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PAUL BOUTIN — Butt-numbing meetings happen everywhere, but Valley culture gives you extra tools — to dig your own grave. Let's put down the BlackBerry, then, and pick up SVUG's action items before your next two-hour status review.

How do you make an insufferably long meeting more insufferable? Give everyone a Wi-Fi laptop and a smartphone. Any Valley meeting over 90 minutes these days resembles a wireless cafe — two or three people talking to each other while everyone else catches up on email. Such conspicuous inattention will come back to bite your career, so always remember what you look like to everyone else at the table:

  • DON'T bring your BlackBerry. Are you the CEO? No? Then don't act like one. Eyeing your smartphone and thumbing it while others talk says "I'm not listening." The gadgets are addictive — try to leave one lying silent on the table for an hour of milestone updates, and you'll end up Googling the song lyrics in your head. Better to leave the superphone back at your desk and sit at your meeting empty-handed, unlike the local tech manager who got an SMS from the VP across the table: PAY ATTENTN THIS IS YR JOB.
  • DO bring a laptop. You can use it to "take notes" while others ramble and rehash. Preload some text-heavy reading material into one window — something that won't make you laugh out loud — to stare at thoughtfully, instead of staring into space. Check behind you, though. Your screen's reflection in the conference room window may be bright enough that it's obvious you're cruising Boing Boing.

More to the point, these are only coping strategies. The best use of your mandatory meeting time is to boost your career with SVUG's one-step method:

  • Take notes. So counterintuitive, it actually works. Taking notes keeps you alert and focused. It pressures speakers to think before they drone on. And it's far more cred-building than tuning out, which you'll inevitably do if you try to just sit there.

Best of all, the same meeting notes that keep you awake will eventually bail you out of a tight spot. "Let me check .... nope, Dave told Mike at last Tuesday's one o'clock that there were three issues with customer signups, but he didn't mention lead generation problems." Wasn't anyone else here paying attention?