Encounters in Publishing #18: The Meetings Meeting, by Liz Mathews
September 4, 2013
I have a problem with meetings. Generally I avoid them, though I know that that is probably not the best way to win myself any promotions. Still, having sat through meetings that last over two hours with no clear resolution or result (and a follow-up meeting a week later that is equally long, covers the same stuff, but still has no resolution or result) has made me realize that meetings aren’t for me.
The epitome of meetings that I no longer attend at my company is the meetings meeting. Yes, you read that correctly: the double word is not a typo. Once every three or four months, there is a meeting in the Flatiron building where representatives of all the individual publishers sit in a large conference room with various representatives of sales and production and other folks and hammer out a meeting schedule that will be followed by all (unless it’s not) for the next four months.
There was a time in my publishing career, during my assistant days, when the meetings meeting was a regular part of my schedule. It was my job to take a copy of my then boss’s schedule and pipe up—in front of people who were at my boss’s level, not just other assistants—if a particular meeting that she needed to attend was going to conflict with something like her vacation schedule or dog’s veterinary health calendar. This was petrifying for timid me. The only plus was that the person in charge of coordinating the meetings meeting was also in charge of bringing Krispy Kremes.
Now I no longer have to attend the meetings meeting, though I do still get the emails leading up to the meetings meeting where various drafts of the schedule that will be discussed at the meetings meeting are supposed to be reviewed by those who have meetings on it to make sure those meetings will work for all the meeting attendees. It sounds tedious and it is. Most people would probably delete these emails without reading them if they, like me, didn’t have anything to do with the meetings meeting.
But then I would miss gems like the plea that was attached to the second draft of a company-wide meeting schedule:
I would like to get some feedback on this but I know the odds are about as slim as that old man Jeter and his bad hoof playing opening day.
I am not a baseball fan, but it doesn’t matter. From the next email, pre-meetings meeting:
I’m getting NERVOUS about the lack of feedback on spring 14 schedule. Our meeting is two weeks from today.
Have I created such a masterpiece you don’t feel the need to respond?? Is this the season of perfection???
Then, the final plea:
From the never ending spring 14 schedule I updated from our changes this morning and wanted to get to those of you who have to follow up with people not here.
The big thing I noticed was…you pink people…childrens…for July 16. I put back in XX’s meets that were left off and see what I found. Company Y and Company Z are both at 2 pm. That CANNOT work, right???
And please, please, please…on conference room bookings…TELL ME IF YOU’VE BOOKED WITH XX OR NOT! We had a lot of conference room adjustments this morning and I had to check the intranet to see if the meets were moved, etc.
We’re getting this done Monday so if you don’t get me your crap then, it’s going out without it.
Enjoy your weekend.
Sometimes I think I might enjoy attending the meetings meeting again, just to see someone chew open the inside of his/her mouth, Fight Club style.
Here’s a bit from the latest round of emails:
Remember, this is not when you begin to focus on this schedule…this is when we are finishing up the schedule.
I can’t wait for the next draft.
Liz Mathews composes ads for many things science fiction and fantasy. Her writing can be found in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, brochures, and books; and on bookmarks, postcards, cable television commercials, and even doorhangers all across the United States and in some parts of Canada. She lives in Brooklyn but considers the cornfields of Iowa home.