how to appear smart in meetings

The following is an excerpt from Sarah Cooper’s new book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, which I read and thought was so hilarious that I sought permission to share some of it here.

Seriously, it is really funny, and it would be an excellent gift for your office holiday gift swap.


Order your own copy of 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings! You will not regret it.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 221 comments… read them below }

  1. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Oh gawd! I’ve said nearly everything you posted…mostly to keep myself from falling asleep.

    1. 42*


      This is now my New Year’s Resolution. Whenever someone asks me an important question, I will counter with #6.

      1. Developing Dodo*

        I’m also an engineer (software) and I hate #6 in meetings. The people asking the question don’t know what they asked, and the people tasked with providing the answer know that nobody is really interested in the answer anyway.

        1. Nick*

          That’s why it’s such a fun question to ask. And it’s worth noting that the question itself does indeed scale.

  2. paul*

    I don’t care about appearing smart in meetings though. Is there a book for “101 ways to make meetings go die in a fire?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I’d go right to scalability. Questions like that ought to keep a person off of most meeting lists.

    1. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

      No, but they make ribbons you can hand out that say “Congratulations, you’ve survived another meeting that could have been an email.”

    2. Father Ribs*

      Yes; it’s called the a******t cookbook, but looking for it may have law enforcement put you on a list.

      1. PlainJane*

        When I first saw that, I translated it as Asshat Cookbook. Now that’s a book that would be fun to read (or write).

      2. a different Vicki*

        Really don’t try any of the recipes in it at home, or at all, for your own safety as well as for ethical reasons.

  3. Brett*

    I think I’ve heard or saw all of these… yesterday. (When I somehow had meetings from 8am to 4pm with no break. ick.)

    1. Temperance*

      My favorite is when #9 needs to answer the phone in the conference room so you know that HE IS VERY IMPORTANT AND VERY BUSY. Be an adult, excuse yourself, and step out!

  4. AnotherAlison*

    Love the Cooper Review. Check out the Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women for more good ones.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      !! I didn’t realize Sarah was the same person behind Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women. (Full disclosure: Someone once sent me a link to Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women, and I was very tired and thus didn’t realize it was a joke and at first thought it was really offensive advice to women and wrote back a mildly outraged reply.)

      1. Emi.*

        One of my FB friends made the same mistake when I posted it a while back, and one of my sisters commented below to say “Ha ha ha, I love satire! Thanks for sharing!”

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        She honestly is my favorite pick-me-up when I’m feeling sad about the world. I literally laugh out loud almost anytime I see her work (Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies is my current favorite). :)

      3. Honeybee*

        When I first got it from a (female) coworker I think I read through 3 or 4 of them before I realized it was a joke.

        Yeah, Sarah has a whole trove of funny work-related comics on Cooper Review.

    2. k*

      I’d never seen that before, it’s great! And also a little disturbing, as I’m realizing I actually do some of those things :/

  5. Emi.*

    I thought I recognized the art, and yes! It’s Sarah Cooper of Nine Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women! This is excellent.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think my fave might be the mansplaining image, but the face on “awkward laugh” is so perfect. She’s not wrong when she says it’s funny b/c it’s true.

      1. Shazbot*

        Oh, number 6. I will probably end up torpedoing my career over a number 6. Condescending “explainers” make me go straight to Predator-vision.

  6. Cruciatus*

    In #10, even better if you say “God, I wish I was dead!” in Blanche Devereaux’s voice. She actually says that line in the show when she’s embarrassed herself in the episode where Rose is dating a little person.

    These are all great but will it scale?

    1. Sadsack*

      Haha, at first I thought you were talking about A Streetcar Named Desire and I was confused…then realized it must be Golden Girls!

      1. Cruciatus*

        I should have included that! I’m just so familiar with The Golden Girls I forget that not everyone else is!

