ASSOCIATES (vol. 9, no. 3, March 2003) -

*Going to a Meeting [Video Series]*
Pt. 1, Messing up a meeting [18 min.]
Pt. 2, Meeting menaces [22 min.]

Produced by The Production Tree for Video Arts, c2002.
Writer, Antony Jay; director, Phil Bowker
Canadian distributor: International Tele-Film,
U.S. distributor: AIM Learning Group,
See for other information

Video Review


Sylvia Skene

Library Technician

Advanced Education Media Acquisitions Centre

Langara College

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Ever been in a meeting where nothing got done? Or someone dominated the conversation to the point where everyone else fell silent or was bored to distraction? Or the chair let things slide rather than keeping everyone to the agenda?

Sure you have. We all have. But unless you were prepared to take the meeting over at the risk of stepping on people's toes, what could you do?

This video series gives you some techniques to battle inefficient meetings even if you're not the one in charge, which library support staff so often aren't.

Produced by the respected British business video company Video Arts, and hosted by John Cleese, this series starts off by getting personal. In the first part, Messing Up a Meeting, it points out that meetings are where you can show your merits to your boss and others in the organization. Or not. Using a series of dramatizations, it illustrates that if you're late, if you haven't prepared for and researched an agenda item you're responsible for, if you don't take arguments objectively and respond reasonably and with relevant points to various items under discussion, you come across very poorly, and your proposals are not given their due.

If, on the other hand, you do your homework and present your case professionally, keep your contributions to the discussion short and to the point, keep quiet if you've nothing relevant to say, and listen and respect other people's arguments, then you come across as impressively professional, and your proposals and suggestions are more likely to be accepted.

In the second part, Meeting Menaces, the program gets right into identifying the typical "problem" people who can make meetings such a waste of time. Using many of the same cast as the first video, it dramatizes various scenarios, and illustrates wrong and right ways to deal with the Waffler, the Turf Warrior, the (Idea) Assassin, the Dominator, and the Interrupter. It also stresses the importance of nurturing fragile new ideas, gives some motivations of problem meeting-goers, and defines the difference between good and bad interruptions.

I must admit, I cringed a little at hearing points in both the first and the second video -- I myself have not been as professional as I could have been at many meetings. However, I believe that even if your chances of advancement are slim, being truthful with yourself about your less-than-constructive meeting habits and adopting these tips will make your colleagues grateful and the meetings you attend more productive and positive.

As per usual for Video Arts, this series is quite expensive (Cdn$1752/both parts; US $ not known as not listed yet on AIMS web site), but with its excellent acting and slightly understated humour, lack of padding or hype seen in the content of many other business videos, and useful tips, always summarized at the end, it's well worth the money for any organization that can afford it.

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