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Topics: Communications Management, Government, Leadership
Closing out a meeting, especially when you are an attendee, not the organizer/facilitator
Listened to a recorded webinar a few minutes ago: 7-Step Blueprint for Meetings That Actually Add Value by Shawn Stratton. One item that Shawn touched on momentarily, but didn't address how to prevent was derailment while closing out a meeting (especially when you are an attendee & not the initiator). I can’t count the number of times I’ve attended a meeting where the denouement started out just as Shawn indicated in his steps - close out, review actions, thank everyone for attending, but then went wholly off the rails - completed the business, rehashed the conclusions, started from the beginning, reiterated the entire conversation of the meeting, then repeated the same talking points, with each principal re-interjecting their pet talking points. What is the best way to head that off?? Again, I am looking for ideas on how to do this as an attendee, & especially as a wallflower, not a principal. As the organizer, you can regain control, but as one of those sentenced to live through a weak-willed facilitator, what ideas do folks have regarding how to break out of the meeting death spiral??
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Joseph -

It's pretty difficult to do this as a participant and not the facilitator. One of the best ways to avoid this is for the facilitator to help the group develop ground rules for the meeting.

One idea might be to explicitly support the facilitator in regaining control: "Folks, I think we've already gone over this and made some good decisions so why don't we close this out?"

As Kiron pointed out, it is sort of difficult if you are not the facilitator.
Facilitating a session requires soft skills that enable the facilitator to keep control by reacting to different types of stakeholders. You cannot just shut down all participant in the same way and letting one know that they've said enough, for now, will be different. If you are a skilled facilitator then even as a participant you could apply the appropriate technique/s. There is a host of information on the web so I won't cut and paste ;)

There are times when it is justified to overrun but then the facilitator should create a breakout session so that those not interested/impacted can get on with their lives. If you are one of those I would interrupt and asked to be excused if you feel that you cannot add or receive any value from the discussion. You will be amazed at how many others in the room will then do the same. Those who have an interest in the discussion and then continue at their leisure. Again it is up to the facilitator to decide whether this is OK as an informal discussion or extended/new formal meeting.
If the facilitator isn't doing his or her job, you might have to step in as the facilitator in self-defense - either that, or suffer through perhaps hours of a painfully meaningless meeting. Depending on the facilitator's weakness you might only need a quick interjection as per Kiron's example, or you might have to assume control of the meeting. It's not preferable, but the alternative is worse.

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