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How to improve the way businesses run off-site meetings

With today's collaboration technology, it's easier than ever to hold meetings with attendees chiming in from all over the world. But, the lack of physical meeting space makes for an entirely different interaction dynamic, and it becomes a lot more difficult to recover from any problems or mistakes that arise during the conference.

One of the most important, and potentially embarrassing, parts of holding an off-site meeting is the technology businesses use to conduct it. Having an outdated audio or video conferencing system can make for an awkward and unproductive assembly, which in turn creates a bad image of the company. Businesses that frequently meet with partners, clients and employees over the internet should be sure that their web conferencing arrangement is reliable.

Furthermore, a faulty or down internet connection may not be quite as embarrassing, but certainly takes away from a meeting's overall yield. In any case, businesses would be wise to have a backup cable or DSL service that they can rely on if they lose the connection from their main internet provider.

As far as the actual meeting goes, Jeff Haden of said that small talk can often consume too much time and take away from the main task at hand. It's easy to get caught up in the moment and address issues that aren't of priority, which is a big waste of everyone's time.

There should be a limited number of people invited to the meeting, Haden said. He suggested that any more than 10 attendees is typically a mistake, and wrote that off-site meetings "should result in decisions, not input."

Of course, one of the most important attributes of a good meeting is organization and preparedness. Haden wrote that meeting leaders should have all of their data primed and ready to go ahead of time. Wasting valuable time can be very costly and disconcerting for meeting attendees.