Sarah Cooper’s book 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, is very much a fun, and funny book, which, is also surprisingly useful and relevant. Part satire, part social commentary, it reminds us of people and situations we’ve been in and gives us the opportunity to laugh at others and ourselves. If you’ve been in any medium to large size organization (or had to interact with one), you’ve seen most of these “tricks” in action, and you’re likely to want to share select items with others, laugh out loud, or perhaps wistfully imagine life where these things didn’t happen. But the book offers more than just the opportunity to mock your corporate colleagues. After having a good laugh, you have the opportunity to think about why some of these tricks, — especially the ones that sound so reasonable — make you cringe when you see them in action. And that thought process can lead to better collaboration.
Let’s start by taking a step back (see tip # 3). All of the items Cooper mentions are things that really happen, and they don’t always make you cringe. The answer is (Imagine this on a slide by itself — tip # 53): “Context.” While you’ve probably seen all of these techniques be presented as part of a collection of meeting tactics and mechanisms. When you are doing these things for the right reasons, with the interests of the group in mind, most of these tricks in the book can be useful. It’s when you do them to win an argument, suppress ideas, or just because “it’s what you do” that the techniques become cringe worthy. If reading this book makes you more self aware of how you appear in meetings, you’ll get extra value. Though the humor value is more than enough to justify getting the book.
After you read Cooper's book (and I do suggest that you follow her advice and get a copy for yourself as well as a copy or two for a colleague), think about the meetings you've been in and the ones you are about to be in. Consider if they are useful, and have only the right people. Some are. Many aren't. I suggest getting a physical copy of the book, because having one in the office (and perhaps on the table during certain meetings) will help people keep their jobs in perspective.
Sara Cooper captures the essence of useless meetings with humor and uncanny accuracy.
100 Tricks is a fun, entertaining read in the spirit of Dilbert, which will amuse you, help you get through a demoralizing day at work, and surprisingly, help you think about how to do better.