      1. misspiggy*

        They do! I frequently have to get up and walk around in meetings because my joints misbehave from sitting. It’s amazing how much it screws with what the leader of the meeting is trying to do – everyone just looks at me and waits for me to take charge.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          I was once running an all-day meeting where the most senior attendee let me know at the start of the day that he had a bad back, so I shouldn’t read anything into it when he started standing up and moving around a lot. He didn’t tell anyone else, which led to some absolutely hilarious copycat behaviour among some of the less senior attendees. One guy in particular (same role as the senior person but for a much smaller organisation) stood up every time Senior Attendee stood up, paced every time SA paced, and sat back down when SA sat down. I had a hard time not smirking every time he moved!

    1. Honeybee*

      I have literally been in meetings where people have asked “But will it scale? It needs to be scalable.”

      And I just want to stab them with my pen. WE DON’T KNOW YET. That’s why we’re having the flipping meeting.

      Also she has another comic that excerpts 9 of the strategies, and one of them is “Say how you think the CEO would respond” and suggests calling them by their first name. It always cracks me up because everyone here refers to our CEO by his first name like he sits next to them in the open-office plan or something.

  7. Catalin*

    #102: pull your legs up to sit unusually and slouch a little while making notes or doodling: any person who can get away with that is clearly used for high intellectual capital.

    #103: Use words like “high intellectual capital”

    1. Wendy Darling*


      One of the fringe benefits leaving AwfulJob is never having to listen to the new head of marketing say thought leadership ever again.

    2. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

      Everyone should check out Weird Al’s song Mission Statement. It keeps popping into my head for this post. I’d link it but my company blocks YouTube. It puts all the corporate buzz word into one song and is brilliant.

  8. Artemesia*

    I worked in a field where I could absolutely predict the idiotic PC thing that someone would say about half an hour into any conference meeting, or other professional get together. EVERY damn time, we have this same pretentious, slightly irrelevant but noble sounding sentiment expressed. And then waste a good chunk of time agreeing and repeating it. (but noone ever did what was being suggested because while it sounded mission consistent it was actually a rather stupid idea for the particular functions of the meeting at hand.

    This list is brilliant and the sad thing is that yes, if you keep these in your back pocket and trot them out at meetings you WILL seem brilliant to many there.

  9. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – UGHHHHHHHHHHH. Meeting nodders are the worst. JUST STOP. Is your neck not working properly?

    1. Morning Glory*

      We used to have an intern who would take it one step further

      In addition to nodding, he would make sounds of acknowledgement after every thing that got said. After every sentence. From small team meetings to big presentations with 50 people in the room.

      1. Temperance*

        I had an intern like that. It was more obvious that he was doing it to show he wasn’t sleeping because sometimes he would nod off and not pay attention. lol

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          This is a thing in my current workplace . Apparently, people are “not engaged” during meetings if they just sit there quietly listening, except when they have something to add to the discussion.

          I will be happy to move on to another workplace where it is permissible to listen quietly during meetings. Maybe people who do this in other companies came from my workplace!

          1. Mephyle*

            So true. And when you’re from a ‘listening quietly to show attention’ culture (me) listening to someone from an ‘affirming every phrase’ culture (them) talking, it goes like this (these are personal conversations, not in work context):
            Them: And so the next step is to…
            Me: [silent rapt attention]
            Them: As I was saying, the next thing we should do…
            Me: [still silent but growing impatient]
            Them: Are you with me? [backs up two sentences and finally gets around to where they left off]
            Me: Yes, I’m with you. Just waiting for you to say what the next step is!

        2. LBK*

          I do it, but usually only in a one-on-one context. I think it comes from having had multiple jobs that were phone-based, so visual signs of engagement didn’t work.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Aww, one of my favorite colleagues does this (a very “amen!” like “hmmm” noise), although he limited it to statements that gave him the feels. On everyone else, I find this obnoxious, but from him, it’s really heartwarming/sweet.

      3. Mimmy*

        I am occasionally guilty of this as well – if it’s something I particularly agree with, I’ll go “yup!”, but I don’t think it’s loud enough to be heard (at least I hope!!)

      4. Chris*

        Yes! I have a colleague who nods, mumbles agreement and mutters “this is great” under her breath. Unfortunately, my other interactions with her regularly indicated that she actually rarely understands. It has started to make me question nodders.

