Indians love meetings- whenever someone else arranges it. Technology has been generous to push us on this path. Telecon (conning on telephone), video conference (chap on the other side can see you), telepresence (where the persons can see an enlarged version of the individual on a giant screen), skype are some such tools.
There is always one attendee who lands up in time ( only three minutes late) and can be seen impatiently fiddling with his pen wondering why others have not joined. Slowly colleagues stroll in. Except one individual, no one brings the ‘pre-read ‘material as they would not have read the attachments to such mail. The less smart ones stroll in as though going for a post lunch siesta. The intelligent ones come JIT (Just in Time) in a brisk manner, chose a strategic seat and immediately plunge in – whether with knowledge or not. Such individual would have read the first four slides and would remember only the first two and then wait for opportunity to plunge in. The really intelligent one would also have seen slide 17 (which may seem to contradict slide 3) and make a wise looking statement. The person on other side of the television screen is immediately on the defensive. The Intelligent one has ARRIVED. Now he can relax and much the snacks placed on the table and remain mum for next 16 minutes.
Technology has created a new monster whereby several locations can be simultaneously connected. In most such cases only two or three parties are really “concerned or interested” in the meeting. Rest are on the periphery and called for nuisance value (nuisance if not called). They munch biscuits, read their work papers, chit chat with neighbor or across table, disturbing all. The audio is muted to ensure that others do not hear the acidic comments made.
One smart move is to bring your laptop to the meeting place and stare intently at the screen as though some miracle is happening in it. I have never understood how it is fair to use lap top during a meeting. Probably most persons believe that such individuals are multitasking. Not true. They are checking their Gmail for which they do not have time otherwise.
What is discussed in such meetings? Ideal situation would be having an agenda, put a time line for each item, the pre read material should have been actually read, the names of the persons concerned for the item should be named in the agenda, the decision required should be spelt out, and closer to the time specified the discussions should be summed up and decision taken.
What happens is different. Firstly there is no structured agenda. Few power point presentations of endless pages written in close prose are circulated to several managers. Most of them have little or remote proximity to the matters being discussed. Out of sheer boredom, a smart alec makes some silly comment diverting the attention and subject. Nobody has a clue the end time of the meeting. Probably the leader of the show’s diary determines it.
I always believed that Indian Meetings are like the compulsory question in professional exams. We landed up spending undue amount of time on it to the detriment of other questions which are generally more scoring. A pre-determined time allocation always gave better success rate in such papers. Alas, no professional has learnt from this experience. Conversation veers all around the world and relevant points get overlooked. Then the train, which has stopped at the penultimate station for signal, now starts rushing and now reaches the destination. The Meeting then ends.
Now everyone looks energetic. Meeting has ended. Gossip can be exchanged. Real work can now be done. Favors are sought and given. Grape vine news can be created, exchanged and received.
We can now go back to our work table and attempt to look busy.