Scary moments aren’t just reserved for horror movies and Halloween. Just like the Blair Witch ruining a camping trip for naïve teens, something as run-of-the-mill as a business meeting can turn into your career‘s worst nightmare.
Our meetings are more than just entries on our Outlook calendars; they’re the way we prove our value and create success that leads to meeting our career objectives.
But, just like David Grady said in this hilarious TED Talk, some meeting just don’t go as planned.
“When this highly unproductive session is over, you go back to your desk and you say, ‘Boy, I wish I had those two hours back. Like I wish I had my chair back.’
If you’ve ever sat through an unproductive, horrifying or just plain bad meeting, we’re offering insights on what you should do next time to fix it. Learn from these horror stories from three brave bad meeting survivors, and how they recovered from their unfortunate experience.
1. Shipwrecked: Project Planning Meetings
At a previous employer, I would get stuck in limbo with monthly planning meetings that would go on for hours longer than originally scheduled — sometimes lasting six hours and even leeching into the next day. All other work was stopped, lunch abandoned and even bathroom breaks frowned upon. And even though I had a sinking suspicious that every planning meeting would be like that, every month my optimistic outlook that things would be different were crushed when I was stranded in a conference room for hours and hours. Every month, I felt shipwrecked – with no food, no water and no escape.
How he fixed it:
After three of these lengthy, bad meetings, Josh went to the project manager and suggested they put together a more formal meeting once a month. These new meetings, scheduled for an entire day in advance, included an agenda, catering and scheduled 15-minute breaks throughout the day so guests could check email, refresh coffee and use the restroom.
2. The Birds: Sales meeting
I was on the verge of landing a really important sale for my company and decided to take the prospective customer out to a very impressive restaurant with a popular patio. Ten minutes into the meeting, with bread and water on the table, a massive flock of pigeons swept across the patio and attacked every table in sight. With wings and screams beating around us, I fled the patio for the dining room only to realize that my prospect didn’t come with me and was nowhere to be found. Four days later, he sent me an email politely letting me know he’d chosen another vendor. Could it have been the birds?
How he fixed it:
Knowing that every impression — not just the first — counts for landing the deal and keeping customer happy, Mike took more care when choosing the location for his meetings in the future. He painstakingly planned every restaurant meeting, even going so far as to calling the site itself to explain the importance and needs of the table during his breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings. Needless to say, no more patios for Mike!
3. The Freeware Nightmare: Online product demo
It was the middle of the afternoon and what I thought would be a short meeting with a vendor, turned into an hour-long nightmare. The vendor invited me to a slideshow-only freeware presentation with a 10-number passcode for conference calling. Fifteen minutes into the call, we were still stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of dropped calls. One of us would finally get onto the bridge, only to be kicked out of the presentation app. After 20 minutes of back-and-forth emails trying to communicate what was going on, we finally used my company’s video conferencing app and escaped from the freeware nightmare.
How she fixed it:
Lauren learned from her vendor’s mistake. Moving forward, Lauren took the lead and hosted every new vendor meeting in the video conferencing technology she could trust. These new hosted vendor meetings started on time, saving countless hours of wasted productivity and email back-and-forth.
What is your worst meeting nightmare? Mine was a vital contract negotiation that switched to a cross-town location during peak traffic hours. I was going nowhere fast, but the big deal was quickly slipping away. Share your horror stories here, and your bravery in changing your meetings from nightmares to fairy tales.
Share your horror stories here, and your bravery in changing your bad meetings from nightmares to fairy tales.
- 5 Reasons Why Your Meetings Are Bad (and How to Fix Them)
- The 5 Phases of a Bad Meeting Pandemic
- 7 Warning Signs of a Bad Meeting
Images courtesy of HWCA.org and DoctorMacro.com.