HowTo:Chair a meeting

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The kind of chair your boss is sitting in while you are his sacrificial lamb.

Your career has been going well. You are a bitter line manager at a brokerage who wields some decision-making clout (that is, if the eight bosses above you do not veto your decisions or steal them as their own). You drink Starbuck's every day while driving to work in your mid-size sedan company car. You have a daughter whose childhood you ignored; she has joined the Marines and changed her name to Jed. Your son refers to you by your first name and lives in your basement, which he has painted black to match his eyeliner. Your trophy wife hates your guts and has moved to Cleveland with the guy who tiled your kitchen last year.

Your career is going so well, in fact, that your boss has asked you to chair an executive meeting because he and his secretary are leaving Friday morning for a hot weekend in Panama. Success in this case could mean a promotion and your own office close to the bathrooms. Failure is not an option. At least that's what the motivational posters in the break room say.

After several rounds of text messages to the hog you met on last week, you realize you have not a clue about chairing a meeting. However, after further reading, it will be a breeze.


Most meetings take place in a designated "meeting" room. This room serves no purpose for seven hours of the day. It will have an impressive table of dark wood and leather office chairs surrounding it. You will sit at the head seat, which will probably remind you of the dinner scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If that didn't help, you may know it as the serving line for the annual Christmas dinner they give you to make you forget that you've missed the past thirteen Christmases with the family.

Pens and paper[edit]

All places at the table must have pens and paper so the participants will shut up and listen to you if they forget theirs. Pens and paper are a throwback to the era before the digital age and they are still the most effective way of getting work done. Meeting participants will be impressed at the blue-collar image a pen and paper projects.

Remember to collect the pens after the meeting. People in the corporate world love to steal office supplies.

The dry run[edit]

Make sure your generic PowerPoint presentation is ready to roll for the big moment. Run through it several times and practice regurgitating the bullets off the screen, giving no additional explanation. That is how PowerPoint is supposed to be used.

Presentations should consist of the following:

  • Bullet format, ALWAYS!
  • Graphs and charts that fly or fade in. Needless animations serve as targets for your laser pen.
  • Company logo on every page, preferably with moving parts and the word Synergy nearby. Synergy, the idea that people working better are bigger than the sum of the parts, helps attendees feel there is meaning to a life filled with such meetings.
  • As much text on each slide as possible so the font is small. Unreadably small is best.
  • The number of pages in your presentation is dictated by the amount of time you have booked the meeting room.

The big show[edit]

Ok, the big moment is here. The attendees are in place. You put your suit jacket on to cover the pit sweat accumulating on your starched Ralph Lauren shirt. You attempt to introduce yourself as the Schmoe your boss picked to take his place in this meeting. Nobody laughs. We're off to a great start.

Begin presentation[edit]

  • Stand in front of the projector screen and summarize today's talking points.
  • Take a seat at the head of the table and fidget to get your laser pen out of its holster.
  • Read the first slide of the presentation that has not changed since 1998.
  • Try to get a cheap laugh by saying, "Are we done yet? No....just kidding."
  • Make sure you laugh at your own jokes if nobody else does. Others may take the hint.


  • Stand in front of the projector screen and do a halfway summary of today's talking points.
  • Carry a pen and gesture. If you aren't sure what to do with your hands, just wave them in a circle.
  • Make eye contact: Stare at each attendee until he breaks eye contact, then smirk.
  • Point at the screen.
  • Skip pages accidentally and then say, "Oops! can we go back?"
  • String out "Uhhh" and "Ahhh" to fill verbal pauses.

End presentation[edit]

  • Stand in front of the projector screen and do an endpoint summary of today's talking points.
  • If there are questions, deflect them to your minions.
  • If there are any praises, accept them as yours.
  • End the presentation by skipping the last twelve slides, regardless of content.
  • Offer to field questions. Nobody will have any.

Back to the prairie[edit]

That, sir, is how you chair a meeting! Now get back to work, Jack! We don't pay you to stand around grinning like a pedophile.