Here is a 13-step plan to run a world-class bad meeting:
1. Invite as many people as possible, especially people who aren’t integral to the discussion. Then invite 2 more for good measure. Extra points if you invite everyone at the last minute. Super bonus points if you reschedule the meeting more than 4 times.
2. Select a vague meeting subject; “Update” is a popular choice. Don’t advertise an agenda in advance. If someone asks for an agenda, make one up. This is especially effective if you schedule recurring meetings “just because.”
3. Start 3 minutes after the last person arrives. You don’t want to penalize any late-comers. As you gain more skill, aim to be at least 10 minutes late yourself.
4. Encourage everyone to multi-task during the meeting. Insist that they check email frequently or work on some other project using their laptop during the meeting. You can’t multi-task since you’re running the meeting, so spin in your chair, tap your pen, take phone calls from your kids, crack your knuckles, or chew gum noisily.
5. Strive to have as many parallel conversations as possible during the meeting time. Forbid whispering.
6. Take no notes. Make no decisions, and assign no follow-up tasks. If anyone suggests action items, glare at them until they back down in deference to your Meeting Authority status. To further solidify your status as world-class-bad-meeting facilitator, contact this individual two days after the meeting and ask her for a status update on the task you assumed she would do.
7. Prep for technical problems. Add a typo to the teleconference code. Use a PC you’ve never used before. Schedule a meeting room that doesn’t have a projector. Drain your laptop battery to 10% or less, and leave your power cord at your office. The possibilities are almost endless, so this is one of the easiest steps to master.
8. Position the teleconference microphone right next to a projector fan output, to ensure a low quality audio experience for everyone calling in. No one should mute their phones, so everyone hears everything going on.
9. Begin with the least important topics, ideally trivial updates that could have been sent out via email in advance. Wait until 2 minutes before the scheduled end-time to bring up the most important topics.
10. Make sure your PowerPoint fonts are tiny, 9 point or less. Each slide should have at least 1400 words and as little formatting as possible. Do not use images or graphics. Prefer tables to graphs. Read every word of every slide if you have a PowerPoint presentation. Keep your back to the rest of the meeting participants so you can’t see that they are asleep or ignoring you.
11. Finish the meeting at least 4 minutes late. Recap the meeting by summarizing all the inane comments as you can remember, and cap it off with a weird story about one of your relatives.
12. Congratulate yourself for burning as much organizational time as possible without a meaningful result – multiply the duration of the meeting by the number of attendees if you’re keeping score. Since everyone was multitasking, you don’t have to count the opportunity cost of people doing something else, since they did.
13. Plan for your next ineffective meeting. You should be able to re-use the slides from previous meetings.