      5. Ally A*

        My old boss used to do the nodding, slight head tilt and saying mhmm constantly whenever someone was speaking in a meeting. It drove me crazy. She especially did whenever her boss or our board was talking to show that they were very important.

      6. Liz*

        I went to a professional development event, and there was one of these guys at one of the presentations. Non-stop “mmm” and “yep” and “right, OK” after every sentence.

        I don’t know how the presentation speaker managed to hold it together. I would constantly lose my train of thought.

    2. Leatherwings*

      My SO does this constantly and it drives me nuts! I’ve never been in a work meeting with them (obviously), but if they do it constantly while watching John Oliver I can only imagine how vigorous the nodding becomes in meetings.

    3. Mints*

      I’ve had a couple meetings where the presenter asks an affirming question like “We all do this in Excel, right” then looks at me expectantly and I get flustered and nod, then they move on but then I’m self conscious about nodding and active listening the rest of the time.

      Some people like all the feedback, I guess.

  10. LawCat*

    #11: Promise to “circle back”

    Oh, crap, someone just asked you a question, but you’ve spent the last hour alternately spacing out and wondering “Dammit, when WILL HBO be airing a new season of Game of Thrones.” Not to worry. You cannot lose by promising to “circle back” with the questioner. People will be impressed by how thoughtful you are being before giving a response. “That’s a really great question, Ted. Let me think about it and circle back with you this afternoon.”

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        I like this especially when we are having an in person meeting… where “going offline” = “I’ll send you an email about this later”. So…. literally going online.

        1. BioPharma*

          We do this too… and then there’s feedback that there are too many “offline discussions” that are making people feel out of the loop!

        1. paul*

          I love phrases that use circles or loops as imagery. I don’t really know why at all, but they make me feel a little happy inside. I probably need to quit using them so much though.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Oh, mercy. At ExToxicJob, “Take this discussion offline” means as soon as the awful teleconference ended, I got another interminable phone call the second I reach my desk.

        1. Djuna*

          In our workplace “let’s take this offline” has morphed into meaning “You should stop talking now, and in return we will all politely forget that you took up ten minutes of everyone’s time with something insignificant or just plain wrong”.

          There never is even the pretense of a follow-up anymore. It is kind of glorious.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh, I love this.

            A coworker and I used to be convinced that saying “fair enough” is often code for “F you.” If you listen to when people use it, it really does seem like it frequently is, and realizing that makes it much funnier.

            1. Adlib*

              That seems true, and I heard that a lot in some meetings yesterday! Ha! I’ll have to listen for that more.

            2. Sales Geek*

              At my former employer the phrase was “Help me understand…” used to shut down useless/stupid/repetitive questions in meetings or conference calls. Not knowing what this meant would earn you public humiliation. It’s a very Southern (think”bless your heart”) way of calling you stupid and then letting you prove it.

              1. Honeybee*

                I used to use “help me to understand…” with my resident assistants when they did something truly baffling and I wanted them to realize how dumb it was by explaining it to me out loud.

            3. Honeybee*

              “Fair enough” definitely means “F you” in my workplace, lol. It’s the “you’re wrong and I am tired of arguing with you now” response.

            4. Alice Ulf*

              Ha! Years ago, I was part of the moderation team for an online community, and it was generally understood that saying “Duly noted” was the politest possible way of actually saying “Go F yourself.”

            5. businessfish*

              On the last season of HBO’s “Project Greenlight,” the producer used “duly noted” to mean “F you.” I like this one because it doesn’t acknowledge anything about the potential tangent is fair :)

          2. Katie the Fed*

            That’s how it works where I am too. This issue clearly just involves the two of you and not the rest of the room. Stop it.

      3. LBK*

        As annoying as that phrase is, I find it much less annoying than when a meeting gets sidetracked by a conversation that should be taken offline. I am happy to give out the buzzword bingo square if it means we can get back on topic!

    1. NW Mossy*

      See also: “touch base” and the horribly cringe-worthy “let me socialize that.” I’d never encountered the latter in the wild until last week when meeting with some IT guys….

