Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Meeting: An Audio Essay

I've been a government employee for almost 30 years. Meetings are a big part of my life. But I rarely enjoy them.

The following audio essay captures how I feel after so many meetings, especially the "good" meetings. I produced it this weekend after a particularly difficult meeting.

I've been experimenting with a new software application for producing podcasts. This essay gave me an excuse to try it out.

Click here to hear "The Meeting: An audio essay". It's absurd, dark and cynical but I was trying for a different vibe. If the link above doesn't work, visit here and click the play button. Enjoy.

A tip of the headphones to Joe Frank . Visit here for Joe Frank's podcasts.


GregK said...

That was fun. I like the image of stains of indecision on the carpet.

Rick Wilson said...

Thanks Greg.

Rick Wilson said...

A few of my more vociferous critics, like she-who-must-be-obeyed, have said that they couldn't understand all of the words in the podcast. Something about a poor voice performance. Sheesh, everyone's a critic. So in case anyone else cares, here's the script.

The Meeting
Laurel, Maryland

[a deeply troubled voice reads with dark irony ...]

I dislike meetings. But after 30 years as a government bureaucrat I’ve come to accept them. What follows presents the essence of a meeting I attended last Friday. The names have been changed but the emotions are real.
As our meeting unfolds, we find five, middle class, highly educated, civil servants sitting around a cheap conference room table in Arlington, Virginia. Their table is finished to look like real mahogany. The civil servants are likewise dressed conservatively.

A sixth person joins this Friday afternoon meeting via the phone, a disembodied voice on a speaker.

The carpeting in the conference room is deeply stained with a decade's accumulation of squandered opportunities. The conference room table shows the patina from countless meetings where both logic and dignity have been gutted upon it.

The purpose of their meeting today is unknown, even to them, even though they each agreed long ago to meet this afternoon.

They make small talk about the weekend waiting for a signal to start. Their discussion begins haltingly and then strengthens. They gain confidence as the sound of their own voices inspires them.

A crescendo of uninformed opinions, untested assumptions and confusion fills the air. But surprisingly, no one in the room is concerned. They find pleasure in the simple, comfortable act of meeting. They are having a good meeting. They need nothing more.

After the same few irrelevant points are discussed over and over, they each sense, without saying it aloud, that their discussion is finished. Their meeting is over.

Conversation winds down slowly. Purpose fading long before the words stop. Thoughts trailing off without the benefit of formal punctuation.

A dial tone hums softly from the speakerphone as the last person gets up. He doesn't notice the fresh stain of indecision on the carpet as he closes the door.

It was a good meeting. No purpose. No progress. No shame.

[ ... dial tone to fade out ]

the end

Kim Currano said...

Awesome Podcast. Its not just government - we see similar things in private industry.

Christopher M. Pohl said...

Rick, That is soooo good. Sad, but it truly captures the essence.