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Dollars & Sense

  • October 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

Off-site meetings are a great way to get people together, away from the office, to discuss important topics and share information. They can prove really valuable for networking with colleagues and learning about what's going on in other areas within the organization. In fact, I like off-site meetings so much, I've decided to share my top 10 reasons with you, in true David Letterman fashion:

10. I like watching the Generation Y crowd suffer through the morning sessions after "building rapport" the night before. It's amazing to watch the pain on their faces as they rush to get their first cup of coffee for the day (caffeinated, of course.)

9. I really enjoy being asked to present either 1) directly after lunch or 2) directly before the cocktail hour. Actually, I don't! Everyone falls asleep after lunch, and everyone is antsy before the cocktail hour - neither state is conducive to paying attention. However, if I had my choice between the two, I'd take the slot prior to the cocktail hour. The crowd may urge me to speed it up, but at least they're not comatose.

8. Isn't it great when the facilitator suggests an "open dialog" when half of the participants are 2-3 levels up in the organization? What they're really saying is, "Make sure that you choose your words carefully if you decide to talk about a real issue."

7. It's always nice to have "the expert from out of town" as a presenter or, where appropriate, the person claiming, "I'm from Corporate and I'm here to help." Yeah, right! (No, actually I'm kidding. The people from Corporate are always there to help.)

6. My favorite lunch menu is, of course, chicken. (I never knew there were so many ways to prepare chicken.) And I really like when the luncheon speaker is a marketing guy from a third-party vendor who shamelessly uses the opportunity to sell more stuff. (Who picked this guy, anyway?)

5. When have you actually seen the PowerPoint presentations work right the first time, without having to call someone in to help get them set up? (How do you get this to show up on the screen?) Also, I've seen some really interesting screen savers that pop up just as a speaker is about to end the lengthy point he/she is making.

4. Don't you love "parking lots"? Those are the places the facilitator puts issues when he or she wants to disregard them.

3. One ice-breaker session (those activities designed to enable people to get to know each other a little better) that I found particularly interesting involved all the participants throwing their shoes into a big pile in the middle of the room. (You know ... stinky, gross loafers and mules that were falling apart ... that sort of thing.) Then, each person had to draw out a shoe, and guess what type of person would wear it, after which the owner was supposed to come forward and say whether the predictions were correct. Believe me, I didn't even want to admit which shoe was mine!

2. I really enjoy listening to people ask questions designed to show how smart they are. In every crowd, there are a few that must really like to hear themselves talk at the expense of a true group discussion. It's interesting to see which colleagues do this.

And the number 1 reason I like off-site meetings: I particularly like those lists of action items (take-aways) - those things we absolutely must do going forward (which are typically found on those extra large flip chart post-it notes that paper the meeting room walls). No one ever follows up on them. I mean, why are we having these meetings, anyway?

Off-site meetings are great. You learn a lot, build relationships and bond together as a team. You get good food, excellent speakers and a new pen or pencil to add to your collection of writing instruments. And one of the best things is that they provide great fodder for Top 10 lists!

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