I am going to ask a hypothetical question based on an actual conversation that took place in my house.

Say you have a 10am work meeting. People start arriving (either in person or Zoom) at 9:55. Maybe five of ten people are there.

Do you sit in silence and wait for the meeting to begin?

or

Do the people engage in idle conversation?

If you choose to have idle conversation, what do you choose to talk about?

Are there any topics that should be off limits during these times?

What about sports? In these pre meeting downtimes, is sports an acceptable topic, or is it too narrowly focused for general population?

In my most recent book clubs, both on Zoom and in person, we filled the down time talking about the weather. I know there are a thousand jokes centered around talking about the weather, but is there a real reason why we use it as a fallback- because it is comparatively safe to discuss with people you may or may not know well?

When we think of meetings we usually think of work related, but obviously you can have a meeting about anything. Do you have different types of conversation depending on whether or not the meeting is social or business?

Inquiring minds want to know: pre meeting chit chat- yay or nay? What’s the skinny?

101 thoughts on “Filler

  1. Given the innumerable subjects that may now enkindle a Jane or Joe, small talk is a broadcast no go. Just assume the personality of a paper cup and fill any pre-showtime with a studied device-gazing indifference.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Weather is one of the things that everyone has in common. If you ask “did you catch the game last night?” and everyone else says no, then the conversation stops. Weather is a good lead-in for other things.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Good point about why we always start with weather….I think with sports…the olympics is ok. Talking about football the first week of the season is probably bas

      Like

  3. Hi LA !
    The idle talk, or small talk, or chit-chat, actually has a formal name. It is called phatic communication.

    Yes, we are wise to engage in it. It is an accepted way to show that we are polite, and willing to engage with others. 🌼

    Liked by 4 people

      1. LA – I’m a volunteer court observer.
        Lawyers also use phatic talk when examining a witness on the stand.
        But this time, they are not being sociable !
        They ask general questions to determine the general speaking speed and patterns of a witness

        If someone choses to lie, their speaking patterns change, and a trained observer can detect the change. 🤗🌷

        Liked by 5 people

      1. It can depend. Sports has been a good one for me if it is a work meeting and I know the people are fans. In library world, books can be a good topic. Weather is easy. General chit chat about life and what people have been doing.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Have we lost the art of “reading the room”? If everyone around you has their heads buried in a device seems pretty obvious they are either uninterested or uncomfortable attempting small talk to fill time. I will generalize here a bit, but it seems to me that older participants are usually more willing to chat. The younger the person, the more deeply buried into devices they seem to be…

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I suppose it depends on the ages of the people in the meeting. I find generally that younger people don’t engage in or don’t know how to do social chit-chat or small talk as it used to be called to break the ice, probably a result of inexperience and always being tied to their devices. Just an observation I’ve noted, I’m not millennial bashing here.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I don’t usually talk before the meeting…I use the time to do something else at my desk until they are ready. If it is a meeting with people that I am very familiar with then we might chit chat and then everyone does something else while we wait for the rest to join and the meeting to start…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Zoom has meant meetings with people from all over the country, and extreme weather has provided plenty of fodder for comparison, sympathy, etc. The backgrounds of people’s screens are also subject to comment, so long as it’s admiring. “Love your library,” or “Is that a genuine Picasso?” Etc (It probably isn’t, but will often elicit a story.) Just being genuinely interested in other people provides options for conversations. Politics and COVID have been done to death and should be avoided at all costs. At least, in my meetings. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

      1. People get offended so easily. I though if this topic because my two neighbors (female 40s) said that sports should never be a pre meeting topic because not everyone cares about sports, etc

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yet, there are people who are offended by it…so feel they’re being ignored…so, I guess my question is, how do we bridge the divide

