The Break Room: A Guide to Sounding Important in Meetings

Now that you’ve been promoted, how do you prove you’re worth the extra bucks?

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This satirical column is part of our series The Break Room. Each column takes a humorous look at an aspect of the workplace. All the characters and scenes are fictional.

So, you’ve ascended the corporate ladder and attained a coveted promotion to middle management. Congratulations!

After you’ve celebrated with your significant other, bought yourself that nice bottle of scotch you wouldn’t ordinarily splurge on, and set up your desk in your generous-but-not-unreasonably-sized new (home) office, you might sit back and ask yourself …

“What exactly am I supposed to do?”

That’s right! You manage a team now. Let’s go check on them on Slack.

OK, everything seems to be in order. It is now 9:15, and you might rightly wonder, “What do I do now?”

You open your Outlook calendar. Ah! Meetings! Lots of them! That will burn the hours.

But wait. Now that you’re a manager, people at your company are probably expecting you to have something intelligent to say.

Yikes.

Luckily, we’ve put together an annotated list of phrases you can whip out during almost any presentation to make you seem like you really are worth the extra bucks they’re now paying you.

Without further ado …

I think there’s a real kernel of something here. Let’s dig into it further

You might encounter some quizzical looks over video chat that seem to say, “Kernel?” This is because they believe what they’ve presented is fully baked and ready to go. Do your best not to make eye contact with anyone who has that look.

If someone asks a follow up question as to what exactly you’d like to dig into, say something like, “Let’s just flesh this out some more, and make sure it bubbles up to our core strategy.”

Have you thought at all about whether this really moves the needle for us?

Needle-moving = cash money.

And that’s something you know all those C-suite folks love to get.

Even though the people presenting likely would not have brought their ideas forward if they didn’t think they would move the needle, when you ask whether that idea moves the needle, you let your bosses know you’re in their corner. You should get a few nods of affirmation from the big-wigs present, and that’s a good day’s work right there.

How does this ripple out across the organization?

This shows you are thinking holistically. Niiice.

Let’s investigate the known unknowns

Whoah. Who are you — like the Aristotle of business? With this kind of stoic wisdom it’ll be crystal clear they picked the right gal or guy for the job. After uttering this phrase, you can simply lean back in your chair, fold your arms over your big, wise belly, raise your eyebrows quizzically, and take a meaningful puff from your mahogany pipe to punctuate your point.

I love this idea. I just want to think a bit more about how we get buy-in from our stakeholders

Everyone who needs to “buy-in” may very well be with you on the call, and in fact the very purpose of the meeting may be to get “buy-in” from them. However, if you say this with enough confidence, everyone will assume there is another layer of approval that needs to happen — and it should buy you at least a few days, if not a week.

Now, there’s a strong possibility you may actually be the stakeholder who needs to “buy-in.” It’s best not to let the team know this, if you can help it.

Also: Never buy in! Buying in can really only get you into hot water with someone further up the chain.

I think our next step should be to create a list of action items

Caution: While this phrase is eminently useful, be careful not to imply that you will be the one to make such a list — as that would create extra work for you and require some amount of critical thought.

You all are rockstars

This one is especially useful as the meeting nears its end and you glance around the video chat, and notice all the dirty looks you’re getting from various members of your team. Follow up this statement with a couple of playful finger guns and a sound effect like “Pow-pow!” into the camera, and you should be good to go.

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