Let's Get Started

Remember back in High School, the bell would ring, you would leave class, visit your locker then head off to your next class. There was a five minute “passing period” that gave you time to move from one class to another, along with a few minutes to go to the restroom, kibitz with friends and maybe even get a peek at that cute boy or girl that you were sweet on. Then we moved on to college. A similar structure was in place. Courses were timed to start ten minutes or so after the end of the previous hour’s classes. This was to give time to transport one’s self from one part of campus to another. We used bikes, skateboards or our feet to quickly zip to the next class.
For some reason this concept never made it out of academia and in into the corporate world. The scheduling of meetings is typically done on hour boundaries. Meetings are scheduled from the top of the hour to the top of the hour. Now, as smart as we are in our financial, technological and business aspects of our endeavors, we somehow fail to acknowledge that it actually takes time to physically move from one location to another. As a result of this, no one actually makes it to a meeting on time. Of course, those that were not in a meeting the previous hour have too many times arrived long before the other participants, so they purposefully arrive about ten minutes after the hour. The 10:00 meeting has a quorum and can begin around 10:10.
Well...not exactly. We first must include offsite participants via a conference call. To do this we call a “bridge number” where we are greeted with a very friendly automated female voice that welcomes us to the conference. We are politely instructed enter a series of numbers that no one in attendance remembered to bring. Eventually, the numbers are located and entered. Next, the host of the meeting must enter some super secret number that proves this meeting is legit. Often times it is not clear who is actually hosting the meeting so everyone sits patiently waiting for the “host to arrive”. After much fiddling with number entry, just when it appears that the meeting is about to get underway, the friendly automated operator informs us that a security code is required. This is in case someone who somehow navigated the first three secret numbers might be attempting to listen in... a fourth number would surely prevent unwanted listening in. Ok, all the numbers are entered and we are ready to begin. Before the actual connection is made however, as a courtesy, the voice kindly reminds us that we can always “press star zero at any time for assistance” and, that we can “press star nine for more volume” and, that we can “press star eight to pause” , and, that we can “press star seven if we want to check our horoscope”,. Star six is for a free quote to refinance our mortgage, star five is to order prescription drugs over the internet.... We will now be placed into the conference. Whew!. Oh, there is a final parting shot from the automated attendant informing us that this is a “Quick Start Conference”; implying that we should not even consider complaining or else next time we may have to go through some lengthy start process.

Ok, so it is now 10:30 but we have everyone together and connected. The first item of business is to go over the agenda. It should be displayed so that all can follow along. This used to be as simple as turning on a light switch in the overhead projector and slapping a transparency on the glass. Now it is a delicate sequencing process that requires connection to a source computer, the warming up of the projector itself, location of the file, and the input selection on the projector. The first three steps, while slow, are straight forward; the last remains a mystery. Once connected, there is a little kabuki dance that must be performed with the function key(s) of the host computer to shoot the display information out the external port to the projector. This is always an enjoyable part of the meeting because everyone in the room knows how to do it except the person driving. Comments fly around the room like “press it again”...” you need to toggle it” ...and “how many engineers does it take to turn on a projector.” Finally, the picture is brightly displayed on the screen for all to see.

It is now 10:45 and you are now ready to begin... except that the remote participants cannot see the display. We will need to start an internet meeting. This begins a ten minute process of identifying who is hosting, making connections, sharing the application, and readjusting the screen resolution four times to get the presentation material to display properly at the remote sites. At 10:55 you proudly declare that we are ready to get started. The agenda is now shared by all. The first item is: “Agenda Review”, allocated five minutes. Well, it looks like we will have to pick up here next week because we are out of time. Speaking of which , I gotta run... I am late for a meeting....