Why does it seem to happen that in a one hour meeting, the real stuff that needs discussing seems to surface with 10 minutes to go?

And it’s not just meetings.  A coaching mentor of mine labels her clients’ meaty revelations just prior to wrapping up their sessions as “door handle comments” because they happen as the person’s getting ready to say goodbye.

Sometimes these comments are heartfelt and obvious, but don’t be fooled when they are thrown out almost casually.  Door handle comments are often the most revealing parts of your meetings, where people expose what they truly think.  You’d do well to sit up and take notice.

Because they happen all the time.

Here are 5 ways to speed up the “door handle comments” and cut to the chase.

  1. Encourage risk.  The pressure of meeting closing time brings out what people really wanted to say early on, but were too afraid to risk saying out loud with so much time left to discuss it. This might involve something that went wrong and they’re embarrassed about, a disagreement with something that was said earlier in the meeting, or an unpopular opinion that will rile up some members of the group.  Making your meetings a place where respectful conflict is allowed – even encouraged – will flesh out these issues earlier.
  2. Shorten your meetings.  If looming deadlines – including meeting closing times – consistently bring out what really needs discussing, make your meeting shorter so that it takes less time to get to the juicy stuff.  Then schedule another meeting to deal with it.
  3. Reduce group size.  The more people in the meeting, the more likely people will feel the need to let others have their say first.  Reduce the number of attendees in your meetings to the bare minimum, especially for complex discussions.  Rule of thumb is the more complex the discussion, the less people you want in your meeting.
  4. Wrap up early.  Leave enough time to discuss potential door handle moments by starting your wrap up early and leave time and space for discussion of what comes up with potential “door handle” moments without having to reschedule.

If all else fails and the meaty stuff still only arises at the tail end of the meeting, being aware of importance of “door handle comments” will give you a heads up on what’s really going on in people’s heads.  Amp up your observation of the people in the meeting as it comes to a close and you’ll be privy to a wealth of information you might not have noticed before.