Big News! We won Ad Age Small Agency of the Year.

June 11, 2020


Samantha Davis

How many gold stars have you collected over the years for surviving a meeting that should have been an email? Hopefully none, and if you’re billing a client for your meeting time, you DEFINITELY shouldn’t have any. But chances are you’ve likely endured one of these this week.

Can we all agree it’s time to do better? The best way to do better is to lead by example. Here are 5 easy things you can do to make your meetings the best ever.

1. Identify the PPP

If you cannot clearly articulate the PPP—Purpose, Process, and Payoff—before sending a meeting notice, you shouldn’t send one. Start including the PPP directly in a meeting notice. It holds you, and all attendees, accountable and ensures everyone is appropriately prepared. This can narrow down WHO should attend (i.e. if a staff member doesn’t have an integral role in addressing any of the PPP, they don’t need to be invited).

  • PURPOSE – Why are we meeting? What are we going to discuss? WHY?
  • PROCESS – How are we going to accomplish this? This often takes form via an agenda, clearly defined speaking roles/responsibilities, and any material needed for a successful meeting.
  • PAYOFF – What is the result of this meeting? What is the deliverable? By clearly defining expectations, you’re adding validity to the time you’re spending together.


Purpose – We are meeting to kick-off the June digital campaign for the client. I have prepared a creative brief to review with the team and answer any questions.

Process –           10m: Review brief – Meeting Leader

5m: Discuss appropriate channels – Social Media Manager

5m: Review timeline – Team

5m: Q&A – Team

Payoff – Clearly defined objectives for a successful digital campaign.

2. No more hour-long meetings. Ever.

Unless you are conducting training, hosting a brand workshop, or covering highly technical information, hour-long meetings are almost always unnecessary. If you have more information to cover than what you can accomplish in an hour, schedule a follow-up at a different time. Here’s another challenge—start scheduling 25-minute meetings. You’ll notice the PPP agenda example above has a total duration of 25-minutes. That’s because:

  • Human beings have an average attention span in meetings of about 10-18 minutes.
  • Your staff needs microbreaks throughout the day—coffee refill, bio break, answer emails, walk around.
  • You’re providing enough time for people to collect themselves before beginning another meeting or task.
  • If your team is scheduled in back-to-back meetings, all day long, you’re not capturing their full attention, and it’s not conducive to a productive work environment. It may seem counterintuitive, but by giving them free time back on their calendar, you’ll fuel more inspiration and creativity.

3. Start and end on time.

Once you move to a 25-minute meeting, you’ll quickly recognize every minute counts. Start the meeting on time, every time. No need for confrontation with straggler attendees—they’ll soon realize what to expect and begin showing up early. And, if you’re giving 5 minutes back to your team, they’ll actually have the opportunity to arrive on-time.

This also means you must end on time. The greatest courtesy you can extend to others is being respectful of their time. Get into the habit of verbally saying during a meeting, “We have 5-minutes left. I want to make sure we end on time.” It signals a level of self-awareness and provides ample warning that a transition is coming.

4. Institute a meeting “parking lot.”

Our industry is chock-full of creative individuals. It’s what I love most about advertising. But this can also provide some real challenges during meetings. Every agency has them—an endearing team member who easily gets off track or carried away from the subject at hand. Don’t mistake—there is huge value in this, but only at the right time and place. Foster this sense of creativity, but effectively. On a whiteboard or on your desktop while sharing your screen, literally write “PARKING LOT.” You may never use it, but if a team member follows a rabbit trail that is helpful, but not relevant at the time, physically write their idea short-hand in your virtual parking lot. You can respectfully say, “I think that’s a great idea. I’m going to write it down so we can discuss later. But I wanted to return to…” and get back on track.

5. Get comfortable being a leader.

The most efficiently planned meeting can crumble without proper facilitation. As the meeting host, it is your responsibility to lead the discussion effectively. This does not mean that you have to do all the talking—quite the opposite actually. You can and should ask team members for their input. Don’t be afraid to assert your role as moderator—this avoids everyone talking over one another, and can give your more passive colleagues the opportunity to speak up. As the leader, it’s also your responsibility to take notes, sum up the meeting before it ends, and send out any follow-ups in WRITING.

Hopefully you’re already incorporating some of these tips into meetings at your agency. If not, pick one and pilot it with a small group. There’s power in numbers, and if multiple employees start to see the pay-off, they’ll join in on the fun and lead by example. Anything I missed? What works best for your team?