March 25, 2009

Friggin’ Meetings

Filed under: Operations — Joe Grant @ 4:20 pm


You can’t get everything done, you’re rushed, the clock tic-tocking its hot breath down your neck? You’re probably wasting your time in too many friggin’ meetings.

Agencies are especially prone to blow off hours in gangbangs. And talk about piling up unbillable hours! Try this from an article I wrote a while back called Please, Not Another Meeting:

. . .bring a calculator to the next meeting you attend, punch in the hourly rates of the people in the room, and do the math. Now multiply by the number of meetings your company has per week. If you have the courage, calculate how many unbillable hours are wasted every year.

Look, we need meetings of course. Nothing beats the exchange of ideas, counterpoints, and the rapid evolution of ideas that a spirited in-the-flesh discussion engenders. Especially in our business where you often have to show stuff – layouts, pictures, concepts, or my personal favorite: the raw entertainment of seeing creatives act out an idea for a broadcast spot.


Where many meetings go wrong, I’ll posit, is that too often they’re prompted only by the convener’s need to cuddle. That’s right – cuddle. Because there’s a certain comfortable feeling which meeting callers get (usually the boss because underlings rarely initiate meetings above their pay grade) from herding everyone to the conference room a la Michael Scott in The Office so attendees will act like a metaphysical Snuggie, wrapping him in warm assent and copious slobber about whatever.

But like all Snuggie wearers, when the boss stands up his whole backside is exposed. There’s nothing there. How many times have you left a meeting and said, “What just happened? What the hell was that all about?”

Giving Good Meeting

Take note. Effective meetings have 4 essential elements:

(1) Explicit task – what exactly we’re doing here

(2) Desired outcome – what we want to say we’ve accomplished when the meeting is finished

(3) Written agenda – it’s obvious, but how many times have you piled around the conference table without one? Put it on paper, a chart pad, or whiteboard.

(4) Leader – well, duh. This ‘battle captain” keeps attendees focused and on time.

I’ll bet the last meeting you attended didn’t have more than 2 of the above imperatives. And there are more. Like making sure only the right people are in the room, that everyone is a contributor, setting a hard ending time so you’re forced to reach conclusions, and assigning next steps. It’s all spelled out in Please, Not Another Meeting.


We’ve also put together a little downloadable poster to help you make meetings more effective. Feel free to frame and hang it anyplace in your agency that you gather to cuddle.

To tie this off with something memorable I looked up a bunch of quotes about meetings and found the perfect one from that great philosopher, Dave Barry:

“Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot masturbate”.


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  1. Every meeting should calculate in ADVANCE the cost/benefit ratio for the meeting.

    How much is this meeting going to cost in labor time used?
    (No. of attendees X average hourly rate per attendee X time length of meeting)

    What is the value of the benefit from this meeting?

    Cost/Benefit of meeting.

    Is it worth it?


    Tom, aka “Yankee Doodle”

    Comment by Tom McTigue — March 26, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  2. This post is great, I can relate – just had a meeting like this on Wednesday. Although an agenda was present, it was not used and the so-called “leader” was not doing much of anything. I love the meeting room sign but I will have to see if I have the courage to distribute it!

    Comment by KellyCo — March 27, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

  3. Kelly – Thanks for commenting. Maybe instead of posting the room sign you can pass out copies of it and at least get a conversation started about making your meetings more efficient and productive. . . and then suggest to your colleagues that you post it. Joe

    Comment by Joe Grant — March 29, 2009 @ 9:12 am

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