Did you know there’s a virus going around? I don’t mean the one that’s so bad it makes having a root canal feel like you’re in Disneyland.
I’m talking about Meeting-gitis, a dangerous condition that if left untreated can turn you into a full-blown Meeting-alcoholic.
This may not sound like a big deal. Most of us work in environments where meetings are an accepted form of life. What else are managers going to do all day? But while your boss does it because he loves the sound of his own voice, Meeting-alcoholics do it out of a pathological fear of having a meeting-less agenda.
‘It took over my life’ confesses Julian Warn, a Toastmaster who wants to remain anonymous (but I forgot). ‘I ended up neglecting my family, friends and my personal hygiene. At work, I’d go to any meeting that would take me. I even participated in the ‘Accountant’s Lunch Catch Up’, which was not only useless (I work in IT) but drop-dead dull.’
Julian admits gate-crashing meetings to feed his addiction. ‘Sales meetings were the easiest to infiltrate. They were all drunk or hungover.
He recalls more of his shameful past, ‘I reached rock bottom when I found myself going to ‘HUMAN RESOURCES: WE’RE HERE FOR YOU’ (voluntary attendance). It was just me. That’s when I decided to ask for help’.
Treatment is not easy to come by. Traditional programs based on AA’s ‘My name is Julian and I am a Meeting-alcoholic do not work as they involve yet another meeting, feeding the addiction even further.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Meeting-gitis strain has mutated and we face an even more devastating virus: ZOOM-MONELLA. Born out of the need to stay connected during the lockdown, people suffering from ZOOM-MONELLA feel compelled to attend meetings ‘virtually’ 24 hours a day!
The latest casualty (an engineer from Surrey), was forcefully removed from his shed which had more screens, graphs and satellites than NASA’s control room. His loving wife, Bonnie Woes (another Toastmaster) tearfully admits, ‘Intervention was necessary. He had turned into a ZOOM-BIE’.
Think this has nothing to do with you? Think again. How many times have you ZOOMED into a meeting and thought, ‘When is this going to end?’. Or worse, had the temptation to MUTE everything, pretend to listen while secretly watching Master Chef? Or was that just me?
As Toastmasters, we are lucky to have meetings that are lean, mean and run like a machine, thanks to our wonderful Timekeepers. But this is far from the norm, most meetings are useless and lack purpose.
‘ANTI-MEETING’ lobbies around the world are calling for new laws to tackle the problem. Not by punishing the addicts, but by penalizing the ‘MEETING DEALERS’. Charming and persuasive, these criminals lure innocent victims into attendance with promises of coffee, Krispy Kremes and ‘It’ll only be 5 minutes.’ Without realizing it, the victim is subjected to ‘The Gateway Meeting’ (meeting to program future meetings) and addiction is inevitable.
A spokesperson for ‘Just Say NO to Meetings’, Rupa Data (or was it Datta?) comments, ‘There are different approaches to dealing with meeting addiction around the world. Some countries place a greater emphasis on law enforcement, while others do not.
In the UK steps are being taken to create legislation to classify them into three groups: A, B and C.
Class A are the most harmful and include PowerPoint Presentations, (PPP is now an identified form of torture).
Class B includes meetings where someone with an ego the size of the UK debt hogs up all the stage time.
Class C includes people saying ‘I’ll be brief’.
Rupa continues, ‘Progress is slow due to lawmakers’ endless meetings. In the meantime, we should all be doing our part to prevent this terrible disease’.
In order to do that, ‘Just Say NO to Meetings’ has published a guideline to help stop the addiction before it starts.
THE SEVEN HABITS OF VERY SUCCESSFUL MEETINGS:
- Meeting rooms should be empty (no chairs, tables, whiteboard or air), to promote speedy endings.
- Aim to start LATE and finish EARLY.
- The ‘meet and greet’ person should reek of B.O. and suffer from halitosis.
- All attendees will be required to leave their egos at the door.
- Anyone with an agenda that is not in the agenda will be prosecuted.
- Anyone asking any ‘further questions’ will be fired on the spot.
- Finish with an ACTION PLAN – that requires no further meetings.
Rupa ends with a piece of advice, ‘The perfect meeting? The one that doesn’t happen’.
——— Sonia Aste is a Toastmaster who believes in only one kind of meeting THE TOASTMASTER MEETING. She is a member of the Riverside Communicators Club.
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