Recently I found myself in a meeting. Because we had a lot of important details to tend to, the meeting went a little long. And for basically all of those 150 detail-filled minutes, I was pretty much the most clueless person in the room.

Many of you know I’m on the planning committee for the Breathe Christian Writer’s Conference, which is held in Grand Rapids every October (writers, you should totally come!) Let me be clear: I love these people and this conference. I even love the meetings. It’s exciting to be part of something I really believe in, and deeply satisfying to watch experts in action.

But I’m not one of the experts, it turns out. Here, I’ve created an infographic to succinctly explain the situation:

While I know I’m loved and wanted on this team (this sentence is to forestall anyone on the team from feeling like they have to assure me of my worth), I totally understand I’m there for something other than contacts, social media prowess, or my in-depth understanding of the publishing world.

God only knows why I’m there, and I think it’s mostly because he has a great sense of humor and knows every team needs someone who’s willing to engage in shenanigans at a moment’s notice. And I am that girl!

Here I am with part of the team, and we’re all looking very serious as we get ready for the video shoot. This almost never happens (the seriousness or the video shoots). ((Photo courtesy of the Breathe Conference Facebook page.))

I’ve assembled some thoughts on this situation because I can’t be the only person who goes to meetings where everyone else is vastly qualified. Let me outline the steps I’ve found helpful:

  1. Come to terms with the fact that you will not be the expert in the room. It’s okay. Let this truth sink into your soul. Poke at it a little with the acceptance stick. Jesus himself told us that a person speaks out of the overflow from the heart (Luke 6:45), so let’s make sure our hearts are humble and ready to learn. I think we’ve all been in a meeting when an arrogant, clueless fool begins to blather. It’s torture. But this never happens when a person understands she knows nothing and feels no need to prove otherwise to her teammates.
  2. Listen. Seriously, make an art of listening. I one day hope to actually know things when I go to a Breathe planning meeting, which is why I tune into the conversation and listen like a ninja. I’m absorbing through my earballs.
  3. Ask pertinent questions that show the team you’re listening, even if you’re providing no good help. For example: Me: “Darron, how many people can the bookstore hold?” Darron: “Oh, the event space can hold at least 300 people.” Me: “Excellent.” Carry on, my friends. I have learned a new piece of helpful information.
  4. Accept the fact that your butt will go numb and you will have to stand. Your friend Ann may look at you with concern. You may have to casually announce to everyone that your rear end is causing you problems. It’s possible to stand and listen so just go ahead and do it, especially if the meeting has reached minute 135 and you also have an hour-long drive home.
  5. Enjoy the snacks! I’m hopeful that your meeting will at least have great snacks. Partake with great gladness.

I truly do get a kick out of seeing everyone in action. You might not realize the working parts that go into a successful conference, but about three million details have to come together to make sure there’s a meeting space, attendees, food, and speakers. This is why the team ends the conference with glazed looks and the inability to complete intelligent sentences.

Look at this beautiful stage that Elizabeth designed! See, that’s what I mean about details. We need a whole person for this! (This photo also stolen from the Breathe Facebook page.)

But we love it. It’s worth it. And I pray your really long meetings are worth it all, too.



10 Comments on How to survive a really long meeting when you have absolutely no idea of what’s going on

  1. Susie Finkbeiner
    July 17, 2017 at 4:26 pm (6 months ago)

    Dude. You are multi-published! Geesh. And I’m right there with you on some of the details. I NEED you there because you get my off the wall weirdness and don’t file restraining orders when I whisper across the room, “I like your hair”. You affirm me in my silliness and that is so very needed.

    We love having you on the committee.

  2. Jessica Morgan Clemence
    July 17, 2017 at 5:10 pm (6 months ago)

    Well, portions of this are actually an entirely new blog post: How Two Women Might Accidentally Derail Your Meeting but You Probably Won’t Mind Too Much. Thanks– I enjoy being with you all!

  3. Susie Finkbeiner
    July 17, 2017 at 5:11 pm (6 months ago)

    Derailing a meeting accidentally is a specific skill set. I. Have. That. Skill set.

  4. Elizabeth
    July 17, 2017 at 5:56 pm (6 months ago)

    Jessie you are just the best. One of the most golden people I know. And the first thing I think of when I see the stage design is that the bulbs on the lights don’t corridnate. Details….💗💗💗 oh yeah, and I have yet to be “published.”

  5. Luanne
    July 17, 2017 at 6:31 pm (6 months ago)

    I can’t say that many of the vast multitude of overly long meetings I have sat through over the course of this last year (in particular, but this could easily apply to Mr entire military career) have been “worth it”. However I did make a point of listening like a ninja (yes, also through my “earballs”) and I like to think I learned a lot that will make me a better military leaders, as well as a better person. I can totally sympathize with the butt-numbing experience. No one bats an eyelash in the military if you randomly get up and walk out of the room…unless you’re speaking, of course. Then you nightmarish a few eyebrows!

  6. Jessica Morgan Clemence
    July 17, 2017 at 8:26 pm (6 months ago)

    I love it! Thanks for attempting to listen through a military meeting. Our country thanks you!

  7. Jessica Morgan Clemence
    July 17, 2017 at 8:28 pm (6 months ago)

    Please ignore the lightbulb situation and carry on with your fabulous self. And you’re on Off the Page, which makes you published!

  8. lardavbern
    July 17, 2017 at 11:13 pm (6 months ago)

    But you do make infographics – go you!

  9. Lex De Weese
    July 19, 2017 at 9:55 am (6 months ago)

    😂 This is fabulous! Also, last Wednesday was chaos. If anyone says they knew what was going on in that meeting, they are lying their face off!
    Great tips though! The infographic is fabulous! (Also quite sure we could each fill in the left side very easily with similar results.)

  10. Jessica Morgan Clemence
    July 21, 2017 at 10:38 am (6 months ago)

    YOU ARE A NUT. And yes, I feel assured of my self worth now. And even before I wrote the post!