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How to stay awake in meetings

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A long while ago, I had an early start to get to a meeting. Leaving home before sunrise, I went from subway to train to taxi, and arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed. However, as the day went on, my battery started to run dry. By mid-afternoon, with lunch firmly mixng around my stomach muscles, I felt my eyes start to droop. Now this was particularly bad timing, being in a one-to-one meeting, and my colleague noticed I wasn’t paying attention. It may have been the quiet snoring sound I made or the dribbling from the mouth, but somehow they sussed out I was asleep. Shoot.

Therefore, it made me laugh in the news items I posted the other day that the BBC actually had a whole update on How to stay awake in meetings. As this is Friday, here is what they say.

First, choose the right time. Ideal is to do first thing in the morning for status reports and updates, and never choose right after lunch. There you go. I knew that one.

Second, choose the right place. Ideally, meet outside or whilst walking or standing. That’s their recommendation, but usually I find that we end up in some windowless conference room with a speakerphone for those dialling-in … zzzzzzzzz.

Third, be prepared. They reckon a meeting should have a structure and agenda, and that the person conducting the meeting actually knows what it’s about and why they’ve called the meeting. That surprised me as it breaks the code of almost all large, corporate enterprises I've worked for.

Fourth, stay alert. Really? You mean the seven bar bender I went on last night that’s making me dopey today doesn’t count as an excuse? Staying alert is apparently achieved by standing up and walking about, so that pretty much goes with the second recommendation: meet people whilst using your legs, as it’s hard to fall asleep whilst you’re walking.

Fifth, fidget. Keep your hands busy, so that you feel like you’re doing something. Doodling, drawing and more can help, but not if it gets noticed by your Tyrannosaurus boss. Maybe just keep pinching yourself hard on the arm. With a fork. That's been in a fire for the last hour. That works.

Finally, engage.  The idea here is that you should get involved in the meeting. Speak up in the first few minutes so you become a voice. Take notes, so it looks like you’re listening. Either that, or do as my graduate friends used to do when I joined a proper company: paint eyes on your eyelids. That way, you may be asleep, but they won’t notice.

Oh, and here’s my favourite meeting video (note: I hate conference calls) …


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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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