You know how a gymnast loses major marks if they don’t “stick the landing?” That’s how you should think about your meetings. I don’t care how many flips and twists you get in, if you don’t stick the landing, they don’t count.
It’s fascinating to me how much time is invested in meetings and yet how little investment is made in ensuring the meeting translates into action. And when I say “fascinating” it’s in that euphemistic Canadian way that really means “mind-boggling, ridiculous, WTF?!?”
You won’t find me on the bandwagon of people who love to vilify meetings. The mission statement of our company is to “help people achieve amazing things together.” It’s hard to achieve amazing things together if you’re not willing to be together occasionally. In fact, after reading an article that made meetings seem worse for you than smoking or playing in traffic, I wrote this article in their defense.
What I am keen to do is to improve the structure of meetings, better match the frequency and tone of meetings to their purpose, and add a few healthy behaviors that make meetings more efficient and effective. One of the best things you can do to make your meetings more effective is to end them properly.
That’s not usually what happens.
Instead, with about 10 minutes left in a meeting, just as people are getting twitchy and starting to think about what they have next (probably another meeting), that’s when someone tables a new item with no forewarning. “Oh, hey…” (it usually starts with a casual “oh, hey, while I’ve got you…”) I call that “throwing in another twist” and it’s tempting, but it’s a bad call because it makes it way less likely that you’ll stick the landing.
The problem with skipping a proper meeting close is that attendees aren’t clear on what they’re accountable for and therefore less likely to fulfill their obligations. Not only does that compromise the productivity of the team, but it also starts to erode trust when team members start to worry that they can’t count on one another to deliver.
Instead of rushing off at the end of a meeting with no proper closure, reserve 10% of any meeting to stick the landing. That means if it’s a 50-minute meeting, stop with 5 minutes left. If it’s been a 2-hour meeting, save 10 minutes.
End Meetings Properly
Project the Plan
Onto the screen, project the running tally of commitments that you made during the meeting. (You’ll need someone taking notes throughout so that it’s as simple as them sharing their screen.) If anything is unclear, clarify it. If there’s a plan without a champion or a deadline, assign them.
Set the Next Agenda
Next, decide what issues from your meeting will need a follow-up and decide which meeting agenda they will get assigned to. Highlight any topics that need attention so that you’ve got time to prepare before that discussion.
Agree on Communication
Decide what messages from the meeting will be communicated and spend a couple of minutes making sure that you’re aligned around important language. Determine what will be said, to whom, by whom, and by when. If the note taker documents this, the notes can go out immediately.
Evaluate the Meeting
Finally, take 30 seconds to evaluate whether the meeting had the right content. Don’t be shy to say if something could better have been addressed through an email and make sure to recognize anyone who did something that contributed to an effective meeting.
Then, when you stick the landing, you can throw your arms to the side, puff out your chest and do a giant ta-da! Not only did you do some amazing acrobatics but you also stuck the landing.