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July 19, 2010


Miri McDonald

Ken, Might be a good idea to talk to your boss about it and see if you can get more details on the decision to keep it a secret. The other good person to talk with would be the meeting organizer. It's generally not common practice but without knowing the whole situation and details, I am not able to give more thoughts on it.

If you aren't getting the answers you need from your boss or the meeting organizers, talking to HR might also help.


My company has advised me that in 4-weeks, we are going to have an off-site 4 day strategy meeting. They are not advising us as to where this meeting will take place nor are they allowing spouses to accompany or even be in the same area. My gut says they're planning on taking everyone on a 3 or 4 day cruise as the off-site venue.

If true, I don't understand the covert plan for not disclosing the location and allowing us to share the location information with our spouses. Nor do I understand how a cruise venue can be appropriate for a strategy session.

Your thoughts will be appreciated.

Miri McDonald

Hi Anne,

Thanks for your questions. I should clarify that many of these recommendations are for longer meetings such as strategic planning sessions, team building, etc. Short meetings often do require a very targeted, task oriented approach.

I have actually worked as a consultant for a variety of companies so I've encountered vastly different cultures as well. When I say fun, I'm not talking about goofing around per se. Fun can be interpreted in different ways. I find it fun to engage with my colleagues in a great discussion versus being lectured by one speaker the whole meeting. Another definition of fun would be to brainstorm where no idea is dumb and you can be super creative. There are innovative ways to engage participants to reach outcomes and have fun in the process.

In terms of who pays for food - it varies. Sometimes there are budgets for it and sometimes not. I guess I should have clarified. I wasn't suggesting food at EVERY meeting but if a meeting is long enough to go over lunch time or a half or full-day session, food is something that should be considered by the facilitators/meeting owners. If there is not a budget, at least creating a list of restaurants close by (if it is an offsite meeting) shows the participants that you care about them. Another approach is to ask people if they would like to order in as a group (and all can pay their own way) so at least the order is taken care of and people don't have to leave the premises.

I agree with you. With obesity on the rise, we shouldn't be encouraging unhealthy snacks. However, if you speak with nutritionists and health educators, the "three meal a day" paradigm is not really healthy either. It is healthier to eat smaller portions more often (balanced combination of protein, complex carbs, and good fats) to keep energy up (combined with exercise).

Therefore, if we have a long enough meeting, we could help create healthier habits by offering fruit, nuts, veggies, and some type of low-fat muffin or baked goods.

Lastly, everything is best in moderation. Candy has it's place used sparingly. Sometimes providing the bite sized candies as "prizes" for learning related games can be a way to bring levity into the mix.

Thanks again for your thoughtful questions.


Mimi, just had to write with a few questions.
1) We must live at companies with very different cultures. My company expects meetings to be productive; if people happen to have fun at them, that's fine. But the purpose of the meeting is to get serious work done in as short a time as possible.
2) Who pays for all of the snacks, meals with vegetarian options, etc...? The company will not foot the bill and while the meeting attendees are willing to consume provided food, they will not, as a general rule, contribute toward it.
3) Where does one find "healthy" candy for snacks? Given that obesity rates in the US are extremely high, do people really need snacks? Realistically, how many people are going to nibble on celery and carrot sticks at a meeting?


Great points, Miri! Thanks for posting this. I love your #1 point about having a purpose for the meeting. Too often, we have meetings just for the sake of having them (or at least, that's the perception). Having clear objectives and outcomes in mind will definitely help.

Additionally, engaging others in conversation, rather than the meeting being a lecture, is important. Encourage nay-sayers to offer a solution instead of just saying "this won't work because..."

Good points. Keep up the great work!


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  • Meet Miri Meet Miri Miri McDonald is a strategic communications consultant who strives to create messages that are transparent, authentic, and engaging. She is passionate about employee engagement, corporate culture, and use of social media to drive internal communications. She works in the Communications department at American Family Insurance. Her opinions in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of her employer.

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