Fake it til You Make it: The Genius Manual for Meetings

Full name
11 Jan 2022
5 min read

Sarah Cooper gained meetings cred from her years at Yahoo! and most recently Google, then honed her humor as a comedian. Her book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, comes so close to truth that it’s funny. We asked Sarah about her own meeting experience, and to share an excerpt from the book (paperback edition released today).

Bizly: What’s your own favorite trick to appear smart in meetings?

Sarah Cooper: My general go-to is nodding while pretending to take notes. However I’ve always admired anyone who could get up and pace around the room.

B: Art imitates life: What are some weird behaviors you’ve witnessed in real-life meetings as people pretend to be smart?

SC: I had a co-worker who would sit near the whiteboard and write down “keywords” from the discussion. It made him look super-engaged even though he might not have been contributing anything, and, at the end of the meeting it would just get erased. I had many coworkers who liked sitting on the floor too, probably because it meant that people were less likely to ask them anything.

B: How about pet peeves? Do you have a favorite (like most irritating) meeting pet peeve?

SC: I can’t stand when people sigh loudly, tap their fingers or their toes, or otherwise seem like they don’t really want to be in the meeting. It drives me crazy!

B: Does everyone expect you to be funny and/or smart at meetings now? Isn’t that a lot of pressure?

SC: People either expect me to be funny, or they become overly conscious of the fact that I’m observing their behavior and taking notes! I do feel pressure to be funny and entertaining sometimes, but I fall back to my improv training and just try to be in the moment and enjoy it and avoid “trying” to be funny. I [aim] to be honest and observe and usually laughter comes out of that.

An excerpt from 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, which is available from Amazon and most other booksellers:

Meeting Speak Cheat Sheet

Use this handy cheat sheet to decipher what your coworkers are really saying during meetings.

This wasn’t on my calendar = I deleted this from my calendar

Duly noted = I’ve already forgotten about it

Let’s table that = That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard

Can you repeat that? = I was looking at Facebook

To your earlier point… = I’m kissing your ass

That said… = We’re still not changing anything

Let’s streamline this process = Let’s keep talking about this forever

It’s a no brainer = I don’t feel like thinking about it

Definitely = Probably not

Can I ask a quick question? = We are going to be here awhile

Happy to discuss this further = Don’t ever bring this up again

On a related note = I’d like to change the subject

Thanks for bringing that up = You’re going to regret bringing that up

Sounds good to me = I have no idea what you’re saying

Let’s get some data on that = I’m pretty sure you’re wrong

I’ll try my best = I’ll do the bare minimum

Let’s circle back later = I need this to be over

I’ll set a reminder to follow up on that = You will never hear from me or see me again

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