How to Win in Business

Why this self-made millionaire will only take meetings while playing ping pong

Meetings are often a chore. Stuffed awkwardly into a drab conference room, office workers have conversations that feel tedious and uninspiring.

Self-made millionaire, entrepreneur and author James Altucher has a solution: He meets people for business while playing a game.

"I only meet people playing ping pong, playing poker, playing backgammon," says Altucher, speaking to CNBC.

James Altucher playing chess.
Photo by Pamela Sisson
James Altucher playing chess.

"I have a meeting scheduled for later today playing both ping pong and chess with a guy I do deals with. We're not going to meet in his office," Altucher says. "He thinks he's going to beat me in chess, where he's wrong. And I think I'm going to beat him in ping pong and I hope I'm right. But he thinks I'm wrong."

By holding meetings outside the office while playing a game, you change the dynamic. The person you are meeting with has to be focused on the present moment instead of distracted by the usual barrage of emails, passing co-workers and so on.

"If I go to a CEO's office, he's just going to do his CEO thing. He's going to meet me for fifteen minutes and he's going to get phone calls and assistants bother him," says Altucher.

"If I say, 'Let's meet down the street at the ping pong place.' Then we're playing ping pong and, like, 'Hey, how's the business doing?' He's going to tell me everything.

"If I go to a C.E.O.'s office, he's just going to do his C.E.O. thing." -James Altucher, self-made millionaire, entrepreneur, author

"So that's how you get information," says Altucher. "You get people out of their comfort zone."

The fact that playing games is usually fun also helps to relax people.

"You have fun and so now we're having fun, he's going to tell me everything. We're two little kids again playing in the sandbox so he's going to just tell me what he would tell his friends in the sandbox back in the day," says Altucher.

"It's a different world than being inside the office, when you're in the game world."