This morning my younger daughter went off to preschool camp for the last time; in two weeks, she starts kindergarten. So today was all about endings and beginnings — two things that school is very good at making you aware of, in a formal, carefully delineated sort of way. For every grade, there’s always a first day of school and always a last; and when you’ve run through all the grades, there’s a grand event to mark the occasion, full of pomp and circumstance (as well as “Pomp and Circumstance”).
The meetings industry, too, is very good at officious beginnings, what with our welcome receptions and opening-night cocktail parties and gaveled-to-order general sessions. But endings? I’m not so sure. I’ve been to meetings that have ended with a bang, in the form of a closing-night awards dinner, or a final keynote luncheon, or a closing general session. But I’ve also attended meetings that haven’t ended so much as they’ve drifted apart — in a series of half-attended late-afternoon caucuses, or a half-hearted final tour of the exhibit hall, with no centralized mechanism to sum things up and thank everyone for attending.
And maybe that’s not a bad thing. And maybe having a formal closing event isn’t a good thing. What do you think? Is it important not just to end a meeting, but to let attendees know you’re ending it?