Options for closings in facilitated events
Closing activities bring an end to the thinking of the meeting, the social dimensions, the future and are often symbolic in nature.
- This depends on the type of closing, see examples in instructions
Closings have several functions in a meeting many of which are ignored or done unconsciously.
The Intellectual Closing:
- The content of the meeting needs to be brought to closure. The idea is to have people walk away with some sense of what happened. This can be done by the person chairing or facilitating the meeting summarizing the topics covered.
- It reaches a conclusion about the topics of the meeting or workshop. It is important that everyone hears and understands what decisions or plans were made. The chair person can restate the conclusions that were reached.
- It deals with unanswered or unresolved questions raised during the session. In the course of many meetings issues that are not on the agenda are raised. A common practice is to use a "parking lot", a flipchart on which is listed these issues. At the end of workshop it is good to read those items that were raised and ask how they are going to be dealt with.
- Meetings often generate materials that have to be distributed. Given modern technology they can be printed and distributed at the end of the meeting in some cases. If this is not possible participants should be told when they can expect to receive these materials.
- Meetings have a social dimension as well as topics. If people have traveled to the meeting and it is over some days many people will begin thinking about getting home. It may be useful to check about travel arrangements and so forth before people have to pop out to deal with them.
- Most meetings should end with some kind of celebration. These celebrations are a way of recognizing the work of the participants and the value of the sessions. Short meeting can be celebrated by the chair person commenting on how things went. Longer meetings might include dinner, speeches, and more. Naturally, these celebrations should be consistent with the culture of the organization and the results of the meeting.
- Meetings are often an opportunity to begin new relationships and renew old ones. In some situations finding ways of continuing or reinforcing these relationships is desirable. A name and address list can be provided, cards exchanged or a website set up. Future meetings can also be announced at the end of the program.
- Of course, the group is breaking up and this needs to be recognized.
- Almost all meetings end with some form of ritual, even if it is as simple as the chair person saying, "Thanks for coming and see you next time". More elaborate endings may be important to conclude the meeting.
- In some cases it might be important for a senior executive to come and recognize the value of the meeting. Some times executives come to hear the results of the meeting and thank the participants for their efforts.
- Another symbol that is important is the set of printed results. This can be the minutes of the meeting or the plans made and who is assigned to what activities. Some of these things should be useful and used after the meeting. Others can be simply reminders of the time together.
Plans for the Future:
- Most meetings are part of a series. Making connections to the other meetings and events in the series is useful.
- Rehearsing the actions that came out of the meeting and stating who is responsible for which action is important. It is good to check with those responsible if they agree.
- Participants should be reminded of follow-up events.
- Longer meetings should be evaluated at their end and shorter meetings in a series should be evaluated after 3 or 4 meetings. The key to evaluations is that the results is feed back into the planning of the meetings so that improvements can be made.
Potential pitfalls: a rush to end prevents the attention needed to be paid.
Source: Jon Jenkins
History of Development: This was prepared for a Training of Trainers series sponsored by the Dutch telephone company.