Staff Meetings, a Black Hole of Time

Is there anything more time-consuming and soul-sucking than the weekly business meetings in the company conference room? And where the devil is Steve?

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12:30 | Roll-call

Seven people were called into the business meeting in the conference room on Monday. The meeting was scheduled for 12:30; so of course, at 12:40 the stragglers are still arriving.

First in the door are the tech people. They're trained to always stick to the schedule. Their brains crave precision. They sit in polite silence at the conference table with their iPads ready and with perfectly arranged Excel file print-outs for all the exact number of people meeting in the conference room today.

Next in are the marketing people, who always make their entrance with their cellphones up to their ears as they loudly close a deal with a client.

The content people, bohemians that they are, always show up last.

At the center of the table is a water pitcher along with a plate of ruggelach and five cheese pastries. The tech people who came in first don't dare be first to dive into the refreshments. The content people, who came in last, each help themselves to a pastry en route to their seats. The people from the marketing department conclude their cellphone conversations and pull the plate of rugelach across the table to their side of the table.

12:40 | Slide projector saga begins

No matter the topic of discussion, after refreshments have been served, the slide projector is always the center of party. Everyone stares at it.

Someone needs to present some figures. A person wants to know how the competitors deal with the problem. Someone needs to check something on the Internet. Someone always has a file on a USB key, and 10 minutes after the meeting begins, someone remembers to turn on the computer and the projector. In the meantime, everyone else plays with their smartphones, sending text messages, checking emails, or downloading some hot new app.

Everyone waits while projector to warm up, the computer boots, and the two get into sync.

12:45 | Where's Steve?

"What's the password here?" asks the person closest to the wireless keyboard.

"Steve definitely knows. Call him," one of the other people in the room says.

"What's his number?"

"Try the extension with 5683 at the end."

"There's no answer at his extension."

"Oh, I think I saw Steve and Alex headed out to lunch with the new graphic designer."

"Enter your username. It should work. What's the new girl's name? Michal? Meirav?"

"It doesn't work. Her name is Meital. She's a weapon."

"Maybe you pressed Caps Lock by mistake?"


"Did you accidentally switch the keyboard to Hebrew?"

"No. Nothing's moving on the screen."

"The wireless mouse and keyboard are too far from the computer. Get closer."

"As far as I know, she's planning on opening her own studio in a year."

12:50 | Real meeting start time

Only now, 20 minutes after the appointed start time, does the meeting actually start.

The tech people present the project timetable, the content people complain and say it isn't feasible and the marketing people take some more burekas and fantasize about revenues with a string of zeros at the end. The customer will put down money if . (some lie). The marketing people have their own plan. They also have their own Excel files.

13:00 | Make that a double 'e'

"I'll show you what I created for the meeting," says the top banana from the marketing department. "I have it here on my USB key. Here, take it and plug it into the computer."

"It doesn't recognize the device."

"Try the F: drive."

"It still says, 'Doesn't recognize.'"

"What do you mean it doesn't recognize? Take it out and try again. It'll work. The same thing happened to me at last week's meeting."

"It doesn't work. Now the computer is freezing."

"You know what, wait a sec, I also have it in my email folder. I'll send it using my iPhone."

"Send it to my Gmail account."

"What's your Gmail address?"

"The same as the one here, just with @gmail at the end."

"Is the name in your email address written with an 'i' or a 'y?'"

"It's with a double 'e.'"

"Nu, did you get it yet?"

"Wait a moment. Everything here is really slow because of the wireless keyboard. Wait, it came through."

"Open the file, but for God's sake don't save it on the desktop. We don't want every newbie here seeing my business plan."

"Why the hell is the default browser here Microsoft Explorer??!! Gmail doesn't work on it. Who still uses Explorer these days, anyway? Great, we'll have to tell Steve to change the default Web browser setting to Google Chrome. Did somebody get a hold of him? Maybe he's already back from lunch."

13:10 | What's in the file?

Forty minutes after the first folks strolled into the conference room, nothing important has been discussed and everyone is starting to lose patience. The document sent by Gmail was opened with Google Docs, and since it was written with Hebrew formatting, everything came out backwards. No one can tell what figures belong in which categories.

The guy from the content department warns the group that he has another meeting to get to in 15 minutes. The tech people who skipped lunch are already incapable of thinking clearly, and the marketing department guy stubbornly insists on presenting his document.

"Maybe we should go to my office and I will explain things using my computer?" the marketing guy says.

"How will we fit six people into your room? And anyway, the air conditioning in your office hasn't been working for a week. It just blows musty air around."

"You know what? I'll send the file to the secretary. She can print it out and bring it to us." And with that, the marketing guy is out the door.

13:21 | Waiting for the secretary

"Nu, how long does it take to print out seven copies of a two page presentation?"

13:24 | Wrap-up meeting, prepare for same next week

The secretary enters the room. "There are only five legible copies here, and the two others are blurry because the ink toner ran out while they were printing," she says. 'Sorry. If it's an emergency, I can run out and get some new color cartridges. It will take 10-15 minutes, not that I have any time."

"You know what? Forget it. Let's schedule a new meeting for Wednesday. Everyone can come prepared with all their presentation materials and everything. I'm already sending everyone an email invitation."

"One second, Wednesday's isn't good for me. I am out of the office all day."

"So how about Thursday?"

"No. No. Thursday doesn't work for me. It's my day with the kids."

"Fine, I will send out an invitation for sometime next week."

"Don't forget to log out from your user profile. Otherwise you won't be able to use it back in the office."

"Somebody should turn off the projector. It would be such a pity should the projector ruin the next meeting."

Supernova and black hole, or just another staff meeting?Credit: Reuters
No matter the topic of discussion, after refreshments have been served, the slide projector is always the center of party. Everyone stares at it. Credit: Bloomberg