This week I had to go to a strategic planning meeting for my day job. This occurred for two reasons:

  1. Organizations can’t be trusted to go about their business without a plan. They must go into meeting rooms every 5-6 years with a facilitator and discuss the future, the past, and the now so they can change course before it’s too late. (Sort of like if Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol with fewer chains and more flip charts.
  2. Readers haven’t yet bought my books in the quantities (truckloads) that would allow me to leave the 9-5 and engage in this nonsense for a living.

Since our board was participating in the meetings, there is a lot of interaction with humans in the form of receptions and networking. This means you must be adept at interesting small talk. If you’re not adept at interesting small talk, let me give you some dos and don’ts. 

I tested all of these this week and I’m pretty sure, by the reactions I got, which ones are the dos and which ones are the ones I’ll be answering for during my emergency meeting with HR tomorrow.

Do: Ask people how long they’ve been in their current job position.

Don’t: Ask people how filthy the guest toilets are in their organization’s lobby.

Do: Ask how they are enjoying the meeting.

Don’t: Ask if they have ever shoplifted in a thrift store. *

Do: Ask if they agree with (insert controversial topic that came up in the strategy meeting).

Don’t: Ask if they agree that aliens have a secret base in Antarctica and the only thing that stands between us and them is Godzilla.

That’s as far as I got before I was asked to wait outside. I do know that the don’ts were perceived in a completely different light after the open bar, but I don’t think I’m going to be allowed to do research anymore.

If you would like to do your own social research (but don’t want to risk getting fired) start with public spaces like shopping centers and airports. I for one like to shout “Pudding” in public restrooms and see how people react. You can tell a lot about a culture by how they treat the guy shouting “Pudding.”

Anyway, I should probably update my LinkedIn profile.

Carry on, Citizens!

*For the record, I have not.