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Suggestions for different ways of closing a meeting

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This is a description of the dynamics of closings including intellectual, social, symbolic, plans for the future dimensions. Each has a different goal. 


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    Closings have several functions in a meeting many of which are ignored or done unconsciously.

    Intellectual Closings

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.

    Social Closings

    1. Meetings have a social dimension as well as topics. If people have travelled 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.
    2. Most meetings should end with some kind of celebrative event. These celebrations are a way of recognizing the work of the participants and the value of the sessions. Short meetings 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.
    3. Meetings are often an opportunty 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.
    4. Of course, the group is breaking up and this needs to be recognized.

    Symbolic Closings

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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

    1. Most meetings are part of a series. Making connections to the other meetings and events in the series is useful.
    2. 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.
    3. Participants should be reminded of follow-up events.
    4. 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.


    Source: Jon Jenkins

    History of Development: This was developed for a course on facilitation for the Dutch Telephone company.

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    • Think through these different functions of closings in order to design a satisfying an appropriate closing for a meeting.

      about 3 years ago