Manage optics like a boss to nail looking smart

Whether it’s called a stand-up, status meeting, or all-hands, these time sucks are those inescapable daily, biweekly, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly requirements that never, ever go away, long after everyone’s started wondering why it’s still on their calendars.

If you can nail looking smart in these meetings, you might be lucky enough to run them someday, at which point you can quit.

1. Sit next to the person leading the meeting

Sit next to leader

Sit next to the person leading the meeting. Act as if you are conferring with him about the agenda and backing him up at the appropriate times. This will give the rest of the team the perception that you’re coleading the meeting. And when folks are giving their updates, it will seem like they are presenting their updates to you, as well.

2. Discuss the process

process discussion

When someone gives her update, ask if we’re really using the right process there. This will likely derail the meeting into a discussion of what the right process is, at which point you can point out that it would be good if our process was clearer. This will make you seem like a strategic, goal-oriented team player.

3. Interrupt someone’s update, then let him finish (The Kanye)

Interrupt him then let him finish

If someone is giving an update on a project, interrupt him and let everyone know how important this update is. Then ask the person to continue. This establishes your dominance over the meeting.

4. Ask for a time check

ask for time

Remind everyone to be brief with their updates, because we want to keep this meeting brief. Anytime you try to shorten the meeting you’ll seem like a hero, even if it results in longer or more meetings. When you start your update, ask how much time you have. If there’s only five minutes left, say you really need six so you’ll save your update for next time.

email cycle

5. Use the royal “we” even when you aren’t involved

use the "we"

When discussing someone else’s project, always use the royal “we,” even if you have nothing to do with it. Say things like, “When do you think we’ll be done with that?” “We should really focus on that,” or “Wow, we really f*cked that one up, didn’t we?”

6. Remind everyone that we have limited resources

remind limited ressources

Does everyone already know we have limited resources? Yes. Do you still look smart when you bring it up? Definitely.

7. When someone asks a question, look at the person who you think has the answer

look for answer

Oftentimes you’ll have absolutely no idea what the answer is to any question that’s being asked. But that doesn’t matter. You can still appear smart by looking around the room to the person everyone else is looking at, who hopefully has the answer to whatever the question is. If no one has the answer, seem really disappointed so everyone knows how much he or she has let you down.

8. As the meeting is ending, ask a few people to hang back to talk about a separate issue

ask for extra minutes

When you ask one or two people to stay a few extra minutes, it makes the rest of the group wonder what you’ll be discussing, why they weren’t invited, and what top secret project you’ve got brewing up your sleeve. They’ll assume it’s something big, even though you’re just seeing if maybe we should have doughnuts next time.


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