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have this every week before my Toastmasters meeting begins. We have some chitchat, some people turn off their camera to attend to something else. We are definitely have “phatic” convos!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I have a childhood friend who sells Cabi clothing. She’s had zoom meetings throughout the past year and a half. She fills the silence by introducing us to each other. Good question.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Conducting Zoom classes last semester put me in this situation. One option was to just have my photo visible until the absolute last second before class began. The other was to actually try and engage with the Generation Zers who were brave enough to turn on their cameras. I do try and engage with them simply to try and get a better understanding of them….so they are not just names and student numbers. The conversations are fairly superficial but it’s my goal to appear approachable and not just a talking head. So, I guess I lean towards the small talk, chit chat filler. And this generation needs to learn the art of in-person interaction so why not capitalize on their out-of-comfort zone?! 😆

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Right before the pandemic when my group of recently retired teachers met for lunch each month, the minute we were seated we went around the table and each person filled us in on what was new in their lives. It was a couple min. From each person and we shared news on ourselves, our kids, grandkids, or anything at all. We never picked a subject, just an update on each of us. By the time we were done everyone had arrived. I really liked this approach. When I met for my book club people wanted to rush through book discussions to talk about their lives so if I ever go back to a book club I would do the way my lunch bunch did it. I was also involved in a zoom group with teachers from an earlier school I taught in and we did something similar. Everyone opened with updates. I have no idea if that’s a teacher thing, or not. We even played some cool brain teaser games at the end of that group. There are all kinds of ice breakers you can use. But to discuss a particular topic seems rather restrictive in a way.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Arrive earlier for a meeting (LOL). The company I work for everyone is 5 mins late so I start meetings on time and dont accept questions from late arrivals on topics already discussed. As for the blog topic, I am 5 mins early and engage the others (usually only 2 other people) about weather, family, vacay plans, the meeting topic, anything in general. Religion, Politics, Current Events are off limits.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. What I’ve learned to do is appear for the virtual meeting like 1 minute before. I hate idle chit chat.

    However, if I’m hosting, like I did last weekend, then I look at the person or their surroundings and say something. Here are real examples:

    C—you’re letting your hair go gray? That’s awesome!
    A–you giving us hot-girl summer vibes, girl???
    T–glad to see you on time today girl!

    Yes, I’m THAT friend lol

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This comment made me chuckle! 😀 If someone said that last comment to me, I would find it funny but some of my colleagues surely wouldn’t!! I’d love to try that though and see what their reaction is! 😉
      At my company, everyone arrives 1 min before it starts. Never before thought it might be due to awkwardness regarding chit chat!!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I never do. I speak to everyone! In our personal friend once a month meeting thing, there are only five of us. I always speak to everyone and notice something personal about them.

        In office meetings, I’m silent until the meeting starts.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. This started because my husband was talking to two neighbors (women in late 40s) and they both said sports is a no no topic pre meeting because it’s too specific…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that’s a little selfish as it’s not going to be too intense a conversation as it’s pre meeting it’s the same as people talking about tv, what if you don’t watch it? Not every conversation is going to be tailored to suit everyone, but maybe I’m ok with it because I, introverted and like to observe and listen.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. But if you are at a work meeting and talk about something that can be considered inclusive are you creating a hostile environment?

        Like

      3. I don’t think so. Sometimes people break off into smaller groups sometimes people are just drinking their tea or coffee and waiting. Talking about something nit everyone is interested in and deliberately excluding people are different.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Well that’s always going to depend on the individual isn’t it. Personally I think it’s selfish to expect everyone to cater to your interests all the time but if you genuinely felt like it was being done purposely it would be something to raise with a colleague or manager.

        Like

  14. I always focus on the fact that a zoom meeting is a business event, whereas a zoom gathering is a social event, and act accordingly. I think the tone is usually set by the host and, as a host, I act differently dependent upon the type of event.

    If chit chat is led by the host, there are numerous anodyne subjects you can always fall back on – the stuff typically talked about at the hairdressers/barbers for example. There’s a vast difference between the choice of a subject which is potentially boring and one which is potentially offensive. I believe there’s a lot of nonsense spoken about people being easily offended. People are offended when others say or do something that is offensive to them. If a person finds themselves causing offense unintentionally, then some thoughtful reflection on the subject and manner of their speech/behaviour, is likely in order.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Pre meeting, a co worker asked how someone’s child was doing. Another co worker too offense that they weren’t asked. Someone complimented a hairstyle…someone else was offended that someone made a comment about personal appearance in the workplace. These are real life situations that forced departments to have meeting with HR about appropriate workplace talk. I wrote this blog based on a convo with two neighbors who said you should not talk about sports pre meeting because it’s not fair to those who don’t follow sports.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the people offended by the sports question need to chill out. I personally could care less about sports. It’s not my thing. I rarely even watch the super bowl. But, I’m not offended if others discuss it. Nor would I bothered if others asked about someone else and how they were doing. Honestly, people get too darn offended by everything under the sun. .