      1. Chriama*

        Wait, what does that mean? I work in IT at a bank so I get a lot of corporate + IT jargon but I haven’t heard this one.

        1. Honeybee*

          It’s like “let me show it to other people/spread the idea around a little.” Sometimes, but not always, with the connotation of collecting feedback from those people.

      2. the_scientist*

        Noooooooo “socialize that” is the WORST.

        I also hate “spread” used in a business context. It just sounds…..vaguely gross.

      3. meggers*

        I also hate “socialize.” You socialize dogs, not documents. Unless your document needs to get used to men with beards, people in hats, children, and the sounds different cars make. Ugh

      4. Shelby Drink the Juice*

        I hadn’t heard “socialize” in this context until the last year or so. But it was said today! They said “Wakeen needs to start socializing this with the other managers.” Heh

    2. Ally A*

      I had a coworker who used to LOVE saying “reverse engineer”. She said it constantly. Even when it made no sense.

    3. Purest Green*

      We once had a consultant who used “circle back” a ridiculous number of times on every single conference call. So much so that we made a (hypothetical) drinking game out of it.

      1. Emi.*

        Oh my goodness. One of the presenters at my orientation said “go ahead and” at least once a sentence. “So if you find some hazardous chemicals in your office, go ahead and let us know so we can go ahead and send someone out, and they can go ahead and check them out and see what we should go ahead and do.” At some point, he managed to say “go ahead and go ahead and…”

        1. SusanIvanova*

          I had a CEO at a smallish company who was fond of “as we go forward”. We made a game of counting them – the record for one meeting was over 10. Worse, we were all convinced that “forward” in this case was “towards the edge of the cliff”, and that turned out to be true.

        2. Golden Lioness*

          That would be even funnier if the guy was wearing suspenders, and added… “that would be great… mmmkay?”

      2. Noah*

        I did some consulting work for a helicopter company that had bases in rural areas. One manager said “rural America” 300x per meeting or conference call. I used to make tally marks in my notes to entertain myself.

    4. Pennalynn Lott*

      I had a manager who, when hearing about a growing problem, would never fail to say (or type!) “Let’s nip this in the butt.” And it was not said (or typed!) ironically.

      1. LBK*

        I had a manager who wasn’t raised in the US so he frequently made malapropisms and/or misused idioms. One of my favorites was that he always urged preparedness by having us “cover our ducks” (presumably a combination of “cover our asses” and “get our ducks in a row”). I always envisioned a bunch of ducks with little hats.

        Another example was constantly referring to our “bundled” product as our “bungled” product, although that may not have been unintentional since that product was kind of a mess.

        1. Artemesia*

          I would have imagined ducks being, well ducked — since cover with regard to animals generally means breeding.

          1. LBK*

            Oh my. I wish I’d known that when I still worked for him. It would’ve added a whole other level of hilarity to him saying the phrase all the time.

    5. Looby*

      I actually used this yesterday on a teleconference I had been told to call into on my day off; I was trying to pour some maltesers into my hand and they bounced all over the floor so when they asked me something I was literally squatting under my dining table trying to locate the runaway chocolates, I had no idea what the question was regarding, circle back was the only option!

  11. Mike C.*

    So there are a hundred of these?

    Mike C’s Guide to Making Meetings FUN

    1. Identify other people who will play the game with you during a meeting.
    2. At regular intervals, person A rolls dice/generate random numbers/etc on a phone app. That number corresponds with each trick in the book.
    3. Person A chooses a person B to complete the trick. If B is successful, B scores a point, and becomes the next person to roll/choose. Otherwise B loses a point and A rolls/chooses again.

    1. NoMoreMrFixit*

      4. Buzzword Bingo. AKA BS Bingo. Works best with a boss who has a sense of humour and coworkers who overuse worn out buzzwords/phrases. Yes I’m speaking from experience. :-)

      5. Invent new buzzwords and count how many people act like they are familiar with it.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I used to do this along with the #4 above as a way to stay awake in a company that loooooved buzzwords, acronyms and corporate speak.

