Known for her viral blog post “10 Ways to Appear Smart In Meetings,” Sarah Cooper is no rookie when it comes to the art of appearing smart. After working for tech giants including Google and Yahoo!, she knows exactly what people do to make it seem like they’re doing something when they actually aren’t doing anything useful at all.
In anticipation of her new book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying, we’re sharing eight of our favorite pieces of advice Sarah has ever given.
#1 Look smart by drawing a Venn diagram on the whiteboard
Everyone loves Venn diagrams, especially when it comes to arguing about what should be put in each box. This revolutionary illustration will without a doubt start a discussion, during which you can go back to your chair and relax because your work is officially done for the rest of the meeting.
#2 Nod continuously while pretending to take notes during a meeting
Who looks more productive than a person taking notes in a meeting? No one. This shows that you’re actually paying attention, unlike those people who try to hide the fact they’re surfing the web while on their laptop. Write a couple of words you hear people say, or about what you’re planning on eating later. Nodding while you write helps, too, making it seem like you are very engaged in the conversation.
#3 Email reminders to yourself
Not only will you look productive writing an email, you’ll receive it and look even more productive. It’s a never-ending cycle where you can appear to be doing something when really you’re just communicating with yourself. Brilliant.
#4 Use a “sent from my phone” signature that apologizes for typos
Nothing says “I’m reading this but I don’t really want to be” more than “sent from my phone” at the bottom of an email. What’s great is that you can add this to your email even when you aren’t on your phone. Responding with this signature makes you look busy, but communicates that you’re still trying to be productive. Also, this automatically gets you excused from any typos because who has time to proofread an email from their phone?
#5 Wait a week before responding to direct requests, then ask if it’s still needed
Don’t want to do it? Act like you never saw it. If they really need your help they’d ask you directly. After about a week, send a response apologizing for your late response and that the email got buried under a lot of other work. Chances are they will have already found someone to help and you’re in the clear.
#6 Make an analogy that’s so simple it sounds deep
When everyone is trying to figure out the problem, just interject with an analogy about something completely unrelated. In fact, the more unrelated the better. If you start talking about cake, your coworkers will just nod their head in agreement, even though they really have no idea what you’re saying. By being completely off-topic your coworkers will just assume you’re extremely creative and think outside of the box, even if you just really like cake.
#7 If someone comes up with a good idea, say you had the same idea years ago
If someone comes up with an idea everyone seems to like, indirectly take credit for it by saying you had that idea a long time ago. Not only will that make you look smart and ahead of the game, but now you can say you were a part of it, too.
#8 Reward Yourself By Letting Go
Everyone knows how difficult self-control is. So, when you actually accomplish it, reward yourself. Only had half your dessert? Finish the rest of it. Went to workout instead of laying down? Order a pizza. Didn’t buy those new shoes you really wanted because they were too expensive? Get those other shoes you’ve wanted with all the money you’ve saved. Nothing better than treating yourself after not treating yourself to something else, making this one of our favorite pieces of advice. Thanks, Sarah.
If you loved these, you can check out even more in, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying. Find the book & explore more of our favorite tips here.