"Sorry, I was in a meeting" sounds so much more impressive than "Sorry, I was setting up a PCR" even if the latter is way more work. Even "I am running a PCR" is more impressive than "I am setting up a PCR."
For my non-science-geek friends "running" a PCR pretty much means that you put a few tubes into a machine and pressed start. Then the machine runs for like 2 hours (for what I do.) Setting up the PCR, though, can take way longer. This is when you figure out how much of each, err, stuff you put into the aforementioned tubes. Being very careful not to contaminate anything and watching your concentrations. Anyways, you get my point. Though running is easier it sounds better.
I guess what it comes down to, as many things in science does, is PhDs and grunts. (For my purposes I will lump all interns, techs, and grad students in the grunts category.) Basically the PhDs form a hypothesis and design the experiment. The grunts actually carry out the experiment and many times analyze the results and maybe even make a poster or two. The PhDs then write a paper on all the work "they" did and get the credit. Although, to be fair, our names do appear on the publications.
So I guess that is what makes meetings more impressive than actual work. In meetings you are busy thinking and shit while those who are not smart enough to do all this thinking are working. I suppose it is similar to the business man who is meeting with clients over drinks while his maid is cleaning his house.
What I need to remember is I make more money than many of them and went to school a whole lot less. So who's the smart one now??