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What do You Bring to a Meeting?

Laptop versus Paper

The following is an interesting observation I came across when reading Raymond Chen’s The Old New Thing: Practical Development Throughout the Evolution of Window

If you find yourself in a meeting with a mix of managers and programmers, here’s one way to tell the difference between them: Look at what they brought to the meeting.

Did they bring a laptop computer? Score bonus points if the laptop computer is actually turned on during the meeting or if the laptop is special in some way. If so, that person is probably a manager.

Did they come to the meeting empty-handed or with a spiral-bound notebook? If so, that person is probably a programmer.

It’s not an infallible test, but it works with surprisingly high accuracy.

After thinking about it for a bit, I absolutely agree. This observation is very accurate, I’ve seen it over and over with my own eyes.

Raymond goes on to give one more tip on how to tell if the presenter is a technical person or a manager based on their Power Point presentation. Can you guess what it is?

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  •     jb
    · February 21st, 2008  · 9:30 am  · Permalink

    I think a common reason for this is that developers often don’t have laptops. Desktops are often (not always) preferable for development work. Also, developers feel less of a need to be instantly available via instant messenger or email.

  •     Bob
    · February 21st, 2008  · 8:39 pm  · Permalink

    I concur with that… but when developers have laptops, they do bring them to meeting too!

  •     Rich Loen
    · February 22nd, 2008  · 2:50 pm  · Permalink

    I was at a meeting a few years ago where we were negotiating a contract with one of the largest phone companies in the US. They had about 15 people there – lawyers, techies, etc and they ALL had laptops, and even had their own wireless access point which they plugged into the one visitor LAN connection.

    When we’d say something – there would be a minute of “silence” as they all typed like crazy – IMing back and forth, and pulling up old documents and emails. Then, the one designated speaker would respond.

    It was truly like dealing with the borg hive-mind – everything we said was compared with the combined wisdom of ALL of them, AND all their compatriots back at their office, and EVERY document or email that we had ever exchanged.

    Nowadays, I’ll often do the same with my business partner – though a bit more subtly – a quick note by Blackberry.

  •     Steph
    · February 24th, 2008  · 3:49 pm  · Permalink

    Hi Rich,

    Your description of the borg hive-mind is pretty amazing! I’ve heard stories about it but I’ve never actually seen it. And neither have I had it described so vividly.

    I’ve seen people msn’ing back and forth in meetings, the odd crack-berry messages, looking up documents on laptops, etc., but never with the prowess you describe. It truly sounds like something you have to experience to fully appreciate! I can’t imagine being part of such a negotiation.

    I also can’t imagine how it will help to grow a business over the long run. A large part of business is dealing with people, having confidence, etc. and this just seems to be the opposite to me. I know I wouldn’t want to negotiate with this type of business if I didn’t have to. Not because they have all the information at their fingertips, but rather just because of the process (if that makes sense). It doesn’t sound like a pleasant experience. And it certainly doesn’t help you build a rapport with the other company to build off for the future…

  •     Anthony Niemann
    · March 6th, 2008  · 4:20 pm  · Permalink

    I am a software consultant (design/develop) and I never take a laptop to a meeting unless the client is expecting a demo. I always take a notebook and pencil.

    I am communicating to my client that I am fully tuned in to what they have to say and I am capable of making a decision without needing the hive mind. In the end people make the decisions and find the solutions to the problems, not computers.

    It’s usually a turn off to me when someone opens a laptop or fire up their blackberry during a meeting… but maybe I’m just jealous because I’m a poor multi-tasker.

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