10 Ways to End Your Meetings On Time

We have all been in the meeting that won’t end.

(Or the interview from eternity…)

So, when things just keep going, how do you know when to stop?

How do you end the meeting that won’t end?

Why Are We Still Here?

If you work in a corporate environment, then you have probably been in too many meetings.

Most companies suffer from meeting-itis. Long and never-ending meetings.

But, do you really want to keep your highly skilled, highly paid team locked in a conference room while people debate the outcome of the latest reality TV episode?

Or some other trivial topic?

“The boss may feel that everyone in the meeting wants to hear about his expensive fishing trip…

But, many of his team are thinking about how they are going to finish their work…

And pick up their kids on time… make it to that date tonight… or just get home at a reasonable hour.”

When the meeting is over… it needs to be over.

How to End The Meeting

Ending meetings is easier said that done.

Some companies have a culture where anyone can call a meeting (very dangerous!) and every meeting is considered mandatory.

Meetings should: Have a purpose… be on the calendar with adequate notice… and be prepared for in advance.

And of course, they should end on time.

Here are 10 Ways to End the Meeting:

  1. Time is Up – Set expectations up front that the meeting will end at the designated time. No exceptions. If the time is exceeded, schedule a follow-up. Work fits the time allowed,  and you will be amazed how much more productive a meeting can be if there is a set end point.
  2. Use a Visible Timer – Some groups have a meeting timer that is visible to all. This may sound a bit extreme, but it really keeps meetings moving! People will be more likely to stay on topic, and it becomes very apparent if someone is “running down the clock.”
  3. Stop When the Work is Done – I have seen hour-long meetings where the task at hand took only 9 minutes to complete. What happened next? The team spent the 51 minutes chatting about nothing just to fill the time. When the work is done, so should be the meeting.
  4. Allow People To Leave – Productive companies allow teammembers to leave when they need to. By setting this expectation in advance, individuals can excuse themselves with impunity.
  5. Ring the Bell – We use them in sports and school. If you must, set an alarm. When the bell rings, the meeting is over. Maybe our office buildings should have chimes that ring ten minutes before each hour. Hmm, doesn’t seem like such a bad idea…
  6. Work the Agenda – The vast majority of corporate meetings have no agenda. That’s like setting off on a trip without any idea where you are going. Set an agenda in advance or wait to meet until you have one.
  7. Use a Moderator – Very few companies use this method. However, an impartial moderator can keep things on track. Ironically, executive teams are one of the groups that can benefit the most from this suggestion.
  8. Regroup at a Later Time – Avoid letting the meeting run over and interrupt other obligations. If there is more work to be done, set a follow-up meeting. Most projects can benefit from a meeting break to allow teammembers time to take action on tasks.
  9. Stand Up for Overtime – When the time is up, all participants must stand for any overtime conversations. If you want faster meetings in general, try a “standing meeting.” People tend not to waste time when they are standing.
  10. Excuse Yourself – One of the best ways to end a meeting? Excuse yourself. (See #4) “I have another meeting” is a magical phrase. If you leave just because you don’t want to waste your time, then people get offended. But, if you have a another meeting…that is OK!

It’s Time To Go

When the meeting is over, it’s time to go.

Hold meetings to the allotted period.

Ensure that they end on time.

These simple actions will increase your meeting productivity dramatically.

Don’t stick around for the never-ending meeting.

When the meeting is over, the meeting needs to be over.

Question: How do you make sure that your meetings end on time? Are never-ending meetings a problem at your company?

8 thoughts on “10 Ways to End Your Meetings On Time

  1. A visible time is a great way to make everyone aware in the meeting how things are moving forward. It also makes everyone get to the point.
    Another tip is set a clear outcome for what you want to achieve in the meeting (the main reason for the meeting). It’s similar to an agenda, except that everyone should be aware that everyone should contribute to finding a solution within the designated amount of time.

    1.  @Thanh Pham I like this… having a clear outcome lets every one drive towards that success point. 

  2. For me, the best tips are a combination of 1, 3, and 6. These are all parts of good chairmanship – to me that is the essential way of managing a meeting to not just make sure it finishes on time, but also that it achieves as least as much as it set out to. If the chair is amazing a meeting can also reach a conclusion beyond where anywhere there thought it could before it started. That is great productivity (though the only examples of this I have heard are people like heads of state or Martin Luther King Jr).

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