Meetings Etiquette I

Once a month we have a developer’s user group luncheon, during which a topic is presented.  This was the third such get-together, and the topic was a custom application recently modified by a very skilled colleague.

The presenter was a manager, and the meeting offered an excellent opportunity for him to polish his presentation skills.  He had organized his talk into background and had prepared a project as an example.  However, he was barely five minutes into the background when the gentleman who had recently modified the product commandeered the discussion, thereby laying waste to the presentation.  So much time was lost that when the hour had elapsed we had not progressed beyond the bare minimum of background, and a myriad of contradictions were raised, and some plain misinformation spread.

One of my own managers approached me later and reported that her staff was more confused about the product now than before they had received any formal information at all.

Next month I am scheduled to discuss the shop’s development standards, a topic which may sound staid and dry to the non-developer but is actually rife with conflict, subject to resistance, and often such discussions can devolve into a hatefest.  It is unfortunate for me that the gent who hijacked today’s discussion has a passionate interest in development standards, and so in an effort to thwart such a crime during my own presentation I have considered my options:

  • Encourage him to take some vacation time.  He does look tired, after all.  The holidays get to a person, and after New Year’s Day the next holiday is Memorial Day, five months hence.  Yes, a nice week off would fix him up just fine.  And what better time than the fourth week of January, off season for travel, when he can get more for his travel dollar?
  • Lock him in a supply closet.  One of my managers was the Keeper of the Key, in fact, until just recently when the Facility Manager’s assistant narked her out for not stocking the coffee station correctly (seriously, I kid you not!).  However, the Facility Manager likes me, even if his assistant is the spawn of Satan, and he might even throw in a gag and some rope if I bring him cookies.
  • Send him a special invitation to the user’s group, indicating that we will be meeting offsite.  Someplace like Iceland perhaps.
  • Invite him to handle the presentation, but require that he provides legible handouts that have been proofread and approved by the CIO.  He’ll call in sick.

4 responses

  1. A good way to handle habitual interrupters is to begin a presentation saying very firmly that the flow of thought an argument requires to be smooth and uninterrupted and that all questions and discussions will be taken at the end, and ask your audience to list down their questions and clarifications on a piece of paper to be addressed at the end.

  2. Very Simple. You exercise your rights under the Second Amendment, and turn up to the meeting “firm handed and tooled-up” as we say in these parts.

  3. I agree with Smiling Dolphin.. something like.. Since there is alot of material to present and limited time… lets get through it before discussion and all questions to be saved and discussion till the end.

    Any interrupters shall be shot. Or given no cookies.

  4. Hi Smiling Dolphin – Thanks – your suggestion inspired me further: perhaps I can have a bunch of pens and pencils on the table so that participants can quickly jot down their questions as they arise, so they don’t forget as I review the topic. They can then look at their notes during the Q&A period.

    @ammo, I have never heard that term but am making a mental note. That is too funny!

    Amber, cookies or the threat of withholding them is always a good way to motivate our spunky software engineers!

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