Meeting types

There are essentially three kinds of meetings – those that are entirely “in person”, those that are entirely “on call” and hybrids. I argue that the quality of conversation in the third kind of meeting is significantly inferior to that of the first two types.

In person meetings are those where all participants are in one room. These are perhaps the best kind of meetings (except when you know it’s likely to turn antagonistic), for you can maintain eye contact with the others and as long as the number of meeters is small, there is social pressure on meeters to not be distracted, and thus the meeting is likely to conclude its agenda productively and quickly.

Conference calls allow you to multitask while you are on the meeting – the positive thing is that you can choose to switch off when you want to, but the downside of that is that you don’t know when one of the others is switching off, and this might take longer to conclude your agenda. However, the good thing about such meetings is that everyone is speaking into the phone, is well aware that it’s only voice that is getting transmitted and thus moderate their speaking accordingly.

The problem is with the hybrids – where some people are in one room and others are dialling in. Some of these meetings are not a problem – let’s say there are two parties that are party to the meeting, and all members of one party are in one location and all members of the other party in the other location, it is rather simple – you are much more likely to speak addressing the other party, and thus your voice and gestures are as if you’re on a conference call, and you speak more for the benefit of the counterparties at the other end of the line rather than your colleagues sitting with you in your room.

There are some meetings, however, where either you have way too many parties, or a particular party gets split between people physically present and people who are listening in. These meetings are the most disastrous and least likely to add value. I’ve been on both sides of such meetings – being in camera and dialling in, and have got immensely stressed out on both such occasions.

The problem with such meetings is that you’re not clear who you are addressing. Let’s say you are in camera. If you speak addressing the people sitting with you, you are likely to use a lot of body-part gestures to enhance your message, and speak in a voice that is appropriate for the room. Neither of this translates well over the phone – for people who have dialled in, neither will the voice be clear nor will they get the full import of the talking since they can’t see the hand gestures! And so they feel left out and are compelled to switch off.

On the other hand, if you are in camera and decide to speak addressing primarily the people who have dialled in, others in your room will get disturbed and switch off. You will tend to speak too loudly, for you desire to speak into the speakerphone, and given you are primarily address people who can’t see you, you don’t bother with niceties such as using your body parts for gesturing or maintaining eye contact with anyone. Thus, people in your room will get alienated and switch off!

It is the same case when you are dialling in. Firstly you don’t know when to intervene, for you miss possible visual cues that the others are using to communicate subliminally. When you do intervene you don’t know if you can be heard, and the other participants who would have by now been used to giving physical feedback – like eye contact or a nod or a smile or a wink, fail to give you the verbal feedback that you now desire! And while listening you get alienated as I’ve explained earlier.

A meeting where some people are in camera and some dialling in does no good for anybody. It is hence preferable to avoid such meetings. However, there are some occasions when for some desired participants it is not possible to be physically present. A good solution for such occasions would be to march the other attendees back to their offices and do the whole thing over call. It is definitely less stressful than a half-and-half hybrid meeting!

The Switch

Cafe Coffee Day is among the most unromantic places to go on a first date, or so they say. But then you need to understand that the venue can do only so much when it comes to creating the right “atmosphere” for the date. So if you think you are yourselves capable enough of doing a good job of creating a good “atmosphere”, you don’t need to bother about trivialties such as how “romantic” a place is or how good it is in creating “atmosphere” and just pick a place that makes practical sense.

There has been so much of One Day International cricket of late that it is difficult to keep track of various series and tournaments. One tournament that similarly got lost, mostly because the ultimate result was unremarkable (Australia won yet again) was the Champions Trophy, which happened (I think) in South Africa. I don’t remember much of the tournament; I don’t think I watched much of it. All I remember was that there was a game where India played Australia, and that Australia batted first.

