how to get people back to a long meeting after a break


How long are your meetings? You might be shifting to shorter meetings, or you may be one of those groups for which long meetings are a necessary evil. Whether your agendas are long due to necessity, infrequent group gatherings, or simple protocol, they bring with them unique challenges for organizers and leaders.

Common challenges when facing long meetings include loss of focus, participants who need to leave early, disruption of breaks, and a lack of consensus due to low participation. You can combat these challenges and keep everyone on task to achieve the goals of your long meetings with a few simple steps.

Plan for breaks

When your meeting runs for a few hours, breaks can help give everyone time to refocus by taking a moment away from the current task at hand. During breaks, provide snacks, lunch, coffee, or other refreshments. The goal of a break is to let your group refresh, so they can come back to your meeting re-energized and prepared to continue.

Inform attendees

The keys to success in a long meeting are preparation and communication – inform the group beforehand about what you’ll do, when to expect breaks, and even what the breaks will entail. Detail the overall objectives and the decisions that need to be made before each break. Ensure your attendees understand. Reiterate your purpose and process at the beginning of the meeting and after breaks to keep people clear and prepared.

Stay on track

When a group knows what to expect, they can better prepare for the meeting. To keep everyone on track during the meeting, show them that you are solving problems and reaching your goals throughout the meeting. As you go through agenda items, let everyone know what the group has achieved. This process will keep everyone feeling successful and encouraged to continue.

Take intentional breaks

When you give everyone a break, recap everything you have achieved in the meeting so far and remind the group what you plan to begin discussing when the break concludes. Encourage people to let their minds rest. Jumping into work emails or hopping on calls to resolve problems will not help your participants to disconnect. If you can discourage working during the break, they will be less distracted upon returning. Their work will still be waiting for them after the meeting is over.


Once everyone returns from break, reintroduce the task at hand. How you restate your meeting agenda is important for helping to continue toward the goal. Professional facilitators take a five-step process to reinvigorate attendees after breaks:

  1. Remind — Remind the participants of the overall session objective.
  2. Review — Review all agenda items that you’ve completed to date; consider pointing out group achievements and reminding the group of all the good that has already come out of the meeting.
  3. Preview — Preview all the remaining agenda items.
  4. Big View — Explain how specific remaining tasks relate to the overall meeting objective.
  5. Address Questions — Ask for any questions before you continue.

Share next steps

Your group needs to understand that their time was well spent. Before concluding, review everything that they have achieved during the meeting. Let attendees know next steps, answer questions, and thank everyone for their time.

For more advice on long meetings and how to best prepare your group, our professional facilitators are available to assist you. Learn more and find a facilitator to meet your needs today. Contact us, chat us, or call us at 1-877-212-2361.