silver lining in the attendance of meetings?

Okay, maybe I’m being a little biased here; meetings are not all bad. The convening of people to discuss things for the forward movement of a project cannot be a bad thing. Ideas are bounced back and forth; strategies are formulated, and a plan for execution is put in place. Usually there’s someone at the meeting taking down notes, minutes to be circulated for everyone in attendance. You know, so you don’t forget what was discussed. Basically, reminding you of your task. Asides the notes taker, there’s also an interesting mix of people at meetings.

The chairman: Depending on the setting, this person is the convener of the gathering. He has just ONE job: keep the participants in check, on time and to keep the meeting on track.

The oversabi: This person always interrupts every point, has a something to include, and always has a point of objection. The oversabi is the reason why a 10-point agenda becomes a 25-point agenda.

The uninterested: This person just came for the tea and crackers. He has no interest in the discussion and keeps looking at the clock – of course in between reaching out for the biscuits. He zones out completely, and his blank stare is just legendary.

The do-gooder: Sometimes the oversabi does this, but the do-gooder is always anxious to let the room know he has been effective in the project goals and deliverables. He also makes sure he brown-noses all the important executives at the meetings. You never know what can come in handy during the next appraisal.

The sleeper: This guy is nodding off within the first five minutes. Depending on the level of experience, this dozer may cover his face with the papers handed out at the meeting, or just wing it and sleep his sleep jeje. Sometimes, he wears glasses… maybe he thinks we can’t see him.

The last-minute time waster: This person’s role morphed from the uninterested, but he is more annoying. His job is to remember he has something important to add, when the meeting is coming to an end. Usually, he has nothing valuable to add to the discussion, but he hasn’t heard his own voice since the beginning of the meeting, and he has to rectify this.

At one point or the other, I have been all of these. As you can probably tell, I am not a huge fans of meetings, and this stemmed from waiting long hours in the car, under the hot sun, waiting for my dad to finish Church Council, or Church-in Conference meetings. (Hi, IBC kids… y’all can relate) My aversion to meetings grew when I started working as a lawyer. Oh dear, Lord!

The law firm where I worked had one BIG client with offices in on Ajose Adeogun street, Victoria Island. Getting to the client’s office was always a tormenting experience. From the traffic, to looking for parking at the towers, there was nothing fun about going for meetings. I’d always beg my boss to ride with him, at least I didn’t have to drive. Of course, his car was nicer than mine, so the security guys wouldn’t give him so much grief about parking.

As a junior associate, it was my job to take notes, because I was required to send out minutes to everyone in attendance. Sounds easy right? Nah! Some people will talk so much, repeat themselves, repeat another person’s point, and then talk some more.

After the minutes go out, then one random person will feel the need to recap everything that was stated in the minutes. Thus creating a fresh round of email trail. Of course, there’s the scourge of the Reply All button, but that’s not why we’re here.

Seriously though, jokes aside… is there anything that is achieved at meetings that can’t be done elsewhere? Meetings are the biggest time wasting device created; but my friend, Idowu* does not agree.

Idowu LOVES meetings. In fact, back then, she signed up for any meeting notification we received. It was a chance to escape being at her desk, doing actual work. If the meeting was at a client’s site, even better. The time spent to and from the meeting, at the meeting, discussing the reports from the meeting… all reducing her 40-hour week to just a flash.

My friend Tola* likes meetings at her church, because there’s always food. She excitedly goes for mid-week service because, at least on one day of the week, she won’t have to make dinner. Hello, To-Go bowl.

Another reason why people like meetings (and I’m number one on this line) is because it just makes you sound important. I raise up my nose, pad my computer bag and say “I was at a meeting”. Saying you were at a meeting as an excuse for not picking a call from someone you’ve been avoiding, just makes it feel like you’re about to send a rocket into space.

Meetings are the perfect justification for a multitude of sins. However, they’re a little better than conference calls. Listen, whoever invented conference calls needs to be seriously examined. He probably imagined that it was better than gathering everyone in one physical room; but if you’ve been on a 2-hour conference call, you’ll know that it is the biggest, most ineffective thing ever. Half of the time, I have the phone on mute and just continue working as people talk, talk and talk. Conference calls are even more difficult when you have a 30-point agenda and they’re slowly working down to get to your turn. So you’re just waiting, listening to aspects of the project that have absolutely no bearing on your work, or the time you’re investing. It’s like sitting at Ikeja High Court waiting for the registrar to call your case and you’re at the bottom of the cause list. ANNOYING!

Meetings were created by dickheads who really just want to be reminded of what they need to do. It’s either that or they were created by a control freak who likes to micro manage the team.

If you must meet and talk to everybody at once, keep the meeting short, biko! Office meetings are not the place for starting praise worship and committing the words of the Chairman and the attendants, to God. Close the meeting as soon as essentials are discussed. After all, productivity is not measured by how long you spend talking about how productive you plan to be.

Anyway, I’m off to my meeting. *Packs up laptop, raises shoulder up and puts phone on silent mode*

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