Closing a Meeting
- Q: How can I politely leave a meeting I can’t contribute to or learn from?
A: At an appropriate point in the meeting (e.g. at the end of a topic on the agenda), ask the chair if you may be excused, explaining that you have something else important to attend to
- Q: Is it appropriate to ask to be excused from a meeting where a colleague is being reprimanded?
A: Yes, if it is a small meeting – then you can suggest to your boss that the matter might be better dealt with on a one-to-one basis
- Q: How to leave a meeting before the end if it runs over work hours?
A: There are several considerations here:
- If you know in advance the meeting is due to run over work hours, you might want to ask your boss whether you can leave before the end. Then either you or your boss should ask the chair if you can depart before the meeting ends.
- If the meeting was due to finish within work hours but overruns, you can ask the chair if you can leave on time – you may need to explain your reasons (e.g. catching a bus, sharing a lift), as this may also be true of other people in the meeting. It is up to the chair to decide whether to continue with some participants leaving, or to stop the meeting on time and arrange another meeting to cover the rest of the agenda.
- If you need to make a contribution and that point in the meeting hasn’t arrived before you need to leave, you should raise this with the chair to see if the agenda can be reordered so you can make your input before you leave.
- In general, it boils down to good communication with the chair (and your boss, if relevant). And it’s best not to leave those discussions until just before you need to leave – try to have the conversations before the meeting starts, or as soon as it is clear the meeting is running over.
- Q: What is the best way to sum up at the end of a meeting?
A: This is usually the job of the chair, but if the chair doesn’t sum up, it’s OK to give your own conclusions and invite others to comment.
A good way to sum up, is to pick out the main points of agreement from your notes, noting who has agreed to take on each action and giving the people nominated an opportunity to disagree. It is also good practice to invite comments on your summary, and ask if you’ve missed anything important.
It is not a good idea to give a blow-by-blow description of the meeting – remember you should be summarising!
It’s also a good opportunity to ask for feedback on how the meeting went and what could be improved in future.
- Are there any advantages to having a team ceremony to close a meeting?
A: This can be a good way of promoting team spirit. But you need to ensure that everyone is on-board with it – if some feel left out or not inclined to join in, for whatever reason, you might find the team ceremony becomes divisive rather than inclusive.
- Q: How do you close a meeting that has been very successful and productive?
A: Although the temptation may be for mutual back-slapping, remember there is always room to improve – and that the next meeting might not be so successful. So it is worth taking a moment to review the meeting and to see what can be carried forward to make future meetings just as productive, as well as highlighting any areas for improvement.
- Q: Is there a different process for closing a meeting that has been very conflicted / emotional?
A: The most important thing is to recognise the feelings of those involved. This can be difficult and uncomfortable, and one of the barriers to that can be your own feelings. You may need to confront risky interpersonal issues and doing this effectively is a skill most people have to learn and develop.
Reviewing this type of meeting is more important than most – you certainly wouldn’t want to plough into the next meeting with the same group without acknowledging and evaluating what happened. Even if you find a full review before closing too difficult, it could be helpful to ask each attendee to highlight a positive facet of the meeting before leaving.
- Q: How does one determine what will be done by whom between meetings?
A: During the discussions it usually becomes apparent what needs to be done. If not, the chair should prompt for what actions are required. It is normally best to leave the question of who should be responsible for any given action until after the meeting has agreed what the requirements are.
- Q: Is it beneficial to have a closing round with no debate or discussion to finish the meeting?
A: The best thing to do just before the end of a meeting is to run through all the points of agreement and any agreed actions (the chair normally should do this), and then to confirm the date of the next meeting (if any). Hopefully both can be done with minimal debate and discussion. A good way to draw the meeting to a close is to review how the meeting went – asking for feedback from all the attendees.
- Q: How does one close a meeting on time, consistently?
A: It is good practice to have a nominated time-keeper for the meeting – in larger meetings (say, more than 10 attendees) this should be a separate role from the chair or note-taker. This person should be responsible for making sure that agenda items don’t overrun, and for getting back on schedule if the meeting starts to run late. As the meeting nears its end the time-keeper can let everyone know how much time is left, which should ensure the meeting closes on time.
- Q: How much time should be spent on the issues of who does what meeting actions?
A: This will depend on the type of meeting. If the meeting is action-oriented (e.g. a kick-off or progress meeting), this will probably take a reasonable portion of the meeting – especially if who does what is not clear. The discussion of who should take the various actions can be very important and should not be skimped.
It is also worth remembering that actions are more likely to be completed efficiently if they are given to the willing; and that asking everyone to do something usually means no-one takes responsibility for it!