The Right Way to End a Meeting

How you start a meeting is critical to engagement, and how you end is just as important. The check-out is similar to check-in in that it’s a time to assess where everyone is mentally. The goal is twofold: first, to make sure people don’t walk out of the room feeling unsettled, wanting to say something but never feeling like they had the chance, and second, to reflect on the meeting and learn for the future.

The check-out process is often overlooked because people run out of time, the meeting gets derailed, or the advantages of an effective check-out are simply not understood. However, the potential risks of not having a proper meeting check-out are significant. Without effective and consistent check-outs, you run the risk of participants walking away confused, frustrated or with unresolved questions, unaddressed needs, and unspoken ideas. Any of these could have negative effects, such as participants being unsure of what to do next, complaining to their colleagues, having negative emotions toward the team, or general disengagement. A little time invested in your check-out will go a long way.

No one benefits when people leave the meeting with unspoken thoughts. You can use the check-out to ensure everyone has a chance to clear their minds and put thinking on the table. The meeting leader has gathered this group for this meeting because she believes each participant has an important opinion and perspective. This is the last chance to get it. In this way, check-out can be powerful in creating a positive team culture in which everyone’s voice is appreciated.

A check-out negates the excuse of not having an opportunity to speak. One meeting I attended had a powerful turn during the check-out. A person who hadn’t spoken much during the meeting shared a critical perspective saying, “I didn’t have a chance to jump in earlier. The meeting was moving so quickly that by the time I thought of this, we were already past that point. But I think it’s worth saying now.” What she shared then changed the course of the meeting, prompting us to have a follow-up session and hold off making the decision given this crucial insight. This practice also helps curb hallway talk after a meeting, which is usually negative and counterproductive. The point of attending a meeting is to contribute your thoughts. If you don’t agree with something or you feel like there’s a point that went unsaid or unnoticed, speak up while the group is still gathered. If instead you harbor negative feelings and share them later in side conversations, you’re contributing to an unhealthy team culture. A checkout is the ideal opportunity to say it now, not later.

To facilitate a check-out, use a framing question for participants to respond to. You can do a round robin or popcorn style and ask the group:

  • What else do you want to say before we totally wrap up?
  • Any lingering thoughts or anything else you haven’t yet shared?
  • What’s still on your mind that feels unsettled or unresolved?
  • Any final thoughts?

These questions open the door for participants to share whatever it is that is still on their minds.

Another form of check-out is one in which participants reflect on the meeting. Ask people to identify what went well that supported the group to accomplish your desired outcome and what could be improved at a future meeting. Encourage participants to consider the structure of the agenda, any norms that were present or absent, and any facilitation techniques that were used or could have been. Generally, you’ll want to steer away from individual behavior, especially if it was disruptive (how to address disruptive behaviors is mentioned later in this chapter). To promote broad and reflective thinking, ask questions for people to respond to directly or use a sticky note activity to get people’s thoughts quickly on paper. Here are a few questions:

  • How did the meeting go?
  • What worked that we should do again?
  • What’s still on your mind that feels unsettled or unresolved?
  • Any final thoughts?

These questions open the door for participants to share whatever it is that is still on their minds.

This guest post is courtesy of Mamie Kanfer Stewart.


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