Seating arrangement plays an important factor on a first date. Optimal seating arrangement ensures the optimal arrangement of eye contact. Sitting beside each other means you need to put too much effort to establish eye contact, and that is way too much energy. Sitting opposite each other can lead to overexposure – if things aren’t going that well, it’s tough to keep looking into each other’s eyes and that can lead ot awkward moments. It might be interesting to do some academic research in this matter but my hunch is that for a first date a ninety-degree seating arrangement is optimal.

For a few months now I have been on a diet. It has not been without results – my weight has come down by almost a fourth in the last six months. I haven’t done anything drastic, just a set of simple principles. And one of them is “no sugar in coffee”. I’ve given up on tea altogether since I can’t have it without sugar. When you are on a date, however, it is not nice to show off that you are on a diet, especially if you are a guy. it doesn’t give a good picture. So a good strategy is to order something like espresso, which you can claim tastes best without sugar!

I think it was an appeal for LBW that triggered it, but I’m not sure. I do remember, however, that it was a strong appeal that was turned down, but I don’t remember the nature of dismissal. Ashish Nehra was bowling if I’m not wrong. I have no clue who was batting. Maybe it was Haddin, or was it Paine who was opening in that tournament? Not that it matters.

Onlookers might have thought that the move was choreographed given how well we executed it. I don’t even remember their being too much eye contact as it happened. I don’t remember there being any conversation about it as it happened. All I remember is that one moment I was being distracted by Ashish Nehra’s appeal, and the next I was sitting with my back to the TV, comfortably settled where she had been settled a moment earlier, with her having taken my original place.

And I remember that our coffees had also exchanged places along with us!

Arranged Scissors 10 – Modern Channels Protocol

So nowadays the process for arranged scissors has slightly changed, mainly due to the introduction of “modern” communication channels such as the internet and the phone. In earlier days, it was simple – the only way you could check out the counterparty was by way of meeting, and there was a protocol for that. There was a protocol about the kind of questions that one could ask, the standard templated answers to give, the answers you weren’t supposed to give, questions you weren’t supposed to ask, etc. And based on canned questions and canned answers, people would make the most important decisions in life.

Now you have the phone. And the internet. So you have people saying “my son wants to talk to your daughter on chat (sic) before meeting up. Hopefully you are liberal enough to allow that”. The typical answer to this is “what to do? youngsters nowadays are like this, so we have to allow this”. And the boy and girl talk “on chat”. And hope to be better informed than their counterparts 10 years back regarding the most important decision of their lives.

Now, from my very limited personal experience, it seems like some sort of protocol is being established in this “modern channel” also. Neha Vish had a nice article about this a while back on her blog, but I’m not able to find it – about a Sastri who sits behind a girl while she chats up a prospective NRI boy on Yahoo! Messenger, and gives her expert instructions. It seems like the generalized Sastri’s advise has now become part of common knowledge, and has become part of the “protocol” for “modern channels”.

The chat protocol is heavily derived from the single-meeting protocol that I had mentioned earlier. There are canned questions, and canned answers. It is in fact easier to give canned answers here since you don’t need to look into the counterparty’s eyes (though I don’t know how many “couples” actually put eye contact before making the most important decision of their lives). Heck – you can copy paste – or even have a friend chatting for you.

The essence of this protocol, as I see it, is what I call as the “direct approach”. You know that you are checking out the counterparty only for purposes of possible long-term relationship, and not to be friends, so you get straight to the point. One popular quesion seems to be “what kind of girl are you looking for?”. And then they ask about habbits and hobbits and rabbits and rapids, and about hobbies and jobs and career plans and settlement plans and so on.

By becoming part of the standard arranged marriage protocol, what has happened is that “modern channels” have also gotten demodernized, with standard templates coming into the picture. It seems like more innovation is needed if standard good old courting is to be brought back into the arranged scissors scene.

For the record, I’ve partially withdrawn from the market. I have delisted myself from the one exchange where I’d been listed. OTC search is still on but not in full josh. I like things this way, with the only downside being that I’m not getting enough material to fund this series


Here is the link to Neha’s article on Boothalingam Sastrigal – the one that I had mentioned in the blog but was too lazy to dig up the link for.