Business meetings are important, regardless of the business you're in. You might have a simple staff meeting to go over the details of a new product. It could be a meeting of the board of directors to decide on major issues for the company. You might even be meeting with a potential new business partner. Regardless of the reason, you want to make sure that your meetings go smoothly. Unfortunately, that's not always easy to accomplish.
Even after you go through everything on your agenda, you still need to wrap things up neatly and conclude the meeting in a way that will see things getting done. If you struggle with this, you might find yourself looking for some reference of company business practices to show you how your meetings should conclude. While there is no simple company meeting bibliography or other overall reference to tell you how to pace your meetings, with a little bit of planning you can find the perfect conclusion all on your own.
Starting at the Beginning
Instead of just looking for examples of how to conclude business meetings, stop and consider what your meeting is about. What are the topics on the agenda? Who is going to be attending the meeting? What's the overall purpose of the meeting? The better an idea you have regarding how things will go, the more likely you are to come up with the perfect conclusion for your meeting.
Take the time to draft an outline of the meeting, highlighting the major points that will be covered so that you'll have a clear understanding of what you hope to accomplish. Each of these points needs to be fully addressed during the meeting and everyone in attendance needs to understand them when the meeting is done. By taking the time to highlight the key points specifically, you can develop a plan for the meeting that will result in a natural conclusion once that understanding is reached. This will also help you determine the pacing of the meeting itself, especially if you have a lot to cover.
Build Toward the Conclusion of Meeting
All of your key points and supplemental material need to be covered fully between the start of the meeting and conclusion of the meeting. Since you've already determined what those points are, you can arrange your notes so that each key point is addressed separately and given enough time to be fully understood. This will divide your meeting up into more manageable blocks, giving you a chance to build toward a natural conclusion over the course of the entire meeting.
When addressing any particular point, make sure that it is covered fully and that its "block" reaches its own conclusion. Take the time to ask and answer questions to ensure that everyone at the meeting has a good understanding of what was covered related to that point. Once you've wrapped up that point you can then move on to the next major item on the meeting's agenda.
Since every point has been covered in full, you can reference back to the conclusions of the individual points to reinforce them at the meeting's end. This not only ties the blocks together as part of a larger conversation, but also reinforces the understanding that everyone has concerning the meeting's topics.
Manage the Conversation
Building toward a natural conclusion works when the meeting progresses at a good pace. It can fall apart if things get off topic, though. This is why it's important to manage the conversation during the meeting, asking questions or making statements to guide it back to the topic at hand if things start to go off track. Research suggests that the average attention span is only around seven minutes long, so it may take a lot of correction to keep things heading in the right direction if your meeting is long.
Managing the conversation is about more than just making sure that everyone keeps talking about the topic at hand, however. It also involves making sure that each person at the meeting is heard when they have something important to say. By giving everyone a chance to say their piece when the topic is something they have expertise or insight in, you can ensure that no comments or questions go unsaid. This is vital to establishing that understanding which is the overall purpose of your business meeting.
Watch the Clock
It's difficult to plan meetings down to the minute because you never know exactly what's going to be said within the meeting itself. Planning out key points and outlining the meeting discussion is important, but some meetings will go long while others will wrap up quickly. The more control you can exert over this, however, the more effective your meetings (and their conclusions) will be. As the scheduled end time of a meeting gets closer, knowing when to streamline your topics or start wrapping things up will help you to end on a positive (and punctual) note.
This means that you should find ways to stay mindful of the time and how the meeting is progressing. Setting an alarm on your phone, fitness tracker or other device that you can keep on your person is one way to do this, especially if it's something that you can set to vibrate instead of ring. The vibration can serve as a warning that you only have a limited time until the meeting is supposed to end; you might set it to go off 10 minutes before the scheduled end time, for instance. Just make sure that your timer or alarm is subtle enough that it won't cause a disturbance while giving you the heads up.
Bring It All Together
There's a good chance that you covered a lot of material in your meeting. Even if everyone understood the individual points that were made, it's very important to conclude the meeting by going over what was discussed one more time. You don't have to dive deep into each point; instead, just do a quick review of the points and the general takeaway from each block of the meeting. This ensures that nothing gets lost in the conversation simply because something bigger came later.
This is also a good time to ask if there are any additional questions about anything that was covered in the meeting. It's possible that someone came up with a question after the topic had moved on to another block, and if you don't give a call for additional questions then that question might go unasked. Recapping the meeting and giving a chance for additional questions and input ensures that everyone is on the same page and understands exactly what's going on.
Getting Everyone Involved
Regardless of the meeting's topic, the goal is to have everyone in attendance leaves with the same sense of purpose and understanding. To facilitate this, take a moment to recognize everyone's contributions and thank everyone for coming. You can also have a round of "next action" questions, asking everyone their thoughts on how to move forward from what was discussed. This gets everyone involved in the decision-making process and also ensures that everyone knows what should happen as a result of the meeting's discussion.
This is important, as it helps to end things on a positive note. Even a meeting where things became heated can end relatively well if you take the time to address what went wrong and make a genuine effort to let the affected parties have a voice in where things should go. Even if the answer is simply having another meeting to address the problem, ensuring that everyone has their say and understands what comes next will give you a positive way to wrap your meetings up.
- Always remain polite and professional during all meeting phases.
Jack Gerard is a freelance writer and editor with over 15 years of experience writing about topics related to business and finance. His body of work includes copy for small businesses, how-to guides for entrepreneurs and even editing and copy work for international corporations.