        When my son drives me to the infusion center for chemotherapy he is often driving while plugged in either on a zoom meeting or an audio meeting on his phone in the car. He takes me to and from chemo because after a full day I’ll be too sick to drive . So he works in the car while helping me out. (yeah, he’s a great son).

        Since he’s the boss at work and even while driving, I’m just a passenger in the car and so I quietly listen. His workers know he’s in the car. Sometimes on a work call he may mention he’s driving his mom to chemo. It’s not uncommon then for the person on the line to make a polite comment sending him well wishes to his mother. Other times it’s a work person I may know since I volunteered at his foundation, (created an educational curriculum for them) and worked in their spoken word poetry program with students before I got sick. Those people will make a pleasant comment to address me and then discuss business with my son. People make polite comments. It’s called social etiquette. It’s kind and polite.

        In my opinion I think way too many people these days let their emotions run away with them. We live in a society now where everyone gets too upset and bothered by everything. It’s like everyone is on edge 24/7. Folks need to lighten up. We can still be polite to one another. We also need to stop being so self centered. Everyone doesn’t need to coddle everybody else. However, there is something called social etiquette. Harmless chitchat is sometimes necessary in group settings. Otherwise do an icebreaker or let everyone give a brief update. But seriously, nobody needs to get upset unless the topics become sexist or racist. And in a business setting that’s unlikely.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree with you…but there’s a very vocal group who does want to pounce on everything. And as the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease…I wish people would lighten up about certain things…but it’s going the opposite way…

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I try to get online onetime so I don’t have to deal with idle chitchat unless necessary. The weather is a good topic that doesn’t usually get heated (lame pun intended). I usually stay quiet if I’m early unless someone calls me out into the conversation. I’d rather just chill on the sidelines than fight to get into the fray of chitchat.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I nearly made reference in my original comment to the “professionally offended” and “perpetual complainers” and see now that was an error. Unfortunately both these type of people exist and they give those who are genuinely offended – with reason – a bad name. People whining because they’re not the centre of attention, or finding fault with any and everything, are in a special category of their own. In a business scenario, HR needs to deal with them firmly, because there’s no place for this type of behaviour in a professional environment. In a personal environment, the only option is to starve them of their oxygen – attention – and with luck, they’ll move on of their own accord.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Everyone needs to be heard, but if their complaint is either patently ridiculous or out of line with company policy, then they need to be told that professionally and firmly. Admiring someone’s haircut is a long way from making inappropriate comments about a colleague’s physical attributes for example. There are those who will take any & everything to extremes if allowed to do so. When you can’t rely on people to behave with common sense, there has to be someone to apply it – and in a work environment, that falls to HR.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Sometimes. Depends on the context. How many people are in the meeting, what’s the outcome of the meeting, etc. If it is an internally facing meeting, meaning no other clients/community members, chit chat, I think is fine with some boundaries, which take some time to establish…

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I don’t mind a chit chat before hand. I think it depends on how well you know the audience, and if you’re picking up from where you left off.
    Sports is fine, movies, events in your local town, weather etc it can vary time to time. At the same time, I’m up for not taking part until the meeting actually starts depending on my mood

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Weather and sports are relatively safe topics. The big no-nos are politics and religion. I’ve seen familes and friendships break up over such topics. People can get really rabid about their views. So yeah, anything but… 🙄

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I say yay. I don’t really have an opinion about the subject. It beat sitting a room staring silently at whoever else may be there with you doing the same thing. I like having the option on Zoom to mute and turn off video of myself if I want to.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s