Meetings

by   Steve Roche

Closing a meeting

Every meeting comes to a close and the way you do this can have a significant effect on the benefits to be gained from the meeting.

Review the parking lot or fridge

If you still have unresolved issues from earlier discussions, decide with the group what to do about them. They may be deferred until a further meeting or perhaps given to someone as an action to resolve.

Review the agenda

Summarise what has been covered during the meeting. Identify any items on the agenda not covered, and decide with the group what to do about them.

If it is a regular meeting, identify agenda items for the next meeting and assign responsibility for creating the next meeting’s draft agenda.

Review actions and decisions

Go through the list of main decisions agreed by the group and the list of actions assigned to members of the group. In a sense, the group is delegating tasks to individuals and some of the processes described in the topic on Delegation will be useful. The key here is gaining each person’s commitment to the action steps.

Check with the recorder

If you are using a recorder, check whether they have any questions or need clarification on any issue in order to write up the minutes or notes. Ideally, they will have been seeking clarification as required during the meeting.

Who needs to be sent output?

You will often find in a business setting that there were people who did not attend who should nevertheless be sent the meeting output. It pays to ask those present if anybody else needs to be sent output as they are the most likely people to know.

Anecdote

The Intel Corporation has been cited as an organisation that takes meetings seriously. There are posters on the walls of meeting rooms with questions like

  • Do you know the purpose of this meeting?
  • Do you know your role?
  • Do you have an agenda?

And for after the meeting...

  • Why was I here?
  • What was resolved?
  • Was I well prepared?

Evaluate the meeting

Get some feedback from the attendees on how they think the meeting went, and how it could be improved for next time.

You can use a formal feedback form or you can simply ask questions. Whatever you do, keep it very simple and very quick. The meeting is over, and people want to move on the next thing in their busy schedule, another meeting, or simply going home. You will not get good feedback if you ask for too much.

You could choose a few from among these questions

  • How do you feel about the meeting?
  • How were the pace and tone of the meeting?
  • How was the agenda?
  • How effective was the interaction among people?
  • Did you feel that your contributions were valued?
  • What might we do differently in future meetings?
  • How well did we
  • stay on the subject?
  • respond to one another?
  • communicate?
  • resolve conflicts?
  • reach consensus?
  • Was this meeting worth your time?

If the meeting is one of a regular series of meetings, at the beginning of the next one, you might mention the way the last meeting was evaluated by the group and suggest a specific aspect of ‘meetings skills’ to focus on during the current meeting.

Ending

Many business meetings seem to end in a very vague way with people gathering up their things and wandering off. If you can, stand and say a few words to formally close the meeting and thank people for their efforts. This helps people leave with good feelings about what they just done. An inspirational word or two about decisions taken during the meeting would also not go amiss.