Perfecting the Close

By Heather Baldwin

Few things in the corporate world are worse – and less productive – than a meeting that runs longer than it should. Not only are you now cutting into the time that attendees may have had other things scheduled, but your team – especially those with tightly packed schedules – will likely be expending more energy looking at their watches and wondering when things are going to wrap up than they are on concentrating on what’s being said. With that in mind, Robert Miller and Marilyn Pincus, in their book Running a Meeting That Works (Barron’s Educational Series, 1997), offer a four-step process for wrapping up meetings effectively and on time:

Designate an official timekeeper. Every speaker should be notified ahead of time how many minutes he or she has to speak. A timekeeper should be identified to ensure speakers stick to the allotted number of minutes. Miller and Pincus suggest using color-coded flags as a silent reminder to speakers about how much time they have remaining. For instance, a yellow flag could be used to signal “two minutes left;” a red flag to signal time is up.

Prepare to conclude the meeting. Ten minutes or so before the end of the meeting, signal that things are wrapping up with an announcement such as, “Let’s wrap it up, folks. We have to be out of here in a few minutes.” Your announcement should get participants in a closing mindset and starting to think about the actions they’ll need to take after the meeting.

Wrap it up. In the final minutes, summarize what was discussed, what decisions were made, what business was not addressed and what actions will now be taken by whom. Deliver your comments with energy and enthusiasm, as this is when participants will be tired and ready to move on.

Express Appreciation. While most participants won’t have had a choice about attending the meeting, it is nonetheless a good idea to thank them for their time. Miller and Pincus suggest a comment like, “Thank you for your contributions and the time you’ve taken to think about what we’ve discussed. Your help is appreciated.”