How to Know When It’s Time to End Your Meeting

How to Know When It’s Time to End Your Meeting

No movie has to be three hours long. Even with a great storyline, it’s inevitable that some shots, scenes, and even whole characters can be fully cut — ultimately resulting in a tight, truly engaging piece of cinema.

It’s the same for super long meetings. As many project managers know, meetings often go way longer than they need to. Either because they weren’t organized properly, they go off track somewhere in the middle, or the meeting organizer just doesn’t know how to adhere to a hard stop.

That’s why it’s so important to have a plan to end your meeting on time, and let people get on with their lives for goodness sake.

Now, if you’ve been following along with our mega-series — a 10-step guide to planning the perfect meeting — you’ll know we’ve finally reached the suspenseful conclusion with Step 10: Know when it’s time to call it quits!

Here are some go-to tips for ending that meeting when it’s time to go:

  • Set a timer and stick to it. No, it’s not a race. But using a simple timer can help you stick to your meeting agenda, avoid tangents, and stay on task. Remember that any side convos or interjections that aren’t directly related to the meeting goals can be handled in a breakout room or post-meeting chat.  
  • Bake a closing chat into your agenda. To ensure you end on time and without rushing, designate 5-10 minutes at the end of your meeting for closing remarks and questions.
  • Address next steps. Make sure meeting participants have a clear idea of what’s next by providing actionable next steps, whether they’re deliverables, follow-up meetings, or project deadlines.
  • End early if you’re done. Again, don’t direct a three-hour movie that could’ve been a tight 90 minutes. If you’ve completed your agenda early and given everyone an opportunity to contribute, just call it quits. People can always use that extra time to review their action items, check on emails, prepare for the next meeting, or just grab a snack break.
  • Wrap up on a positive note. Even if your meeting was a bit fraught or frazzled, you can always close it on a positive note by thanking participants, acknowledging contributors, and reviewing what’s been accomplished. This can help improve team morale and set a good tone for the next meeting or project goal.

As leadership expert Peter Economy wrote for Inc., “Productivity cannot begin and goals cannot be met sitting in a meeting! Set your timer for a few minutes (10 is good) prior to the meeting’s scheduled end. Once that timer goes off, summarize the outcome of the meeting with the time remaining. Are there still people anxious to share their views? Encourage those individuals to send you an email with their ideas so you can place them on the agenda for the next meeting or get back to them in person. Most important, end the meeting on time — don’t let it go on longer than necessary.”

Finally, Charlie the Proggio office dog also has some important feedback to share for this topic: “I don’t fully understand object permanence so if those people are in that room for more time, this does not matter to me. Unless they come out with snacks. Then let’s wrap this meeting up, guys!”

To recap, here’s our quick, actionable tip for Step 10: Just like you should have a strategic plan to start your meeting, you should also have a strategic plan to end it. Use a timer and agenda to ensure you’re staying on track with your meeting goals, and wrap up with key takeaways and actionable next steps — so everyone is prepared for what comes next.

Ready to hold more effective project management meetings for your team? Learn more about Proggio.

Want to catch up with the rest of our guide? Check out Steps 1-9 here:

  1. Decide if you really need the meeting.
  2. Plot your talking points and goals.
  3. Invite the right people to attend.
  4. Prepare your data and real-time reports.
  5. Have a plan for staying on topic.
  6. Anticipate disruptors at every turn.
  7. Transform a passive audience into active attendees.
  8. Fuel up with snacks and drinks.
  9. Test your tech ahead of time.

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