8 Things Bad First Dates & Bad Meetings Have in Common
The awkward pauses. Yawns. Glances at the phone. Watching the clock, willing the minutes to tick by so you can leave. We've all been there, either during a nightmare of a first date or a bad meeting. (Or maybe both 😬) The sad reality is that too many work meetings feel a lot like bad first dates. We've uncovered eight of the most annoying things bad meetings and bad first dates have in common. More importantly, we've sourced several tips for overcoming the most common pitfalls. Want to help restore the reputation of meetings? Keep reading.
8 Things Bad Dates & Bad Meetings Have in Common:
#1: Awkward Silence
Is there anything more cringeworthy than a long, awkward lull in the conversation? On a first date, these uncomfortable pauses are a bad omen. A red flag. A sign that there's no chemistry and thus no need to schedule a second date. On a conference call? They're pretty much a guaranteed reality.
How many times have you witnessed this scenario?
"Janelle, can you share an update on the status of that next press release?"
"Oh, Janelle, I think you might be on mute?"
"Janelle, did we lose you? Are you there?"
"Oh, so sorry! I was on mute."
Do a quick Google search, and you won’t have any trouble finding hundreds of memes, gifs and videos poking fun at this meeting faux pas.
Then there’s the all-too-common scenario when a meeting leader asks, “ who’d like to share first?” And, of course, no one chimes in.
What can we do to cut down on all the awkward silence?
Tip: For starters, remind everyone at the start of the call to pay attention to their mute button. 😉Secondly, as the meeting facilitator, ask open-ended questions rather than yes/no questions. If possible, share a detailed agenda ahead of time that includes who you’ll be calling on during the meeting--and when. Helping people prepare to speak cuts down on the likelihood of awkward pauses.
#2: Constant Interruptions
Have you ever been in conversation with someone who talks over you or doesn’t let you finish your sentence? How about a date? That’s pretty much a nightmare scenario, right?! Sadly this phenomenon happens all too often on conference calls. Especially when folks are dialed in from multiple locations. Without the ability to see facial expressions and social cues, it’s not uncommon to experience the awkward, time-wasting dance of “oh no, sorry, you go ahead.” Or even worse, to get interrupted by someone who took the conference call from their car, forgot to put themselves on mute, and then rolled up to the Starbucks drive-through to place an order just as you were getting to the most passionate plea of your presentation. Ugh. 🤦♀️
Don’t you wish this didn’t happen? Here’s a quick tip for cutting back on the constant interruptions that can often plague corporate conference calls.
Tip: Instead of holding meetings via conference call, use a videoconference. “Camera on” meetings require participants to be much more engaged, so they’re less likely to have distractions in the background. It’s also much easier to read social cues via facial expressions, which cuts back on mid-sentence interruptions.
#3: You Feel Like the Third-Wheel
Most people don’t enjoy being the third-wheel in dating situations. It’s pretty awkward and also pretty dull. If you showed up for a first date and found that your date had an ex or a best friend tag along, you’d look for the nearest exit or think up an excuse to leave early. These situations are uncomfortable, yet they happen quite often in corporate meetings. Have you ever been invited to a meeting you didn’t need to attend? You end up sitting there for 30 minutes, an hour, or even longer, with nothing to say as you observe the other parties discuss a project you don’t work on and never will. You scratch your head and think “why am I here?” Not only is this boring and a little bit awkward, but it’s also a waste of time. Good news. There’s a simple way to avoid this!
Tip: Require all meetings to include an agenda. This allows invitees to decide whether or not they really need to attend. Make sure to give your employees the autonomy to use their best judgment.
#4: There is No End in Sight
It feels like the clock isn’t moving. You’re squirming in your seat. Glancing around the room. Looking for a diversion. Feeling irritated. Trying not to yawn. Thinking about your to-do list. Dreaming of going home to catch up on Netflix.
Are you stuck on a horrible date or in another excruciating meeting?
It’s pretty hard to tell the difference! All the emotions are the same.
It’s inevitable. When you’re having the best time on a date, the time just flies. When you’re not having so much fun, the time drags. Which is precisely how it feels being stuck in a meeting that drags on forever.
