Please read this carefully before you even think of attending any meeting

51 years ago, as far as I can make out, I became Copy Chief of a London Ad Agency.

Many things have changed since then.

Now my title would be something fatuous like Chief Executive Creative Officer.

And the efforts of a procession of free-spending politicians mean my £2,200 annual salary – which funded countless alcoholic lunches, frolics and failed attempts at extra-marital fornication – wouldn’t last me a fortnight.

But one thing hasn’t changed. Even though we only had 80 staff I was always being asked to attend meetings. I attribute much of the little success I have since had to the fact that I quickly learned the importance of turning them down

My technique, which I pass on at no charge, was to say I was very busy but if anyone wanted my opinion on the subject I would write it. I think this beats what Scott Adams suggests below, but you can do some split-run tests if you like and see which wins.

“Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons” — Scott Adams

Years later when I was responsible for the American Express account an otherwise sane and competent senior executive called a meeting to discuss the privileges of membership.

There were quite a few of these, and we had discovered that few American Express Card holders knew what they all were. So the idea was to sit around a table in London and decide which to keep and which to jettison.

People flew in from as far away as Hong Kong for the meeting. I couldn’t wriggle out of going as they were paying so I spent most of the time trying to calculate how much this get-together cost.

It must have been astronomical. It was also pointless.

Such a meeting is no way to arrive at decisions. As Sir Francis Bacon pointed out 400 years ago in his essay “On Despatch”, if you want things done give the job to as few people as possible, and only have a “conference or debate” after they have come up with their proposals.

I was reminded of all this when one of my partners was asked to attend a meeting without being paid about a project not yet funded – and even when someone does cough up the lolly cannot begin until the spring.

If you can’t always follow Scott Adams’ excellent advice here is a ready-made agenda. It is provided at no charge by my friend Ryan Wallman from the fair city of Melbourne … outside whose Royal Yacht Club I was once attacked by an enraged Chihuahua, ruining a sexy pair of trousers I had just had made in Bangkok.

That is another story, but the agenda Ryan has “crafted” (a popular word among the semi-literate) is about brands. It should benefit the countless legions who like to talk endless ill-informed drivel on that subject,.

Do not despair, though. This is a multi-purpose agenda and can quickly be adapted to any topic favoured by the witless such as Social Media, Content Marketing, Thought Leadership, Native Advertising and for that matter Does Jesus Want Me For A Sunbeam?

Agenda – Brand planning workshop*

Time Topic
9.00 Unnecessary introductions
9.15 Presentation of biased market research results
10.00 AWKWARD MORNING TEA
10.30 Some bollocks about emotional laddering
11.00 Breakout groups: Meaningless diagrams on butcher’s paper that nobody will ever look at again
12.00 LUNCH (OPPORTUNITY TO IGNORE EACH OTHER WHILE STARING AT SCREENS)
1.00 Hypothetical game based on an inappropriate military metaphor
2.00 Three hours discussing the tagline ‘Progress is our passion’(more time available if needed)
5.00 Agreement on next steps that will never happen because everybody will be too busy planning next year’s workshop

Breakout groups: Meaningless diagrams on butcher’s paper that nobody will ever look at again

*Subject to change depending on the number of irrelevant digressions by the guy from head office who loves the sound of his own voice.

I hope this has encouraged you to avoid as many meetings as possible, but lest you waver here are the wise words of Dave Barry:

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.” 

About the Author

Drayton

In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.

2 Comments

  1. Reminds me of the classic John Cleese piece, ‘Meetings Bloody Meetings’ which I recall finding very funny and only serves to confirm what Drayton says. You’ll find it on YouTube. Personally, I prefer dictatorship (the benevolent type of course). listen to opinions, take advice, but let one person make the decision and accept responsibility.

  2. Wow and Hello Drayton, I really get it. I really understand what you’ve said. Your modesty about “the little success you’ve had” is a bit much ( I beg to differ, Sir), but it’s so proper and British I just love it. I heard on radio a snip lately. Some man in the middle of Colorado was saying the neighbors all got together with the equipment they had and built a road because the local gov’t said it would take several years and several million dollars to complete and they couldn’t afford this now. The neighbors together did a good job quickly. It serves their needs — for $50,000. Meetings, deep state, governments and kings. Everyone with a self-interest and a desire to screw the other members of society and enjoy suppressing every good idea. If Bill Gates had been Chinese would anyone ever have had a personal computer and software they could use? I think, “no.” So often you and I are on the same page. Thank you for your advice and friendship. sn

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