        To keep myself awake, I had 2 columns on my paper – one for buzzwords/corporatespeak, and the other for acronyms. Each got a point, with extra points awarded to:
        -any acronym that had been introduced in that meeting, or in the past week
        -any acronym that was pronounced as a word instead of letters (I didn’t count things like SCUBA or LASER – but rather only things made up by my company or industry)
        -the same acronym used twice in one meeting with 2 completely different meanings (examples: VOC is both voice of the customer and volatile organic compound. GC is either gas chromatograph or general counsel, etc) Even more points if it’s the same speaker that does it!
        -acronyms that had been created out of other buzzwords or acronyms
        -acronyms that had been around for so long that the first 5 people I asked after the meeting wouldn’t know what they stood for, but no one outside my company or industry uses that acronym

        I did lots of writing and nodding, but it was just to keep me from fidgeting until I fell out of my chair (although that happened a few times too).

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Our favorite was trying to fit in a word that made no sense into the meeting. My friends (and now my coworkers) and I have been doing this for YEARS, and when you pull it off, it’s hilarious.

      1. Junior Dev*

        This reminds me of the “perverse and sometimes baffling” episode of This American Life. Two reporters got bored and would have competitions to see who could get a particular absurd phrase published in a story. I’ll see if I can dig up a link.

          1. Emi.*

            This is simultaneously hilarious and terrifying. I’m laughing, but I’m also so worried about journalistic integrity now.

          2. LBK*

            This is amazing.

            And the copy desk took out often, arguing, I think correctly, that mollusks were either baffling or they weren’t. Mollusks did not oscillate.

            Just amazing.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This makes me feel so happy and slightly validated that it wasn’t just us who did/do it :)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Years ago, I worked with someone who said “I’m going to be out of pocket” constantly (to mean “I’ll be unavailable”) and it annoyed me. My coworker and I decided to see if we could make up an equally weird phrase and get it into common use. We started saying “I’m going to be out of orbit” and sure enough, the “out of pocket” guy started picked that one up too. I still like saying “out of orbit.”

        1. New Bee*

          Ha! Especially since “out of (outta) pocket” actually means acting up/overstepping a boundary, e.g, “He brought his mistress to the holiday party? So outta pocket…”

            1. Shazbot*

              Equally confused; I’ve always heard it as “I’m having to use my own funds for [X] instead of being expensed.”

          1. NoMoreMrFixit*

            Must be a regional thing. Around here (Ontario, Canada) out of pocket means paying for something on your own rather than expensing it.

            1. LBK*

              Depends on the context. It also means that in the US if you say you’re paying for something “out of pocket,” but if you’re describing yourself as “out of pocket” it means you’re unavailable.

              1. Jonno*

                I’m in Maryland (I think Allison is in DC) so maybe it’s a regional thing. But I hear out of pocket to mean “not with financial aid” (I work in higher ed) AND “I’m going to be unavailable/hard to contact”

            2. New Bee*

              Wow, I’ve never heard either of those meanings (money or unavailable). Learn something new every day. If it matters, I usually hear the meaning I referenced from Millennial POC (I am both), so maybe it just hasn’t been Columbused yet. :-)

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              It is an expression that, at least in my part of the US, has both meanings, and which one you mean is pretty clear from the context.

            2. LBK*

              Same – I didn’t know it had multiple meanings when applied to a person, I’ve only ever heard it used to mean “unavailable”.

          2. Jean*

            I’ve always understood that out-of-pocket means you won’t be available. I’m sure it’s a regional thing but I have no idea where I might have picked it up – I moved around a lot.

          3. Artemesia*

            I’ve never heard that — I always heard it as not being in the office i.e. living with what is in my pocket — so it should have been ‘out of briefcase’ and perhaps my imagined meaning is totally wrong after all. But I have never heard it as applied to being inappropriate.

        2. Collarbone High*

          Ooh, “harmless office pranks” would be a great open thread! I was once part of a team effort to convince someone from another department that we had a (non-existent) part-timer in ours. We kept it going for months.