Is there a way to end the monotony? Yes. Here’s one way to ensure your next meeting is more efficient.
Tip: Be sure each meeting has an agenda--and stick to it. Schedule the most important topics first. If you find you’re running short on time, save the remaining agenda items for another conversation.
#5: Phones Are Out on the Table
We’ve all seen it. The couple out on the date at the fancy restaurant not talking to one another, but fully engaged in whatever is going on on their phones. Typing away, oblivious to the world around them. Or, even worse, the date who sits awkwardly in silence while the other person spends most of their time looking at the phone, totally ignoring the present company. It’s pretty hard to hold a conversation when social media notifications, texts, and emails take priority. And the same is true during meetings. When employees are only half listening or busy crafting the reply to their next email, they can only be so present and productive. Luckily, the fix for this is pretty simple--though you may be met with initial protest.
Tip: Institue a no phones during meetings rule. Plenty of couples and families have a “no phones at the dinner table” rule. This is similar. Ask employees to keep their phones in their pocket or face down on the table. You might be amazed by how much more productive and efficient meetings become.
#6: No Eye Contact
Good eye contact is critical in a dating situation. It’s a little unsettling to carry on a conversation with someone who’s looking the other way or downright ignoring you. Are they distracted? Are they even listening? Are they just nervous? The situation can give anyone a complex. The meeting equivalent? This same scenario plays out on most conference calls across the world. With audio-only meetings, you never have the chance to make eye contact, and that leads to a whole slew of insecurities and a similar line of questioning as you might have on a first date with no eye contact. What’s the solution?
Tip: The earlier “camera on” advice rings true here, too. Video meetings aren’t only more productive, they also enable better relationship building--especially for global, distributed teams. Having the ability to make eye contact with a colleague halfway across the globe is powerful, and it’s a critical way to foster connection and collaboration.
#7: They Don’t Ask You Any Questions
Have you ever been on a date with someone who does all the talking? You never get a word in edgewise while they go on and on about their past relationships and their job without ever stopping to ask you a single question about yours? 🤦♀️Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? It’s not much fun, but it’s also a pretty common scenario in corporate meeting settings. How many regular meetings on your calendar amount to nothing more than one person lecturing to a group? It feels like college biology all over again. (And who really wants to relive that?) In some instances, these sorts of meetings are necessary--think town hall announcements, crisis recovery, etc. But for the most part, meetings should be interactive. Here’s a quick bit of advice that will help you keep meeting attendees engaged.
Tip: Incorporate live polling or quizzes into your meetings to make them more fun and interactive. You can use a tool like Poll Everywhere, or use the simple show of hands method. The idea is to break up the lecture and help your attendees absorb and retain what you’ve shared. Bonus points if you offer up prizes for the high scorers.
#8: They Arrive Late or Leave Early
We saved the best for last. This scenario is all too common--in dating situations, friend groups and especially in corporate meetings. Someone arrives late and holds up the whole team, or they have to leave early to make it to the next engagement. Maybe they can’t get the dial-in to work or the plugins to load, or perhaps they got caught up in a meeting that ran over. For the folks who show up on time, this is exasperating. In a dating situation, it can cost you your reputation. In a meeting, it can cost your company a lot of money. Think of it this way: a ten-minute delay just four times per week adds up to a full week of work at the end of the year. Multiply that by every person in the meeting. Yikes! How can we stop this from happening? Here are a few ideas.
Tip: For starters, barring any legitimate emergencies, you should always begin meetings on time. If employees know and expect meetings to start five or ten minutes late, they’ll never show up on time. When you begin and end all meetings as scheduled, you send the message that you respect everyone’s time and expect the same in return. Another idea? Limit meeting time slots to 25 or 55 minutes. This gives attendees time to transition to their next meeting. One last thought: institute a tardy jar. Pick a charity who will benefit, and each time someone comes to a meeting late, ask them to drop a donation in the jar.
Bringing it all Together
What did we miss? Drop us a comment to share your meeting (or first date) horror stories! If you’re ready to take the next steps to improve your meetings, 8x8 can help. With one click and no downloads, 8x8 Video Meetings is the new way people meet. It's easy, limitless, and free. Come and see for yourself. Start a video meeting at https://8x8.vc/