Blood pressure alert. Help wanted.

I was at a conference last week and somebody said –

No, wait. I have something important to say. I wish to petition the Devil. Beelzebub, Lord of Darkness – I want a favour. I assume certain people have a special place in Hell. Mass murderers. Conmen who swindle old ladies out of their life savings. The man who came up with ‘paperless office.’ May I add one more?

Once upon a time someone designed a chair. Hotels the world over bought hundreds of these chairs and stuck them in their conference rooms. Then people were invited to sit on them. All day. Through desperately bad speeches. With the air conditioning not working.

Satan, when the designer of that chair is delivered to you, just roast him a little longer, will you? Turn the spit a little slower, fan the flames a little higher. Make him suffer. As I suffered. As thousands of conference attendees have suffered thanks to his never-be-comfortable-again-after-20-minutes chair…

Right, where was I? While I was squirming on my chair, someone came out with that legendary piece of business nonsense:

55% of information in a presentation is visual; 38% is vocal and only 7% is the actual words.

We’ve all heard it, we’ve all heard people who are paid large amounts of money repeat it. Let us be honest, it is complete and utter rubbish. Yet now it seems to have entered the business world as a “truth universally acknowledged” – if I may take Jane Austen wildly out of context. And it’s a truth even more universally acknowledged when you’ve been squirming in the world’s most uncomfortable chair for four hours.

But it simply cannot be true. Anyone who thinks it through for half a second knows it isn’t true. If you want proof, go to Google and type in Mehrabian Myth. The trouble is, some time in the next six months you’ll be in a meeting and a speaker will say, “Studies prove that 55% of the…” Have the courage to stand up and say something.

Let’s hope he doesn’t mention the coalface. Because then you’ll be on your feet again. “I’ve been talking to the guys at the coalface.” No, mate. You’ve been chatting to the useless lumps in the IT department. Probably about football. What else? “We’re going to pick the low-hanging fruit.” Roughly translated as, “We can’t be bothered to do any real work.”

Am I the only one who thinks I might shortly have to reach for the blood pressure tablets? Feel free to let off steam. Let’s build up a list of management twaddle that should never be heard again. Send them to me. I will faithfully record them. And should I ever use them – any of them – in one of my Alternative Board meetings, then I’ll simply invite everyone to the bar, hand over my credit card and take my punishment like a man. Someone who’s not afraid to walk the walk. Oops…



  1. Rob · July 15, 2010

    You’re pushing against an open door here Ed. What is really needed to address the elephant in the room is a paradigm shift to get increased granularity on our best of breed value added proposition. After all it’s not rocket science. Right I’m going offline to swallow the frog and shoot the puppy. Or is it the other way round? lol.

    • edreidyork · July 15, 2010

      Whilst it may not be rocket science, it does tick all the boxes, doesn’t it?!

  2. Len · July 16, 2010

    Presumably because of sins in a former life, I have had to sit through more than my fair share of public sector meetings where a related phenomenon exists known as public sector speak. I too felt my blood pressure rising and I too started to compile a list (we must get out more Ed). After a while it dawned on me that there are no specific mangement speak or public sector words and phrases. They are just normal everyday words and phrases used out of context to make the mundane, simple and straighforward seem exciting, interesting and clever. But then the truth hit me. The real purpose is to make the person using these various forms of “speak” appear exciting, interesting and clever. So maybe we should make a list of the people using the words as well as the words themselves!

    I do hope this brief helicopter view has helped and that it will facilitate more blue sky thinking on the subject.

  3. Margaret Parkin · July 16, 2010

    Love the story – did you write it? Appeals to me of course, because of the connection with storytelling! And I echo the sentiment – someone said to me the other day ‘I’m going to populate my diary….’ I’m afraid I did laugh when I replied, ‘You mean you’re going to write in it?’ He didn’t find my comment amusing. Another beautiful relationship ruined…..

  4. eileenfundraising · July 21, 2010

    Hi Ed – I enjoyed reading your post. And everyday’s a school day…off to find out about “Mehrabian Myth” now.

  5. Tom Morton · July 30, 2010

    Mehrabia? Presumably that’s yet another country which has been renamed since I was at school……. Great blog, Ed.

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