|Adventures in the Big Empty
by Geek Jane
Jane Gets In Touch With Readership, or
A Little Brown-Nosing Goes A Long Way
Welcome back, dear readers - I knew you couldn't stay away.
Upon seeing my column so illustriously displayed here at Geek Culture, I promptly sent the URL to everyone I know - "Hey look!" The question asked in about half of the responses was, "What IS your black cat doing?!" Well, okay. The cat at the bottom of the page is Natasha, she is a black tortoiseshell fluffy puffy domestic American longhair. That's her coloring, she's not contorting, and she's not holding a cigar. She's SUPPOSED to look that way. So be nice to my cat!
Feedback from my readers is always welcomed and very important to me. I might not agree with what you have to say, but I'll read anything you wish to send.
I am writing today to share the torture of a necessary but evil part of any Geek's existence - meetings. I can hear you groan inwardly even as I write this, or maybe that's just my stomach, hopped up on caffeine. Meetings are dangerous territory, the time when the Geek must emerge from their cubicle (read: hole) and blink in the flourescent light of business day. It's the time when the bosses see just what they're paying for, so there are a few rules to attending meetings:
1. Dress Nice. I know you slide by in a "corporate" environment with a sweater instead of a suit, maybe a long monocolored peasant skirt instead of pressed slacks - something marginally "business casual" (what an evil phrase), not quite what the client really wants. You slide by with sneakers tucked under your desk when the manager comes by. No one ever really sees you and you time your visits to the restroom so you won't run into anyone in a tie...well, for a meeting you must sit in the open, so wear your good socks that day, no holes, shoes without puffy, cat-ravaged laces, something neat that has all its buttons. Comb your hair. Sit up straight. Don't fidget.
2. Have All Your Props. Sure, maybe you have nothing to contribute to the meeting, your presence is simply to act as a representative for your project or department, but you can't sit there with nothing in front of you, you warm body, you! You'll be pegged as a slacker, even if the material being covered is elementary and you have it all down in your head already. Make photocopies. Lots of them. Bring them to the meeting, neatly stapled. Flip through them attentively as people talk. Print out all emails pertaining to the meeting, even if you have no use for them. Date them, staple, paper clip, folders, tabbed binders...all are good. Charts and graphs look good, too. Color is a plus. Bring a notebook or, better yet, a notebook on a clipboard. Clipboards say "I'm really smart and I have a clipboard." Don't go overboard - an overhead projector or wheeling in a filing cabinet isn't necessary.
3. Take Copious Notes. Even if you're discussing the order of the letters in the alphabet, your notebook should be filled with a complete analysis of the alphabet. If the topic being discussed is really boring or repetitive, or both, write anything in the notebook, but keep in mind that if you're writing, other attendees of the meeting will think you're hearing something they're not, and they will peek. Write stuff that makes sense. Plan out strategies, future meetings, project contact name hierarchies - anything that looks important. Be creative - make stuff up. You'd be surprised how something made up might mysteriously become standard in a month or two. Repeating topics in your notes isn't an issue - it's likely the meeting will be just as repetitive so it'll all match up in the end. Taking notes to keep oneself busy (and smart looking) will assist in the next rule...
4. Do Not Nap. Napping is very tempting, it's a sunny afternoon, lunch is comfortably nesting in your stomach, you've got Food Coma. A voice is droning on in a pleasant monotone, it would be so easy to close your eyes...don't! Do not succumb! Nothing looks worse than nodding off at a meeting, trust me, the guy who signs your contract will be watching. Occupy yourself by Taking Copious Notes, not only will this stave off the sleepies but you'll look smart. Prepare for the meeting by drinking a very large cup of coffee beforehand. Do not bring the coffee to the meeting, or else you'll get jealous looks from everyone present. Not to mention it's embarassing to dump coffee all over a meeting table covered with everyone else's props. Pinch yourself, eat strong breath mints, prop toothpicks in your eyelids...anything to keep from falling asleep. Watch the other people falling asleep at the meeting and think how silly they look. If you simply must nap, Do Not Drool. That's the kiss of death, right there.
5. Smile And Say Thank You. Once the meeting has concluded, always beam a big smile and thank the presenter, no matter how much they sucked. Make them feel important, and you'll look like a really Nice Geek. They're scared to even invite you to meetings, with your big brain taking up all that space, so show them that you're able to communicate on a normal level to ease their discomfort.
6. Write A Report. After the meeting, further impress your manager by writing a full report of the meeting (With bullets! Always use bullets! Bullets make you look smart!) and distributing it to the rest of the team you work with (with your manager cc:ed, of course). Sure, it might be stuff they already know, but spoon-feed it to them, you'll look responsible and, you guessed it, smart.
7. Look Smart. Always look smart. That's what they hire you for, after all. Don't be intimidatingly smart, but be amicably smart, on the same level as the people you are meeting with. Whenever communicating through electronic means, use colored text, bold, italic, bullets, charts, graphs, anything pleasing to the eye. Though we Geeks can operate on text description alone, managers and other suits love to see colors. Be creative - impress them with your artistic ability! If you must communicate in person, always have a firm handshake, a steady eye, and a ready smile. I know it's hard. It's hard to explain the same thing to someone six times, but do it with patience and bitch to another Geek friend later. You'll be loved for your "people skills."
With a little preparation and strategy, you too can escape the doldrums of meetings virtually unscathed, and give yourself a little boost in the personability department, too. The biggest downfall of Geeks is that other people don't have any idea of how to approach them - make yourself approachable. Sure, you'll get more visitors to your space, which is a disturbing thing, but it'll make skirting by people in less than business casual attire a little easier. You'll be the "Nice Geek" so they'll let it slide. Trust me.
Peace, love, and T-connections for all,
Tell a friend about Geek Jane!
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