So often meetings feel like yet another necessary evil of doing business. At the end of a meeting, we observe quick exits, zoned-out looks, and the whispered utterances, "Well, that was a waste of time" or "Thought it would never end."
Perhaps you've been doing all the right things--planning meetings with a purpose, creating well-thought-out agendas, and keeping your team on track while the meetings are going on--but you still find your staff or co-workers pretty checked out.
Here are seven great ways to close meetings that can take the blah out of them, and leave everyone feeling as if the time spent wasn't so bad after all. By trying some of these strategies, maybe your staff or co-workers will actually be inspired, feel heard and needed, and maybe--just maybe--look forward to the next meeting.
1. Don't let it drag on
Productivity cannot begin and goals cannot be met sitting in a meeting! Set your timer for a few minutes (10 is good) prior to the meeting's scheduled end. Once that timer goes off, summarize the outcome of the meeting with the time remaining. Are there still people anxious to share their views? Encourage those individuals to send you an email with their ideas so you can place them on the agenda for the next meeting or get back to them in person. Most important, end the meeting on time--don't let it go on longer than necessary.
2. Keep it positive
At the end of each meeting, highlight the positive contributions your team has made. This is your "make everyone feel good" moment--make sure everyone leaves feeling good about something he or she accomplished or contributed to the meeting or the company as a whole. Let everyone know how incredibly successful you felt the meeting was even if it means highlighting the one good thing that came out of it.
3. Be nice--like you mean it!
We know most meetings end with head nods, handshakes, and other bland niceties. Why not end the meeting with a sincere "thank you for coming," a sincere handshake with eye contact, or lighthearted conversation about anything but work or the company's future?
4. Neutralize a touchy meeting
Is your meeting going to end with hurt feelings? Sometimes, for change to occur, things have to be said in meetings that may rub some the wrong way. Or conversations get heated when the blame game begins. If you have a meeting that goes south and feelings get hurt, end the meeting by acknowledging what is and isn't working and, most important, acknowledge the hurt feelings of members of your team before going on to next steps.
5. Redirect a pointless meeting
We have all been in that meeting where, halfway through, you're finding it extremely hard to find any semblance of the original intent. There is a lot of pointless conversation, daydreaming, and fidgeting going on. Because you don't want this gathering of your team to be a total waste of time, end the current conversation as quickly (but sensitively) as possible, and then ask your team members to take a couple of minutes to think about those pressing things they would like to discuss further. Jot down their ideas for the next meeting's agenda, or make plans to meet with them one-on-one after the meeting, and then move on.
6. Open up the meeting
So often meetings are dominated by a few. Save 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each meeting to give all team members an opportunity to add a comment and have their say without interruptions--this is their time to speak. This will make them feel heard and could possibly open some eyes, and the door, to new possibilities as the meeting comes to an end.
7. End it with action!
Toward the end of your meeting, briefly list the action steps that need to take place to move the company or your team forward. Remind everyone where the company is headed--the big picture. End it with a genuine smile and enthusiasm for the future.