3 Secrets to Cut Your Meeting Time in Half

3 Secrets to Cut Your Meeting Time in Half Photo

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/diego_cervo

“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”  –Thomas Sewell

How many meetings do you find yourself in without a clear objective?  Does the meeting organizer fool anyone when he is unprepared?

Years ago, I was introduced to the concept of the “three P’s” at a Wilson Learning sales training seminar.  It was introduced as an effective sales tool.  Throughout the years, I have used the three P’s as a way to conduct effective meetings of any kind.  It isn’t just a sales technique.  It can be a way to save a lot of time and energy and focus the meeting on the objective.

What are the three P’s?  Purpose.  Process.  Payoff.

Purpose.  Why is the meeting taking place?  What is the goal?

Process.  How are we going to go about the meeting?  Is it a discussion or a presentation?  Do you want me to read something or watch something?

Payoff.  What’s in it for me to sit through the presentation or join the conversation?  What’s the expected outcome?  This is the benefit statement, designed to show why the meeting is worth the time.

The technique should not be a fifteen-minute starting point at the beginning of a meeting.  It should be no more than a minute and possibly even emailed before the meeting.

The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings. -Thomas Sewell

Here is an example of how it can be used in almost any situation:

The purpose of this meeting is to review the concerns Sara raised in her email about customer response to our new product offering in Europe.  I want to show that her concerns have been heard and we have extensive plans in place.  What I want to do is walk you through three slides on the status, show you the results of our customer survey, and then have us agree on our monthly goals and the ownership of the next steps (process).  If everything works out, Sara will feel good and our payoff will be clear objectives, an agreed-upon plan, and increased sales (payoff).  Does that sound good to everyone?

At various times, I have required the purpose, process, and payoff in advance of scheduling a meeting.  The discipline is particularly beneficial for people or organizations accustomed to long meetings with numerous attendees without a clear purpose.  Try adding the three P’s to your permanently scheduled meetings and you will find many of them are unnecessary.  Here’s an observation:  If the purpose is “information sharing,” then you can almost always cancel the meeting.  Add up the people in the room and approximate the hourly cost of the meeting.  It is cheaper to share information in email or other means.  When a meeting I am running doesn’t go as planned, I almost always find the fault is that I neglected to think through the three P’s.


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