Career Tips

7 ways to look seriously smart in meetings – even when you’re not listening

Posted: 19/09/2016

Meetings. Just like going to the dentist and paying taxes, some things in life can’t be avoided. But given that meetings are a part of work life, you’re far better off learning how to shine like a bright, sparkling star rather than sitting there, looking bored. Here are seven fun, tongue-in-cheek tips guaranteed to get jaws dropping in awe of your supreme intelligence.

Step outside for a call
Before the meeting starts, inform the group that, regrettably, you have to step outside approximately halfway through the meeting to take an urgent call. Only really clever, important people have to take calls in the middle of meetings. Make sure you’re one of them.

Bonus: you get to call your mum and apologise for not dropping by on the weekend.

Get your body language right
Lean forward when everyone is looking bored (you’re so tuned in), sit back when it’s time to speak (so confident), and remember to sporadically frown and tilt your head slightly (warning: if you get this one wrong you could look like a pet Kelpie in need of a treat, so you may want to practice this in front of the mirror).

Draw a diagram
When it’s time to speak, get out your pen and start flamboyantly drawing stuff. (Bonus points given for Venn diagrams). It doesn’t matter how large the circles are, or which bits are encompassing others; the main thing is to do it with the confidence of Picasso and the surety of Donald Trump. Drawing stuff with pens lets everyone know that you’ve got it all figured out.

Obviously, you’ve got it all figured out.

Do the maths out loud
If someone declares that attendances are down by 20%, make sure you quip, “So one in five are not turning up?” Guaranteed to make everyone astonished by your mathematical genius.

Ask “Is this scalable?”
It makes no difference what you’re talking about here. You could be discussing the problem with the bins in the new car park for all it matters because no one actually understands the concept. Just make sure you hold an extremely discerning expression on your face when you ask.

Ask the presenters to go back a slide
Remember, your job is to act like the smartest person in the room, not the most popular. Loudly interrupt the presenter, preferably while pointing at the screen with a pen or any long pointy thing, and call out “Could you go back a slide?”

This will give a solid impression you’re far more awake than the rest of the team and can see weightier, more important details no one else can see. Clueless as to what these weighty issues are? Just say something that sounds profound-but-nebulous like “Very interesting…” as your voice trails off.

That’s deep. Well done. You’ve just faked yourself an IQ rise of 25 points.

Repeat whatever the smart person said
There’s a technique to this. First, identify ‘the smart person’. Quite likely, ‘the smart person’ doesn’t say a lot in meetings. She sits back quietly while all the others gas about everything that doesn’t matter and nothing about what does until they run out of breath. But when ‘the smart one’ speaks, there’s bound to be nuggets of gold flying, so see if you can catch one, claim it as your own and rephrase it. Say “Let me clarify that…” Then repeat the key phrases in a slow, measured tone.

Pure gold.

Bonus: handy meetingspeak phrases for beginners

Can’t always say what you want in meetings? That’s because if you could, they would be called arguments, not meetings. Or fistfights. Or melees.

How to look seriously smart in meetings - My career in Aged Care

It takes time, skill and Xanax to meetingspeak like a pro. However, if you’re keen to learn faster, join as many committees, boards – and even strata title meetings to get yourself up to speed. In the meantime, arm yourself with a couple of these.

“You’ve entirely missed the point” “I see where you’re coming from”
“Do what you want. I’m so over this” “That sounds excellent. I think you should lead this proposal.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about” “Let’s get some stats on that”
“I don’t have any faith in this idea” “This is a brilliant idea”
“If you talk about this for a moment longer my ears are going to bleed.” “Hmm, this is a fantastic segue into…”
“I was on Twitter” “Could you please say that again?”
“Help me! I’m so out of my depth here” “Thank you for bringing that up”


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