Do You Really Need an Hour?

If You're So Good at Getting to the Point, Your Meeting Shouldn't Last So Long

By Published on .

Darryl Ohrt
Darryl Ohrt
We've been conditioned to create elevator pitches for our brands. Why can't we take the same approach in meetings?

It's become an unwritten corporate rule that every meeting must be an hour. Conference rooms are booked one hour at a time, presentation decks are designed around one hour of time, and our internal clocks tell us that this meeting should last for just about sixty minutes. Why?

We've shortened our text-based lives to 140 characters on Twitter. Short status updates on Facebook. Mobile text messages that get right to the point. It seems that business communication is moving at 140 characters a minute, until it comes to the conference room, where everything. Must. Take. An. Hour.

At our agency, we don't have a capabilities deck. When we have a first-time meeting with a client, we'll talk about our agency for about 20 minutes, while showing a couple of examples of relevant work. Any more would be a bore. And if they're allowing for an hour of time, we'll spend 40 minutes listening to them.

I've found that most clients are too busy to spend significant time listening to pitches anyway, so they've done their homework in advance and know that you're capable prior to ever accepting your meeting. The majority of what I've seen in agency capability decks is already covered on the agency website. (And if it isn't, it should be.)

Are most creative solutions so complex that they need more than a few minutes? If our fantastical creative solution to a client's problem can't be conveyed within 20 minutes, perhaps it's time to do a little refining. Someone in our industry once said that if you can't explain your commercial concept to your mom in a single sentence, then it's too complex. Agency meetings could use a little thinking like this.

Pecha Kucha is an organization that creates events featuring multiple presentations, each 20 slides, for 20 seconds each. In under seven minutes, people communicate real ideas, pitch their companies and sell themselves. It's possible. You don't need an hour.

Meet or Die, a site where "lousy meetings live on forever," is devoted to the very topic of meeting waste. The site went viral within a week's time because it's something that every office worker identifies with. Everyone knows it, everyone jokes about it, but nobody's doing anything about it.

I know for most, this is an impossible dream. It would require radical changes. Like only inviting decision makers to a meeting. Or admitting that everyone in the room isn't required to contribute. (We're adults now, and we don't all need "a turn" in the meeting.) And I'm not naive enough to believe that every meeting could be culled down to 20 minutes. But what if eight out of 10 could?

Here's an idea: Look at your calendar today, and attempt to shorten every meeting. Start with "I'm pressed for time, so let's just try and keep this to 20 minutes or less." I think you'll be surprised at what can be accomplished, without all of the clutter.

In the meantime, if you need me, or want to know more about our agency, give me a shout. And just 20 minutes.

Darryl Ohrt is a former punk rocker and chief contributor to the greatest blog in all of the land, BrandFlakesForBreakfast. While his business card says he's "band manager," Darryl prefers to call himself an internetologist. Darryl knows just enough to be dangerous. He's on the internet right now, playing, investigating and exploring. Watch out.
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