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The 5 Funniest Business Meetings from Movies in the 90’s… and What We Learn from Them

As mentioned in previous posts, I love movie quotes. Shared at the opportune time, with a recognizable voice, and targeted at an audience even somewhat familiar with what you are referring to, a movie quote can make more observations, teach more lessons and, more often than not, draw more laughs than anything else you might share in 30 or even 60 minutes. That is because a movie quote conjures entire story lines already familiar to the listener.

The same can be said about movie scenes themselves. They are funny not just because of what the characters say but because, if you have seen the movie, you immediately understand the nuances of each word and action of the various characters, enhancing the humor.

Here are a few well-know meeting scenes from the big screen of the 1990s, followed by a lesson or two I believe we can draw from each for the next strategic planning, board or other important meeting you might just have coming soon. Grab some popcorn and a notepad for these gut busters from the 90s, in chronological order:

  1. Big (1988 – Tom Hanks): No, the movie did not actually come out in the 90s, but that is when most of us probably saw it for the first time on TV or video.
    When a 12-year old boy gets his wish to be a 30-year old man, his journey takes him through many hilarious and insightful scenes across New York City. After being hired by a toy company executive, he quickly works his way to the top by sharing his 12-year old boy insights openly and honestly. In this scene, contrary to the studies and the reports being presented, his statement, “I don’t get it,” starts a critical conversation that helps the company avoid marketing a disastrously terrible transforming toy. To their credit, the company president listens patiently and the other executives ask their own insightful questions before coming to a consensus on a different type of product.
    Takeaways: Important business meetings need to allow for open dialogue and honest differences of opinion. From such differences spring revolutionary ideas.
    Have fun with this one at
  2. The Santa Claus (1994 – Tim Allen): After being chosen to fill the role of the world’s next Santa Claus, Scott Calvin arrives late to a business lunch meeting with the other executives from his toy company employer. Adjusting physiologically to becoming a jolly old elf, Scott has gained enough weight overnight that the only clothing he has that fits are sweats and an overcoat. However, that is not the problem. The ordering of food at the meeting becomes a distraction when Scott gets a sudden hankering for cookies and milk and plenty of other sweets.
    Takeaway: Hold the food for breaks if the meeting is expected to go beyond 90 minutes. For shorter meetings get the eating out of the way ahead of time or wait until later. From a presenter’s point of view, I can tell you that clanking silverware and crashing plates are not the ideal background noise for keynote and breakout speakers trying to hold everyone’s attention. Still, sometimes it is unavoidable.
    Check this one out at
  3. Tommy Boy (1995 – Chris Farley): I have heard it said that closing a sale is the simple transfer of enthusiasm for a product or service from the sales person to the prospect.
    In Tommy Boy, when the inept son of a late business mogul tries his hand at pitching a product to an executive, his enthusiasm gets the best of him. Actually, everything seems to get the best of him. Chris Farley is at his best in the classic comedy.
    Takeaways: Be prepared for your meeting, including having appropriate visuals. Respect the space (and property) of others in the meeting. I am all for having fun in meetings, but you should probably avoid setting things on fire.
    Try not to split your side watching this one at
  4. Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery (1997 – Mike Meyers): When super villain, Dr. Evil, returns after 30 years of cryogenic sleep, he is ready to regain his claim to being the earth’s ultimate bad guy. Having been out of touch with his trade for three decades, he was unaware that what he considered a world-sized ransom of one million dollars was hardly impressive in his new world.
    Had he asked for input before announcing his plan, his henchmen could have saved him a lot of embarrassment.
    Takeaways: Planning meetings are not the time for the strategy of, “Ready, fire, aim!” Involve everyone.
    Enjoy at
  5. Liar Liar (1997 – Jim Carey): When an aspiring attorney comes under a spell that requires him to tell the truth, no matter what, his antics in the board room result in an irreverent roast that shocks and  wows the execs. Be forewarned, the language can be offensive.
    Takeaway: Don’t let your planning and board meetings become too formal. Stuffy meetings will put a sock in creativity every time. I don’t recommend vulgarity or offensive insults, but humor and fun can and should be part of business and planning meetings.
    Laugh along at

The next time you are getting ready for an important business meeting, planning session or board meeting, make sure you watch one or more of these clips ahead of time. If your meetings get too dull or stodgy, it’s time to bring in a professional. After all, how much would one successful creative idea be worth to your organization?

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