Some are absolute turnoffs. But some are inspirational.
Some are unnecessary. But some are essential.
Some disintegrate into social hours. But some accomplish a surprising amount of decision making or helpful communication.
Business meetings, thank goodness, are not all the same. But I have attended enough humdrum ones over the years to develop a taste for the bizarre events that enliven them once in a while.
In retrospect, I even relish a moment from my ad agency days when I was the one who looked ridiculous.
I had just finished presenting the script and visuals for a new TV commercial that I was sure would be controversial. I was prepared for boos or praise or tough questions, but not for what happened--a long silence. Finally I waved my hand, said, "Th-tha-tha-that's all, folks," and sat down.
The record for speechlessness under pressure, however, may be held by an agency colleague who listened to a long diatribe from a client, responded with nothing but a Bronx cheer, and stalked out of the room.
Some of these memorable occasions stem from a misuse of words instead of a lack of them. There is something about a meeting that provokes certain people to reach for speech beyond the grasp of their vocabularies.
For instance, I once heard someone speak of a particular executive as being "infested with power." The unintended substitution for invested was wonderfully apt. And keeping a straight face was incredibly difficult.
A decent lack of hysteria was no small challenge, too, when I attended a meeting at which a new-products manager presented his company's latest proposal. New in his job and eager to impress his company president and other notables, he was also well prepared and capable.
Unfortunately, after speaking for only a minute or two to this gathering around a huge round conference table, he gasped in pain and sank out of sight of most of us.
As we leaped up in alarm, his head reappeared, and he assured us, "It's just a trick knee that goes out once in a while."
Some of us tried to persuade him to postpone his presentation, but he knew he would lose half his audience. So he carried on with only head, arms and flip charts showing above the table.
At some point he paused for a moment, performed mysterious manipulations on his leg, and managed to lurch upright. But soon he slithered down and continued as before, with his head barely in sight, like a live-action Kilroy of the office world.
No one present will ever forget his gallantry--or remember what he said.
Happily, most incongruous happenings are not as unfortunate as that one. I recall a vice president of marketing having to turn the reel of a tape player with his pencil, and a company president groping on the floor for his 3-by-5 notes. I'm sure we all have fond memories of this sort.