How to Successfully End a Meeting

November 1st, 2013

How often have you walked away from a planning meeting feeling optimistic about the future, only to watch all the accomplishments of the meeting unravel within a day? How many times have you stepped away from the table believing all the participants were on the same page, only to find out that you were wrong…very wrong? These problems aren’t just annoying hassles; they’re time wasters. And of course, time is money. Make sure the important conversations at the heart of your meeting only need to happen once. Start by keeping these tips in mind.

Timing Matters

The most important way to keep your meeting effective is to tune in and recognize when it’s time to wrap up. Saying the same thing ten times instead of one won’t help if your listeners are glazing over by the third repetition. Deliver your message, listen to the others at the table, move confidently through your agenda, and know when it’s time to close the books. Don’t get lost in minutiae or allow the meeting to be hijacked by those who don’t want to return to their desks.

Repeat Instructions

Effective meetings end with a list of action items. Make sure each participant knows exactly what will happen next and who will hold responsibility for which tasks. Make sure each player knows where to turn with questions and requests for help.

Establish Deadlines

Knowing what to do is only half the battle. Each team member will also to understand her personal deadlines and the ongoing timeline of the project as a whole. If tasks will be subdivided into deliverables with individual deadlines, clarify the requirements for each step.

Obtain Clear Buy-In and Clear Commitments

Don’t accept weasel promises, unless you want to. If participants accept responsibilities and deadlines with phrases like the following, ask them for more direct commitments:

“I’ll try to deliver this by Monday.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“This seems doable.”
“I’ll look into it.”
If participants can’t commit, encourage them to clearly decline. Either way, all parties should know exactly what to expect when the deadline arrives.

Don’t Forget Non-Verbal Details

Employees and managers are often coached on the art of the professional greeting, which starts with a firm handshake and clear eye contact. But the professional goodbye is just as important to a successful agreement or conversation. Don’t just let the meeting dissolve. Ask if anyone needs further clarification on any issue, then state clearly that the meeting is over. Thank everyone for their time. Reaffirm when you’ll meet again. Make clear eye contact as you say good bye. If the group is small and the relationships are formal, shake hands before you part ways.

For more on how to conclude a successful meeting with no threads left untied, reach out to the NC staffing and management experts at PSU.

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