6 Steps for Holding a French Meeting

Try to hold your meeting somewhere pretty

For those of you lucky enough to attend a French meeting or conference at a school, business, or cultural event, feel free to chime in at any point (well, in the comments).  For the rest of you, it’s time for a crash course in how to hold the most authentic French meeting possible.

Are we presenting a research project?  A marketing proposal?  An academic program?  It doesn’t matter, the rules are more or less the same.  If you’re going to have a group of people attend a gathering and listen to you or someone else speak, here is the definitive guide of how to do it à la francaise.

1)  Don’t plan ahead: The most important thing is to be as scattered as possible when the meeting begins.  There is no reason to begin as indicated in any previous communication.  Start-times are a mere notion of when to arrive and sip coffee while watching the organizer wonder why nothing is prepared or why another meeting is also scheduled in the same space at the same time.

2)  Don’t prepare enough chairs or handouts : This is pivotal.  If you know how many people are coming, do not have enough chairs for them.  It is crucial that members of the audience should either stand or be forced to seek a chair from another room in a building that they most likely are not familiar with.  In the case of handouts, the copy machine always messes up and you did not miscount the number of participants.  If you do not know how many people are coming, you may be exempt from this rule, but in general, plan as few chairs as possible.

3)  Talk over the speaker at any moment:  Whether you are a fellow speaker or an audience member at a meeting or talk, make it your duty to speak to your neighbor in a way that is audibly obvious to everyone in the room.  When the director of a doctoral program is presenting, for example, private conversations become increasingly more important to the audience with every tick of the clock.

4)  Make sure the AV equipment doesn’t work: To have a Powerpoint presentation function immediately is to hold a failed meeting.  No one expects nor wants the microphone to work properly, so prepare accordingly

5)  Don’t respect the time: When a meeting is set to end at 4PM, and has been scheduled as such for weeks, please be sure to disrespect this time limit and go at least 30 minutes beyond it.  If anyone has familial obligations or other appointments or classes carefully scheduled around your meeting, they should rightfully be embarrassed in front of the group to have to exit the meeting hall at the agreed upon ending time while your meeting continues to address important topics.  If they didn’t want to stay to the end of your meeting, they should not have had children.

6)  Moderators, don’t moderate:  A moderator, especially during a panel discussion or round table, is essentially there to get his or her name on the program and nothing else.  Please do not expect said person to moderate the conversation, to cut off those who veer off topic or stretch the time limit (see rule 5).  The moderator must be well-coiffed with credentials, but this is the only exigency.