They say that in life, it’s not how you start that counts, but how you finish. And the same is true for your meetings at work! Whether it’s a regular weekly sync or a critical project kickoff, you want to leave a lasting impression on meeting attendees that clearly sums up takeaways and next steps.
But what’s the best way to do this? Should you rehash everything you just covered — and risk boring your team members with petty details? Or should you breeze through a recap, even if it leaves some attendees with questions?
It’s hard to come up with the perfect blueprint for the end of a meeting, so there are several strategies you can use depending on the situation. These tips will help you close your meetings more effectively so that your team can collaborate smoothly and work towards success together.
- Summarize Key Points
By summarizing the key points towards the end of the session, you ensure that everyone is on the same page, reducing the risk of miscommunication and future confusion. You’ll reinforce the decisions that have been made, the insights you’ve all learned, and the path forward so you can all make progress.
To do this effectively, take brief notes throughout the discussion and keep track of decisions and action items as they’re made. As the meeting draws to a close, run back over your notes to give everyone an overview of what was covered. For longer meetings or complex topics, it might be helpful to bring in a visual aid, like a whiteboard or shared screen. For instance, if you’re sharing a conference room, you can quickly write down a bulleted list of the key points on the whiteboard at the end of your meeting so that they’re visible to everyone.
- Assign Action Items and Deadlines
Assigning action items and deadlines is a crucial step in transforming meeting discussions into tangible progress. Without clear task assignment and scheduling, even the most productive meetings can lead to little real-world progress. By assigning tasks with deadlines, you bring clarity to the roles of individual team members post-meeting and provide a timeline that holds each person accountable.
To facilitate this effectively, meeting facilitators should make note of actionable items as they come up in conversation and assign them before the meeting ends. Make the assignment explicit — mention the responsible person's name, outline the task clearly, and set a realistic deadline. At the end of the meeting, confirm that the assignees understand their tasks and deadlines to avoid confusion later. This approach will ensure everyone leaves the meeting with a clear understanding of their responsibilities, driving the team towards its goals efficiently.
- Facilitate Open Feedback
Facilitating open feedback is an integral part of running effective meetings. It ensures all voices are heard and valuable perspectives aren't missed. Moreover, it fosters a culture of inclusivity, encouraging employee engagement so that everyone can contribute to the discussion.
To implement this, facilitators should ask for feedback before wrapping up the meeting, if there’s time at the end. This can be as straightforward as asking, "Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas to share?" or "How could we improve our next meeting?" To help employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, acknowledge any feedback positively. Try to incorporate their suggestions on the specific project or in future meetings where it applies, so they can see the results of their feedback.
- Schedule a Follow-up
Scheduling a follow-up helps maintain momentum post-meeting for ongoing projects. It provides an opportunity to review progress on assigned tasks, address any issues that come up, and keep the team aligned towards common objectives. A well-planned follow-up ensures that the efforts invested in the meeting translate into tangible results.
To put this into practice, plan for the follow-up as one of your final meeting tasks. Based on what you need to accomplish next and the deadlines you’ve assigned, identify an appropriate date and time for the next check-in or meeting. The follow-up doesn't necessarily need to be another formal meeting — it could be a quick check-in call or an email thread, depending on the nature of the tasks. It’s also good practice to schedule the follow-up before you even conclude the meeting to ensure all participants are aware and can plan accordingly.
- Avoid Overtime
Respecting the established meeting timeline and avoiding overtime is critical to running effective meetings. People spent about 70% more time in meetings across the board in 2021 compared to the year prior, according to data from Reclaim. It’s really important not to add to that time by extending the meeting length unexpectedly. Running over time can lead to participant frustration, decreased engagement, and the sense that meetings are a waste of time. And it can infringe on other commitments that people have, creating a ripple effect of delayed tasks and meetings throughout the day.
Try to wrap up your discussions several minutes before the scheduled end time so that you can plan for a hard stop. Use this time to summarize key points, assign tasks, and answer final questions from your team. If necessary discussions remain, instead of extending the meeting, schedule them for a later time or a subsequent meeting.
- Send Out a Meeting Recap
To help your participants reference everything that was discussed and decided during the meeting, your last official meeting act should be to send out a meeting recap. It acts as a written record that can be referred to later, reducing the chances of miscommunication or forgetfulness. Plus, a recap can be especially beneficial for those who were unable to attend the meeting, as it keeps them in the loop and aware of any decisions or action items that may affect them.
If you need, you can delegate this task to a designated note-taker, asking them to keep track of important points throughout the meeting. The recap should include a brief summary of the agenda items, key takeaways, decisions made, and a clear list of action items with assigned responsibilities and deadlines. Facilitators should send out the recap email within 24 hours of the meeting’s end, while the discussions are still fresh in everyone’s minds. Additionally, they should encourage recipients to reach out with any questions or clarifications, ensuring open communication and mutual understanding of the desired outcomes.
Better Collaboration Can Shape Your Employees’ Wellbeing
A seamless team meeting structure doesn’t just help improve your process flow or your team’s productivity. It also helps improve overall collaboration and connection among team members, which is essential to strengthening wellbeing throughout the workplace. Research shows that strong social connections and support can reduce stress, improve overall risk for health issues, and help people lead happier lives.
There are plenty of ways for you to create more opportunities for connection and team-building, both inside and outside of your meetings. For instance, you can create space for your peer recognitions and employee spotlights, so that employees feel recognized for their work — and so that their peers are encouraged to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Group exercises like escape rooms, guessing games, andscavenger hunts can all help build that personal connection, too.
Don’t forget about the other elements of wellbeing, too, like physical fitness, mental and emotional wellbeing, and nutrition. You can help your employees feel supported in each of these areas by offering dedicated resources as part of a wellness program. Learn more by speaking to one of our wellbeing specialists!
- Kohll, Alan. (January 31, 2018.) 5 Reasons Social Connections Can Enhance Your Employee Wellness Program. Forbes. Retrieved July 3, 2023 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/alankohll/2018/01/31/5-ways-social-connections-can-enhance-your-employee-wellness-program/?sh=41ac2df7527c
- Productivity Trends Report: One-on-One Meeting Statistics. (November 2, 2021.) Reclaim. Retrieved July 3, 2023 from https://reclaim.ai/blog/productivity-report-one-on-one-meetings
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.