          1. Nolan*

            I had something similar when I worked in retail, I got moved to a new store, and someone else transferred out at the same time, so I basically replaced him. That leaving employee had an unusual name, and one of the other employees decided that we need another person with an odd name, so he wrote in a name similar to the leaving employee’s on our sales tracker board, and we tracked fictional sales figures for him the entire time I was there. Even after the inventor of that fictional employee was let go. It definitely confused a few people.

          2. Pennalynn Lott*

            Back in the days before remote desktop control was A Thing, I was a data comm person at a tech company’s headquarters. The support desk for the remote offices used to randomly f*ck with people’s screens. Like make all the text bleed down the screen; or push all the characters off to one side; or shrink the size of the text, etc. Then the help desk phone would ring and the support person would act baffled (“What do mean ‘bleed’?? Don’t you know computers can’t do that?”) and have the person try to recreate what they were doing at the time the screen went wonky. They’d get the screen back to normal, have the person walk through a few keystrokes to make sure everything was working OK. . . then make the screen bleed again. Those calls were always taken on speakerphone, and it took a great amount of self-control for those of us in the room not to laugh out loud.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It sounds like when Jim tried to convince Dwight that Jim was the real Dwight. I know it’s mean, but I would laugh so hard if I were not the prankee.

        3. just popping in*

          Huh, in this sort of usage, I always took it as a reference to (first) Blackberries and then later smartphones, like, “I won’t be in the office or in front of a computer, only checking email on my phone.” Goofy but reasonable.

          1. LBK*

            I googled it out of curiosity and apparently the etymology is vague, but there’s examples of its use in that sense dating back pretty far (OED cites a 1908 O’Henry story).

        4. Adlib*

          Oh nooooo! “Out of pocket” is one that just grates on me whenever anyone uses it. I don’t really know why. All these stories kind of make me wish my constant conference calls had some of this going on.

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That is amazing and also so frustrating. I kind of love that “out of orbit” became the replacement, though :) We had an “out of pocket” coworker who we reprogrammed to say “out of range.”

          Re: the phrase, like LBK said, “out of pocket” means both out of line and from one’s own private funds depending on the context. Being “in the pocket” in music means you’re in the right rhythm, tune, and you’ve hit the groove just right, and in football, it usually refers to a QB executing a play correctly. I think that’s how the term “out of pocket” came to mean “out of line” or “out of bounds.”

    3. zora*

      i LOVE this game! Next time I have a meeting heavy job, I am definitely launching this initiative. Well done, Mike C.

      It does remind me of this tumblr page that used to be running, it’s not updated anymore: “Today’s Corporate Meeting Challenge”. A colleague and I used to IM these to each other during our endless, infinite, interminable conference calls. I don’t think we ever got up the nerve to actually say one out loud, but we fantasized about it all the time!
      They are crazy things that you have to say and pull off that you are 100% serious. I would totally laugh, I don’t know if I could ever hold it together.

  12. Ellie M.*

    Read the first three, bought two copies of the book (one to keep, one to gift), and then finished reading the post. So excited to have this in my hands!!

  13. Hallway Feline*

    I see this in every meeting here at my company. This was so accurate it hurt. I’ll need to hint I want this for the holidays…

  14. Anon in NOVA*

    I may have just ordered 4 paperback copies…. one for me, one for my husband, one for a coworker, and one just in case…..

  15. ABAX*

    ORDERED, boom! I’m the note-taker at a monthly meeting for a committee comprised of medical academics. I have to pay attention, but since they say pretty much the EXACT SAME THINGS every single month, I often need something else to occupy my brain so I don’t start to drool. Thanks!

  16. Mimmy*

    #4: Oh god, I’m the Acting Secretary in one of my groups, so I’m responsible for taking Minutes – this is verrrrrry tempting!

  17. JMegan*

    Acronyms! Not in the teaser list here, but I really hope that at least one of the strategies in the book is to invent an acronym for whatever buzzwords are currently being floated around.

    As an aside, the book “Bellwether” by Connie Willis is another hilarious skewering of this type of corporate culture. It was written before the phrase “hug it out” came into use, but there is definitely mandatory hugging, and lots of buzzwords, in their meetings.

