July 24, 2008

Meeting Me, Face-to-Face

Iíve attended probably hundreds of meetings during my years as a cog in the national workforce. Iíve attended weekly meetings, and monthly meeting, and special meetings and secret meetings. Iíve attended meetings where we discussed what we should meet about in our next meeting, and Iíve attended meetings where no one seemed to have the slightest idea why we were even meeting.

My default behavior when attending roughly 90 percent of the meetings of the past, has traditionally revolved around coming up with innovative ways to keep from falling asleep. Generally, this has involved playing with my pens, or writing down notes to myself, such as ďRemember: Youíre pretty awesome,Ē or ďThe sound of one hand clapping would be pretty quiet,Ē or ďEven if I were President of the United States, Iíd probably still be in a meeting right now.Ē

For me, meetings have always seemed more like a waste of time than time well spent. I could probably count on one hand the number of meetings Iíve attended that actually seemed to accomplish anything. Granted, Iíve basically been a minor player when it comes to the vast majority of the meetings Iíve attended, so my opinion of years of accrued meeting time is skewed towards the negative spectrum, to put it mildly.

This week, however, marked a turning point in my meeting experience. Up until this week I was used to meetings where I sat around a table with co-workers, talking into a speaker phone to other remote co-workers who basically couldnít hear us because of the terrible connection, so everyone had to repeat everything they said roughly 20 times, thus ensuring everyone could clearly hear whatever useless information was being uttered.

This week threw all my previous meeting experiences for a loop, as I sat in on my first-ever video conference meeting. For the first time, I was able to see co-workers attending the meeting from across the nation. . . as well as a separate screen devoted to those of us on-site. Which. . .

Itís hard to explain, exactly, what it was like to be sitting in on a meeting where I could actually see myself sitting in on a meeting. It was like being confronted by nearly a decade of meetings and seeing exactly what a fidgety, restless and entirely bored person Iíve been all these years.

Of course, since the meeting dealt with items largely unconnected with me, I spent most of the time obsessing over the behavior of my video doppelganger, which is to say I tried to tone down and tame all my years of habit-hardened mannerisms. I tried not to fidget with my pen but, failing that, I opted to put it away so it wouldnít tempt me.

That, of course, just left me with a pair of hands with nothing to do, so they seemed to automatically go to my face, so I spent all sorts of time with my chin in my palm, or with a thoughtful-looking thumb under the chin, with an index finger on my cheek. When I caught a glimpse of myself on the big screen, I thought the pose made me look far too engaged in the conversation and put me at risk of possibly being called on for input, so I tried folding my hands on the desk in front of me, which I decided made me look alert, but not overly so.

I found myself hoping someone at one of the remote locations would start speaking so Iíd have a reason to look up at the screen and more adequately critique myself. My back posture needed a slight tweaking, I found, and I discovered I spent a lot of time chewing my lower lip, which needs to stop.

All in all, I think video conferencing may be my unexpected ticket to self-improvement. As an added bonus, Iíve finally discovered a valuable use for meetings.

Posted by Ryan at July 24, 2008 02:58 PM | TrackBack

Dang! I want to hear you critique a sex tape! Now THAT would be funny!

Posted by: Autumn at July 24, 2008 03:07 PM

Generally, this has involved playing with my pens,

Care to guess what I initially parsed out of that?

Posted by: Keith at July 27, 2008 06:35 AM

Hee. Keith, I only play with THAT if the meeting is REALLY boring.

Posted by: Ryan at July 27, 2008 11:44 AM

this made me laugh. a lot. which shows how many meetings i've had to sit through.
i've never done a videoconference in which i could see myself. it sounds like an self-conscious-anxiety-producing hell to me; glad you found the silver lining.

Posted by: amy.leblanc at July 30, 2008 12:00 AM
StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!