Comedian and former Googler Sarah Cooper shared some tricks with Down to Business...
Before turning her attention to comedy writing and stand-up, Sarah Cooper had stints working for Yahoo and Google.
During her years immersed in the US tech world, attending endless meetings, she marvelled at the manner in which her superiors could essentially spoof their way to success and charm any room into thinking they had all the answers.
Speaking to Bobby Kerr on Down to Business, Cooper recalls:
"I think I was always impressed with the VP or whoever was in charge. It was obvious he wasn't paying attention but he just kinda projected this sense of confidence and people thought he was so knowledgeable on everything.
"I was always impressed with people who were able to do that, so I started making these observations about what people did to make it seem like they knew what they were talking about."
Sarah cooper, author and self-styled "demotivational speaker"
Those observations duly noted, she penned a blog post on bluffing your way through any work-related discussion.
Such was its popularity, it soon begat the book 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying. It manual of sorts exposes, she says, "all of the bullsh*t and then gives you advice for adding your own".
Here's a handful of recommendations (to be taken with a handful of salt and sense of humour) she outlined on Newstalk...
"A lot of people are scared to get up to the whiteboard but it's one of the easiest ways to look like a leader. Just get up to that whiteboard and start drawing stuff.
"Sometimes you don't know what to draw so I put into the book 21 different things that you can draw.
"Everything from the word 'vision' with a circle around it [as you explain vaguely] 'we need to do something that revolves around our vision' to drawing 'milestones'. [Essentially] a line from now to launch, with dashes that represent milestones. This will make people think that you know how project plans work!
"You can also draw a pie chart and ask people what are the different pieces of the project that we need to talk about.
"There are some ridiculous things that you can put up on the whiteboard that are really easy to draw and that immediately make you look like you're in charge of the room."
Cooper advises people use the royal "we"... even when you really can't take credit for the actual work:
"You want to talk about how 'we're doing on this' and 'when do we think we're going to be done with this', even though you have no involvement with it whatsoever. It just makes it seem like you are involved in it."
Your colleague Anthony has something important to tell the group? Cut him off just as he's opened his mouth and started formulating sentences to ensure he has everybody's attention. He will definitely thank you.
"This is a great move if someone's giving an update," says Cooper. "It makes it seem like you're really taking control of the room for Anthony but really you're just making it so you don't have to pay attention to Anthony when he's giving his update."
One way to 'enhance your credibility', Cooper argues, is by applying stats and figures to real-world examples, that nobody really needed. So when someone mentions a large number, put it in terms of a city or a country.
"When someone says 'we have 35,000 users this month', you can say 'oh, so about the size of a village in Saskatchewan!'. Everybody will be really impressed with your knowledge of the world census and geography, things like that. And you can just make something up, no one's going to double check!"
Want to get everybody's heads spinning? Ask if you're asking the right questions.
"So you say 'shouldn't we be asking if this ask is the right ask?'. Then if someone asks you what are the right questions, you can just say 'well I just asked one'.
If you want your project to find early favour, Cooper recommends introducing it by comparing it to more successful projects from the past. The grander, the better. So hit that whiteboard again, draw a wheel, then an arrow to an iPhone, then an arrow to an "our latest spreadsheet" widget...
"It makes it seem like your project is just as important and game-changing as those projects... such as the wheel!"
"Which is ridiculous," Cooper concedes, "but it makes it seem that way."
If you're attending a business dinner, it's time to think outside of the box – and off the menu. Ask the waiter for a recommendation, Cooper says, then order something they don't have:
"That makes it look like you're really interested in advice, but you're going to go your own way no matter what anyone says. Which is basically what all CEOs do!"