    1. fluffy*

      ++ for the Connie Willis reference! Bellwether also says terrible things about removing books from library collections (weeding.) Read all of her books

    2. Artemesia*

      Connie Willis is great but Bellwether is so spot on for Academia that I laughed on every page. Some of her books are frighteningly creepy (Passage comes to mind) but Bellwether is just sidesplitting for anyone who has worked in a complex organization.

  18. Nobody Here By That Name*

    My dad got this for me as a surprise gift and I can vouch that the whole book is hilarious. I have fun spotting the behaviors in the wild, esp the CEO at my company who loves to do the stand and pace thing.

  19. Venus Supreme*

    Ah, yes. I believe I went to college with people who have taken this advice to heart. My friends and I had a running joke that one classmate always started their statement with, “Jumping off of what So-and-So said…” and would literally repeat what the other person JUST said.

    Good to see these people are making their way in the working world.

    1. Artemesia*

      I used to use that phrase when I was trying to wire a meeting but give the impression that I was simply building on the contributions of others. (several of us would agree that we wanted to derail plan A but inserting alternative B and that we would do it in a way that made it seem like an organic process during the meeting and not a coup. Central to that was to build our structure from comments made by people not privy to our plan (or plot if you will.) We managed to turn around some horrible projects that way where saying ‘that idea is ridiculous, let’s do this instead’ would have had no chance. Somehow ‘Jumping off Ida’s interesting point’ or ‘That hadn’t occurred to me before but Wakeen has really put his finger on a drawback of Plan A — I wonder if we think about . . .’ or ‘That is such an insightful observation Grendel and suggests that . .’ Works a treat.

  20. Ama*

    I have a lot of meetings with medical researchers, and I’m pretty sure they have all been trying to do #5 . My boss and I joke that we can’t come to a consensus on a conference call until every single doctor on the call has a chance to restate the consensus in their own words.

  21. LBK*

    …I am embarrassed to admit that I have done at least half of these genuinely. I probably ask to “take a step back” in every meeting I’m in, and I definitely do the “percentage to fraction” thing. It’s just how my brain works!

    1. NW Mossy*

      Oh, I am so guilty also. I am particularly notorious for “let’s pan back and look at the big picture” when we’re getting way in the weeds, which I’m sure makes all of my meeting-mates want to die inside every time.

    2. BadPlanning*

      Sadly, there are times when we definitely should have stopped and asked “Will this scale” because…nope…it did not.

  22. LawCat*

    I wish I could order this book in time for tomorrow’s white elephant gift exchange. Mayhaps next year…

    1. Honeybee*

      Oh man, this is a great idea. I’m unsure whether my team is even doing one this year (we usually do, but we just re-organized and we have holiday event overload now) but this would be an excellent gift.

  23. Annie Moose*

    Oh, I want this so badly… but I’ve already spent way too much on “fun stuff” this month. I’ll have to throw it on my Amazon wishlist instead.

  24. Moonsaults*

    Reading these and the comments is giving me life this miserable morning. I thank God every day that I have never had a job that involves meetings, save the dreadful “Safety Meetings” and then it’s just me whining at them about the same old crap and ending with “Reminder that OHSA makes me do this and now we can go do something else.” >_>

    1. Amber Rose*

      I run our safety meetings and end them the same way. And I try really hard to get them over with as fast as possible. But there are five that are mandated and they take forever to get through and… UGH. The WORST.

      1. Moonsaults*

        Yes. I try to make the mandated stuff as painless as possible because they know I’m just as annoyed as they are. Thankfully most crews understand that we’re not doing it because we want to talk to them like their children, OHSA requires us to talk to them like they don’t have a clue what to do in the event the whole place bursts into flames.

        If they get on my nerves enough, I could just get the big oaf at the workers comp company to come in and do the presentations. We all “really love” that frigging guy. “SAFETY IS AMAZING! SAFETY IS FUN!!!”

