Every corporate job has its problems, and one of the main evils of a corporate job is attending meetings. In fact there’s also this rule, which I call the Pointless Axiom Of Big Meetings which says that “Productive output of meetings declines with the square of the number of people attending it”. That is, a meeting with 3 people has a small chance of producing something of value. A meeting with 8 people has about the same chance of being productive as a Kangaroo has of reaching the International Space Station.
Anyway, since meetings are an unavoidable evil, we all have to live through it. But there’s no reason why can’t make meetings more entertaining. Here are some ideas to make living through the ordeal of meetings easier.
This first game is for between 3-8 players. It is loosely based on the popular “antakshari” game that is usually played with songs. The rules are simple – When a person finishes a sentence, the next person has to take the last word of their sentence, and start a new sentence with that word. This game is enormous fun, especially because of its high tendency to take a meeting off track. Large meetings tend to go off track anyway, so there’s no reason why you can’t be the person proactively taking the meeting to unrelated areas.
If you are an advanced player, you are also allowed to cut off other players mid-sentence to pick off from the mid-sentence word as well.
Here’s an example of how this meeting game is played:
Boss: “We need ideas to improve product quality for the next quarter”
Player 1: “Quarter-by-quarter quality improvements, are incorporated through applying six-sigma tools using Kaizen and other processes”
Player 2: “Processes are not a good way to go. We need to have more intense focus on excellence for all teams”
Player 3: “Teams are only as good as their leaders”
Player 1: “Leaders can lead, but followers must also be willing to.”
Player 2: “To be or not to be, that’s the real question, as said by Shakespeare”
Player 2 wins this round since he has invoked a historical literary figure in a meeting about quality. You can also have other “winning” criteria, like the first player to use “Boogy Disco Dance” wins, or the first player to say 3 consecutive sentences with 4 words or less wins.
This game can be played when there is a presentation that the speaker is walking through. The rules of the game are very simple. Players have to ask the speakers questions to induce the speaker to go back/front in their slide deck. The player that can get the speaker to deviate the most from the current slide wins.
A common strategy that are used to induce the speaker to change slides is to ask questions that are either too ahead of time or too late. For example, if you ask a question like “Sorry, but what’s the goal of this presentation?” mid-way through the presentation, the speaker probably has to go back to the first slide. You can ask more aggressive questions too, like “Actually, I don’t understand your whole premise. Can you please go over that once more?”, which also forces the speaker to go back to the start.
Expert players of this game use some advanced strategies. The most successful maneuver is to get the speaker to go to the last slide, and then get him to go back to the first slide. I’ve seen this done only a couple of times in my career, and it has to be executed with great skill. The first question has to be something like “This is all great, but show me the punchline. What does this all mean?”, which induces the speaker to go to the end. It has to be followed up with “But your assumptions don’t justify this”, which will make the speaker go back to the first few slides where they’ve listed the assumptions.
How Late? and How Early?
This is a game for expert players. The way you play it is that you come really late to a meeting, and leave way before the end, and whoever spends the least amount of time in the meeting wins. This is not a game for the light-hearted, as it needs a whole lot of guts to play, but there is also great glory.
Many people walk into a meeting 5-10 minutes late, but to be really good at this game, you have to walk in 15-20, even 30 minutes late. You make up some excuse why you were late, and also announce that you have a “hard deadline” in 15 minutes, at which point you have to leave.
Players get bonus points of they get the discussion to re-start from the beginning after they are 30 minutes late. A simple “So, what are we talking about?” is enough to trigger a complete rehash of what has already been discussed, but it has to be expertly guided. If there is a slide-deck, an expert player can also say something to the effect of “Can you summarize what’s happened so far for me?”. If the re-summation takes 15 minutes, that gives you enough time to excuse yourself and go to the next meeting, rendering your 15-minute presence in the meeting entirely useless. If you can do this, then you win the whole championship.
If you’ve enjoyed these games, please look at the 2007 edition of meeting games that I had written. Not much has changed in the last 5 years, obviously, but it might give you additional ideas about how to entertain yourself in those boring and never-ending meetings.