We’ve all been there. The business meeting is winding down and everyone is eager to get to the door. In the midst of the palpable urgency to check email, run to the next meeting, or get back to the “real” work, the leader ends the meeting hurriedly with no real closure, scrambling to get in a few last words as the team scampers for the exit.
It’s a scenario that plays out every day in meeting rooms around the world. It’s also a huge problem that diminishes the effectiveness of your meetings. Similar to our discussion on opening your meetings in Check-in: 3 minutes to more effective meeting conversations, ending your meetings with a check-out can dramatically affect the results of your business meetings.
A check-out allows participants to contribute final thoughts and ideas, voice lingering questions or concerns, and reflect on the meeting results and process. Reserving the final 5 minutes of your meeting for an intentional check-out will enable everyone to walk out the door knowing what was accomplished and feeling engaged.
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.
In order to ensure appropriate closure to your business meetings, be sure to achieve alignment of process, people, and outcomes.
Encourage team members to share what is on their mind and ensure all voices are heard. Ask questions such as: How do you feel about what was achieved? Are there any lingering questions, concerns, or unresolved issues? Are there any highlights or acknowledgements you want to share?
Have an honest exploration of the meeting effectiveness. Reflect on questions such as: Did we cover everything we were planning to discuss in this meeting? Is everyone in agreement with the decisions made in the meeting? Is everyone clear about the next steps? Did we achieve our desired outcome(s)? (If you are covering multiple topics, you can check on agreements, decisions, and tasks at the end of each topic rather than covering them all at check-out.)
Explore the meeting process with the participants. Ask and answer questions such as: How did we do as a team in this meeting? Did the process help us achieve the goal? If not, what can we do differently next time?
Your meeting’s check-out does not need to be lengthy or laborious. A short, simple, and effective check-out can be achieved by implementing these four suggestions:
Allocate time for the check-out on your meeting’s agenda. Schedule the final five minutes of the meeting to do your check-out. (A good rule of thumb is one minute per participant.) Be sure to keep the check-out discussion within the meeting timeframe, and highlight it as an important part of the team meeting.
Acknowledge whether the desired outcomes have been achieved. Also, get commitments for tasks and ensure each task has an owner and due date. Make sure everyone is clear on the decisions made to avoid rehashing the discussion in the future.
Ask open-ended questions so participants can contribute whatever is most pressing for them. Questions can be general like, “Is there anything on your mind that you haven’t had a chance to share?” or specific such as, “What can we change to be more effective in our next meeting?” The most important thing is to provide space for each person to share.
Things shared during the check-out period are often insightful or offer ideas to enhance future meeting experiences. Be sure key takeaways are acknowledged, captured, and shared in the meeting notes for future reference.
How do most of your business meetings end? Are they closed effectively? Which of these suggestions do you plan to try in your meetings? Share your experiences in the comments below, and if you have check-out procedures that you think would benefit our readers, we would love to read about them.