If your life is anything like mine, meetings consume a great deal of the work week, if not your work day. Since meetings tend to take up a lot of our workday we want to protect the time we are investing as much as possible. The final few minutes of almost any meeting can determine how productive your session will be going forward. So, we need to learn how to end our meetings in such a way that it delivers the results we are searching for.
Ending Your Meetings on Time
The most obvious measures of success are beginning and ending your meeting when you said you would. Develop a reputation for respecting your colleagues’ time by staying on schedule.
1. Start on time.
- Depending on your organizational culture, you may be able to enforce strict starting times. People may resist in the beginning, but they will begin to arrive on time and prepared.
- Arrange meetings at the most convenient times possible. Perhaps let it be known that you reward punctuality with donuts.
2. Limit the number of participants.
- Shrink your invitation list to include only those people who really need to attend.
- The conversation will likely be much briefer, and the staff members may feel more accountable if it is impossible to get lost in the noise of the crowd.
3. Pass out an agenda.
- Put together an agenda that informs the participants about what to expect, and what to come prepared to discuss.
- Welcome questions and comments that can resolve issues quickly.
3. If there is reading material, distribute it in advance.
- Let your colleagues read over the budget figures and white papers at their convenience instead of holding up the entire meeting group while they browse through their handouts.
- An additional bonus is that they will pay more attention to what is being actively communicated during the meeting.
4. Do a time check.
- Appoint one person to monitor the allotted time for each topic.
- Adjust your schedule and agenda, if necessary, rather than rushing at the end or leaving unfinished business on the table.
5. Show your appreciation.
- Finishing on time is truly a group effort.
- Thank each of your colleagues for contributing.
Following Up on Meetings
The long-term impact of most meetings depend on what happens afterwards. Ensure that your colleagues leave the room knowledgable and prepared for what they need to do next.
1. Shoot for consensus.
- Follow up is easier when the entire group is on the same page.
- Ask followup questions that encourage employees to express concerns and questions.
2. Create individual assignments.
- Give your colleagues the opportunity to take initiative, and leverage their personal strengths.
- Go around the table so that each of the participants can share what they are putting on their own to-do lists.
- Give out written assignments for any remaining items.
3. Have deadlines.
- People will generally act more promptly if they have a specific deadline for their responsibilities.
- Timelines also make it easier to coordinate tasks that are interdependent.
4. Exchange contact information if people do not have it.
- If your participants come from different organizations, you may want to post contact information at the end of your agenda, on your website or another at some other convenient location.
- In this way your colleagues can stay in touch.
5. Bring your schedule with you.
- It often takes more than one session to hash out the details and reach your goals.
- While you are all still together, check your calendars to pencil in your next meeting or check potential dates going forward.
- Bring your master calendar so you can avoid holidays, major conventions, and other conflicts.
6. Appraise your activities.
- Making your meetings more effective is a complicated and ongoing function that relies on good data.
- Question the participants about what is working well for them and what they would like to see change.
7. Praise progress.
- Share the credit for a job well done.
- Recognize colleagues who have made special or significant contributions.
- Thank the entire group for helping your meetings run smoothly and achieve its desired impact.
If you have grown weary of discussing the same old topics repeatedly, meeting after meeting, learn to close your meetings more effectively.
Clear interactions and expectations about outcomes will help move your objectives forward, and probably have you spending less time in meetings.
Less time in meetings, means more time for action!