  25. MuseumChick*

    Number 8….OMG. I had to stop myself from literally laughing out loud. I work in the history field and this always happens at conferences. Usually followed by a long winded and irrelevant comment on a minor point on the slide that nobody cares about.

  26. Cassandraic*

    “Will it scale?” is my NEMESIS. At Prior Completely Awful Job it was the big boss’s go-to excuse for putting the kibosh on anything he felt like. There was no way to win: if it stayed small, it wouldn’t have enough impact; if it had potential, it wouldn’t scale.

    I could try to be gladder to be gone from that job, but I’d fail.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      Waaaaayyyy back in the early 70’s, Billy Preston came out with a song called “Will It Go Round in Circles.” There was a sales manager at the company I worked for at the time who used that phrase (ad nauseam) to mean “will it actually work out there in the real world.” I hated that phrase, and I wasn’t overly fond of him.

      And now I have an earworm.

  27. Anonymous Poster*

    Thanks for helping with my Christmas shopping! Just marked a few more names off the list, it’s a great feeling.

  28. Tennessee INFP*

    When all else fails, follow the George Costanza rule: “Always look annoyed. Yeah, when you look annoyed all the time, people think that you’re busy.”

  29. Amber Rose*

    I run three meetings twice a week, they’re all mandated by some kind of law or regulation or something. Two of them are just about some random topic of my choosing. Even I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore. I’m going to try the Venn diagram thing next time.

  30. Is it Friday Yet?*

    I just bought this for my office Secret Santa. I work for a small company, and the owner LOVES meetings. We have meetings at least twice a day every day, and it makes it nearly impossible to get work done. I know my co-worker will love this. Thanks Allison!

  31. Mephyle*

    Since #5 and #6 are things non-engineer people do AT engineers, there should be alternatives to those two strategies available for engineers to implement in meetings.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      The counterpart to #6 from engineers is “But is it what the customer really wants?”

      I don’t think there’s a counterpart to #5, though.

      1. SarcasticFringehead*

        Maybe after someone does #5, you say “Exactly! Or to put it another way, [rearrange what you said before in a different order].” If you do it right, this could become an infinite loop that sustains itself until the heat death of the universe!

  32. Jules*

    I do #4 to keep myself engaged and focused in the meeting. Being so used to multi-tasking, if I started working (in my mind or something) mid meeting, because goodness know some of them don’t need to be had, my mind would just leave and work on something else.

  33. Mephyle*

    This was the comic that launched her current success, I just discovered. Looking around her website, I found this article, which tells the story. It’s an inspiring read.

  34. New Bee*

    This is tied with The Toast’s “Hey Ladies” for inducing the cold shudder of recognition…

    1. Kelly L.*

      The Toooooooaaaaaaast.

      The Toast is what I have needed the last month or so, and sadly I have had to make do without it. :(((((((

  35. New to Miltown*

    OMG! I love this. Oddly enough I see a few that have been used from others in recent meetings. New self challenge: Use as many in a meeting before the end of the year.

  36. Milton Waddams*

    These are the people making hiring and firing decisions at your company. (Turning it into a joke is supposed to make it sting less.)

  37. Cranky Pants*

    You what would make people seem smart? Not eating cereal on the conference call!

    scraaape…….crunch crunch crunch.. Oh, so what I was saying is….scraaape…….crunch crunch crunch..

  38. Vertigo*

    As someone who recently started her first real office job, and suffered through her first real excruciating meeting, this is just what I needed.

    Also the perfect gift for my mother, because now we can bond over venting about our jobs.

  39. CQ*

    I started reading the tips before I saw Alison’s blurb at the top, at around the second or third one, I was like… “These tips don’t seem right. Hmm.”

  40. Old Admin*

    I do #4 a lot.
    Usually, I’m writing down my work plan for what I need to do once I’m out of the soul crushing meeting…
    once *that* plan is written, I write down the private stuff I need to remember (bank, insurance, call doctor etc.).
    And one *that* is written, I work on my shopping list.

    I’ve managed to fill useless four hour meetings that way, hear the two sentences pertaining to my department, AND stay awake!

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