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Virtual First | Effectiveness Kit

End a meeting well

We’ve shared what it takes to prepare for and deliver an exceptional meeting if you decide that’s the right way to move a piece of work forward. But! Have you considered that how you end a meeting is just as important as how you start one? The key to a great meeting is being prepared for how it’ll end, and knowing that wrap-up routines must start at least a few minutes before the end time. 



Step 1: Begin with the end in mind

Don’t schedule a meeting without a clear idea of what success looks and feels like one minute after it ends. Be bold. Write “outcome” or “the end” at the top of your meeting agenda document to align participants right away. This visioning exercise is like driving a boat — you tend to wind up where you look. Know in advance if you want alignment, answers to questions, or to assign actions. 

Step 2: End on time

Ending a meeting on time is a great way to earn trust. As the meeting facilitator, honoring the end time you all agreed to shows that you respect participants’ time and attention. It also affirms participants can join future meetings you schedule without worrying whether it will end on time. 


The key here is to watch the clock — and know that many videoconferencing tools have built-in timers to remove the manual burden. When you’re ten minutes out, alert folks to this reality. 


Highlighted in our learnings as a lab for distributed work, a recent Economist Impact survey showed that shorter meeting blocks and more frequent breaks can improve focus, quality of work, and overall well-being. While distributed work may result in more screen time, ending meetings on time can provide more break opportunities to stay refreshed and productive.

Step 3: Clarify who does what, and through what medium

A key reason for using a documented agenda in meetings is it makes wrapping up much easier. With a few minutes left, write down action items and owners — this helps to create clarity and drive results. But don’t stop there. If you’re able, note which items will need a meeting and which can be handled async — and default to async where possible. 

Bonus: Speedy Meetings

Pretty much every calendar tool now offers a setting that reduces half-hour meetings to 25 minutes and hour-long meetings to 50 minutes. Show up as a hero and activate this setting. Either start the meeting late (for example, 2:05pm - 2:30pm) or end it early (for example, 2:00pm - 2:25pm).
From Dropbox

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Check out these other practices from the Virtual First Toolkit: 

Writing 101
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3 easy wins

Build the habit

  • Tomorrow: Call out when a meeting is ten minutes from ending, then again when it’s five minutes from ending.
  • Next week: Practice speedy meetings! Give yourself a breather. 
  • Quarterly: Be able to count on only one hand how many of your meetings went over schedule.