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I hate goodbyes! How to end a virtual meeting

You’ve wrapped up the conversation. You’re done. You’re ready to move on. But you can’t because you haven’t said goodbye. Or maybe you have… to every single person on the virtual call, and a dozen goodbyes later you’re still talking and trying to end the meeting.

You think back to the good ol’ days when you could just stand up and leave the room or announce that you needed to get back to your desk. Then you sigh and wonder how much longer the goodbyes will last and how much more awkward things will get. 

These days ending a conversation could be the most challenging part of starting one.

I get it.

As a sports reporter who does live post-game interviews I’ve dealt with this dynamic for about 15 years. I don’t have to tell you the most awkward part of saying goodbye is having to do it a second time.

I know from personal experience you can’t just end an interview or a conversation with “Goodbye and thank you for your time.” I might think that’s the end of the conversation but the athlete I’m talking to might not hear it and respond the same way.

I’ve had players stand there awkwardly looking into the camera because I was still standing there talking into the camera. Others have asked “Can I leave now?” or “Do you want me to go now?” Not very graceful exits. It can get awkward and cringy on live TV.

As the person guiding the interaction I need to be able to definitively end the conversation and give the player the okay to leave. Here’s how I do it - I give them a “task” and a physical instruction.

Often, I’ll end an interview saying something like:

“I’ll let you go inside and celebrate the win with your teammates.”

Physical instruction - Go inside

Task  - Celebrate with teammates

“This win makes for a happy flight home. Go enjoy it for a minutes before you have to pack up and get on the bus.”

Physical instruction – Go enjoy

Task – Pack up and get on the bus

“I see your family in the stands. Go give ‘em hug and celebrate together.”

Physical instruction – Go to your family

Task – Give them a hug and celebrate

This technique takes the guesswork out of what happens next and no one is left wondering if the conversation is over.

You can use the same strategy to end your meetings. Here are a few examples:

“Let’s log off and brainstorm this individually. Email me three ideas by tomorrow and we’ll regroup next week.” 

“We didn’t have much time for personal updates today. Do me a favor, log off the meeting and post the book you’re currently reading in Slack/Teams so we can continue the conversation offline.”

“As a final meeting item today I’d like you to log off and finish the employee survey that was sent out earlier this week.”  

Button up the conversation with clear instructions and you’ll spend less time in awkward goodbyes and less time in meetings altogether.


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