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1. A conference is a gathering of important people who, singly, can do nothing but together can decide that nothing can be done.

Fred Allen (1894-1956) U.S. comedian and satirist. W. M. Martin was the president of the New York Stock Exchange. Letter to W. M. Martin (January 25, 1940)


2. There were board meetings when my wife was doing needlepoint, on sister was addressing Christmas cards, and another didn’t bother to attend.

Barry Bingham (b.1933) U.S. journalist and editor. Referring to the breakdown of the family media business. Fortune (1986)


3. I find that no matter how long a meeting goes on, the best ideas always come during the final five minutes, when people drop their guard and I ask them what they really think.

Michael Eisner (b.1942) U.S. chairman and C.E.O. of the Disney Corporation. International Management (April 1988)


4. No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there.

  1. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) U.S. writer. The Crock-Up (1945)


5. Meetings  are a great trap. Soon you find yourself trying to get agreement and then the people who disagree come to think they have a right to be persuaded…However, they are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.

  1. K. Galbraith (b.1908) U.S. economist and diplomat. Ambassador’s Journal (1969), ch. 5


6. In a good meeting there is a momentum that comes from the spontaneous exchange of fresh ideas and produces extraordinary results. That momentum depends on the freedom permitted the participants.

Harold S. Geneen (1910-97) U.S. telecommunications entrepreneur and C.E.O. of ITT. Fortune (October 15, 1984)


7. Whoever invented the meeting must have had Hollywood in mind. I think they should consider giving Oscars for meetings: Best Meeting of the Year, Best Supporting Meeting, Best Meeting Based on Material from Another Meeting.

William Goldman (b.1931) U.S. screenwriter and novelist. Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983), ch. 2


8. Meetings-bodies in the same room-are but the most obvious, and a somewhat antiquated, example of the sense in which work is shared.

Daniel Goleman (b.1946) U.S. behavioral scientist, journalist and author. Emotional Intelligence (1996)


9. What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary.

Richard Harkness (1907-77) U.S. radio and television journalist. New York Herald Tribune (1960)


10. Don’t try to manage from any board of directors-or any other kind of meeting.

Robert Heller (b.1932) British management writer. The Super Managers (1984), ch. 9


11. A committee is a thing which takes a week to do what one good man can do in an hour.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) U.S. humorist. Quoted in “Cooperation,” All About Success (Peter Potter; 1988)


12. A manager’s ability to turn meetings into a thinking environment is probably an organization’s greatest asset.

Nancy Kline (b.1946) U.S. author, educator, and consultant. Time to Think (1999)


13. I love meetings with suits…because I know they had a really boring week and I walk in there with my orange velvet leggings and drop popcorn in my cleavage and then fish it out and eat it.

Madonna (b.1958) U.S. singer and actor. Quoted in Vanity Fair (April 1991)


14. I don’t know the statistics, but I’m willing to guess that the executives of corporate America spend 70 to 80 percent of their time in meetings. I do know that most of those meetings…are 70 to 80 percent posturing and leveling…The posturing is gratuitous, and the leveling is better done elsewhere. This alone would enhance U.S. productivity far more than any trade agreement.

Nicholas Negroponte (b.1943) U.S. academic, cofounder and director of MIT Media Laboratory. “Get a Life?,” Wired Magazine (September 3, 1995)


15. Outside of traffic, there is nothing that has held this country back as much as committees.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) U.S. actor, columnist and humorist. Quoted in Will Rogers, His Life and Times (Richard M. Ketchum; 1973)


16. There is no better place in the world to find out the shortcomings of each other than a conference.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) U.S. actor, columnist and humorist. Quoted in Will Rogers, His Life and Times (Richard M. Ketchum; 1973)


17. The length of a meeting rises with the number of people present and the productiveness of a meeting falls with the square of the number of people present.

Eileen Shanahan (1924-2001) U.S. journalist and author. Times Talk (1963)


18. My life has been a meeting…one long meeting. Even on the few committees I don’t yet belong to, the agenda winks at me when I pass.

Gwyn Thomas (1913-81) Welsh dramatist and writer. The Keep (1961)


19. When committees gather, each member is necessarily an actor, uncontrollably acting out the part of himself, reading the lines that identify him, asserting his identity.

Lewis Thomas (1913-93) U.S. academic, physician and writer. “On Committees,” The Medusa and the Snail (1979)


20. A meeting is an arrangement whereby a large number of people gather together, some to say what they really do not think, some not to say what they really do.


21. Any committee that it is the slightest use is a committee of people who are too busy to want to sit on it for a second larger than they have to.

Katharine Whitehorn (b.1926) British journalist. “Are You Siting Comfortable?,” Observations (1970)


22. I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement if one wants to retain any sense of the beauty of life.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish writer and wit. Said by Cecily. The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), Act 2