Despite organizers clearly communicating an agenda, some video conference calls run longer than intended. While this may provide a welcome respite from the daily grind, allowing for informal chat or the tying up of loose ends, it can also be a nuisance for attendees who have meetings coming up or work they need to get back to.
When you’re the host, the onus is on you to make sure all of your agenda points are covered in a timely and productive fashion, well before guests start to feel antsy. Below, 10 members of Forbes Communications Council share their thoughts on the best ways to quickly and diplomatically wrap up a virtual meeting before it drags on too long, giving everyone precious time back in their day.
1. Put The Meeting End Process On The Agenda
Include your meeting end process on your agenda, not just the time your meeting ends. Agree upon and note next steps and responsibilities, as well as the time frame, and allow participants to have a final say in a short, strictly defined closing round. Failure to wrap up your meetings properly can lead to lack of commitment, incomplete tasks, low accountability and poor results. – Astrid Pocklington, Enghouse Interactive
2. Moderate With Fluid Dialogue
The host should also act as a moderator and have fluid dialogue throughout the whole meeting. We have been successful by stepping in ten minutes before the scheduled end time and stating, “I know we are coming close to our scheduled end time. Can the presenters please prepare their final thoughts? If we have not answered any questions, please feel free to share them in the chat or via email.” – Stefan Petrella, Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage Inc.
3. Provide The Host With Autonomy
Be sure to add time frames for each speaker. Provide the host with the autonomy needed to politely intervene and keep the meeting moving, regardless of the management level of the speaker. The host can wrap up long-winded conversations by tabling them for discussion at the end, shifting it to the chat or by speaking offline at the end of the call. – Callie Johnson, Ph.D., Bold Lines Consulting Firm LLC
4. Assign Action Items In The Last Few Minutes
Take the last few minutes to assign action items to all participants, including yourself. List them out loud, and include who is responsible for each item. If you are the host, send a follow-up group email with expectations for fulfilling these action items prior to meeting again. And don’t be afraid to politely guide the group to stay on topic during the meeting if it starts to go off track. – Heather Byrd, Taillight
5. Include No More Than Five Points On The Agenda
For a successful meeting, start with a clear goal and include an agenda with no more than five succinct points. Watch for forward momentum and table topics that get lost. Wrap up the meeting by synopsizing each point, expected responsibilities and deliverables. Finish with ideas and actions for approaching tabled items. – Mollie Barnett, Satco Products, Incorporated
6. Don’t Ask For Questions At The End
I use three main techniques: First, set a hard stop five minutes before the meeting ends and use that time to reiterate action items for everyone. Second, state the intention at the meeting’s start to ensure efficiency, end early and “give people some time back.” And finally, do not ask for questions at the end; that will create a vacuum of “filled time.” Instead, say, “If there is anything we didn’t cover, drop me an email.” – Leslie Poston, Austin Data Labs
7. Prepare To Adjust On The Fly And Use Chat For Comments
Check in on the flow of the meeting periodically so that it’s not a mad dash to wrap up at the end. If you notice it running long about halfway in, find ways to cut sections or content out and be prepared to adjust on the fly—the attendees won’t know the difference. Moving from spoken comments to chat is also a great way to streamline communication and eliminate any rambling. – Victoria Zelefsky, The Menkiti Group
8. Assign Specific Amounts Of Time For Questions And Answers
We tested a while back, using the same exact structure used in the political arena, such as in the U.S. Senate and the Houses of Parliament in the U.K., where each person is assigned a specific amount of time to ask a question. Then, the people answering are given a specific quantity of time to address these questions. – Ross Kernez, HPOne
9. Bring The Focus Back To The Target Outcome
Strong moderation is key. When meetings run long, it’s not the agenda that is the issue; it’s the lack of a clearly defined outcome. An effective moderator can bring everyone back to the core issue at heart. It’s fine to have a productive discussion, but a meeting should always have a target outcome. Have your moderator bring the focus back to the outcome and your meeting will wrap up nicely. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
10. Time-Stamp Your Agenda
Productivity is the lifeline of a sustainably successful business. One quick tip to keep things moving is to time-stamp your agenda. As you go through it, make sure you’re sticking to your times—for example, “8:15, discuss Client A; 8:30, discuss Client B.” Be realistic about how much time is needed for each topic, then stay firm on not going over. This will keep your team committed to finishing on time. – Melissa Kandel, little word studio