How to appear competent in a meeting where you are the youngest by 20+ years
Not all of us have the luxury of working among fresh-faced millennials in open floor plan offices where board meetings revolve around beer pong tournaments and pugs, and the typical attire includes Keds, flat-brim hats, and wrist tattoos. IF ONLY WE WERE ALL THAT COOL!! Some of us roll in to the Monday morning meeting, only to hear our much-older colleague Andrea refer to herself as “naughty” for staying up until 1 am on Saturday because she just couldn’t put down that new James Patterson book even though she knew she had a crazy Sunday ahead of her that involved taking her son to Famous Footwear to get new soccer cleats and buying a bathmat at Bed Bath & Beyond.
Meanwhile, you woke up today surrounded by Cadbury Creme Egg wrappers and scraped-out jars of frosting — you spent your weekend losing your wallet three times, canceling a credit card, and drinking heavily with strangers. Here are tips to make your intelligence shine in that meeting, as you deem yourself worthy of your cubicle space beyond your contributions toward helping Lisa set up her Instagram account.
- Glasses — wear them
But don’t wear the glasses into the meeting. Enter the room balancing your glasses and your cracked iPhone on top of an economics textbook and a pile of 200 empty manila folders to up the ante. Slide into your seat, let everything spill onto the table, panic and pick it all up, and give a rushed “hello” to your colleagues before putting on the glasses and saying how “crazy busy” of a morning you’re having before pulling your hair into a messy bun with a pencil through the middle.
During the meeting, take the glasses on and off as much as possible, so people know you are actively, and respectfully, listening. Every time you remove the glasses, rub your eyes with fury, then lean back in your chair and inhale deeply through your nose and exhale loudly through your mouth. Put glasses back on and try to call attention to yourself. Then, say something like, “If I may ….”, and take off your glasses slowly, rub eyes again, and give it at least 20 seconds before you continue with something even more meaningless, like “I seriously agree with what that guy Greg just said”. Pro-tip: Make sure the glasses have lenses, and make sure that guy’s name is actually Greg.
2. Notes — take them
Take a TON of notes. Doesn’t matter what. Sit up abruptly and begin writing violently to startle your colleagues and make them think they missed something crucial. Write so hard that your pen slices through your notebook and into the faux-wood conference table; you won’t even notice when it happens because this doodle of your cat in a drawer is too important. After you take the note, cover your paper with your arm and look up suspiciously, making fierce eye contact with everyone around the table before relaxing for a second. Repeat every five minutes.
3. Pens — offer them immediately
You’ll automatically look more on top of your game than the CEO who, wow, did she forget a PEN? Sandra — let’s get it together! As soon as Sandra indicates that she is struggling to find her BIC fountain pen — she’s looking around, reaching for her purse — STOP HER THERE and mouth to her: “U NEED PEN!?!?!” and hold a pen up to indicate you’re ready to offer. When she nods yes, throw it her way as hard as you can and immediately say, “OMG .. yikes! sorry, I have the worst arm! But also, come on, who’s dumb enough to miss that … ?!” This inappropriate bullying masked by a good deed gives you permission to refrain from paying attention for the next 40 minutes while you play on your phone with a smug smile on your face.
4. Meeting buddies — make them
You need a meeting buddy — someone you can whisper or write notes to the whole time, and not about the meeting itself, but about like, what you brought for lunch, what your dad does for a living, and what some guy just texted you. MAKE INSIDE JOKES AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Note that your meeting buddy could be a different colleague every time, and in fact, it might just be, as the demand for this position — the BWF of the millennial — is going to soar.
Make it known how honorable a position this is by playing with your meeting buddy’s hair, placing your hand on their forearm and laughing out loud, and commenting on their profile picture during the meeting. At the end of the meeting, just say, “Oh, Karen — Thursday … did we say 6 or 6:30? I’m gonna put it into my phone now.” This will stop everyone else in their tracks, and they’ll go to Karen later and be like, “Hey wait, are you and the 20-something hanging this week? Are we allowed to come?”
5. Snacks — bring them, but only for you
Show up to every meeting with enough snacks for everyone, but don’t share with anyone except your meeting buddy. This will make people enraged on the inside but overtly respectful on the outside — a hostile state for all involved. Bring trail mix, dry cereal, hard candies, Chewy Bars, Lunchables a batch of cupcakes — whatever — but don’t pull anything out until 15 minutes into the meeting, at which point you can place the snacks on the table, and watch everyone’s attention span crumble immediately. Make a game with your meeting buddy to see which of your colleagues holds eye contact with the bag of Ruffles the longest. If anyone stares for longer than 2 minutes, have you or your meeting buddy hit them with a rolled-up manila folder and say, in an alien voice, “Earth to Greg!!!!!!!!” after which you and your meeting buddy will high-five and laugh.
6. Pace often
According to Forbes, pacing is the number one strategy to convince your colleagues that you’re an infallible genius-child. After furiously drawing a doodle of a flower made of flames, push your chair away from the table and stand up where you are. Take your glasses off if you haven’t done so, and straighten out your blazer from Old Navy. Place your fingertips on the table, close your eyes, inhale and exhale, then back away from the table and begin pacing while you rub your temples with your thumb and index finger of one hand. After 3 minutes, stop pacing. Raise your palm and yell, “WHAT’S EVEN THE POINT!?” and return to your seat without saying anything further.