noun: boondoggle; plural noun: boondoggles

  1. work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.

Most people who attend conferences consider them continuing education, growth, and leadership development opportunities. Most business owners consider them to be something different: a paid vacation. I have even heard them referred to as “boondoggles.”

You want to know why? Because they are.

Business owners feel that way about them because it is typically the way they treat them. And because they do, they pretty much assume everyone else does the same. And they are typically right.

We asked leaders what they got out of conferences, executive roundtable experiences, and most of the other stuff they use to grow their businesses and as leaders. They told us that they got a lot of information and very little application or change for their businesses or lives. That is a tragedy. We not only reverse engineered our executive roundtable experience to make sure that the content was easy to apply, but we also amped up the accountability to make sure it gets done.

But there is still the problem of those conferences we and our teams attend. What to do with them?

When I talk to anyone who just attended a conference, I always ask them the same questions:

  1. What did you get out the the conference?

  2. What are you going to apply or implement in order to make your company more successful?

  3. Who do you need to summarize that for and thank for paying the cost for you to attend the conference?

It is a privilege to attend that stuff. There is typically great information shared at them.

  • Best practices.

  • Industry insight.

  • Time management.

  • Leadership development.

  • Etc.

But it is pretty much a waste of time and energy unless you do something with that. Part of your responsibility as a leader is to continue to grow and support the improving mastery of your employees.  

It’s also to help them mature and grow. It is one of the keys to employee satisfaction, engagement, and preventing turnover. And you and others are likely already attending this stuff, this is just a push to make sure you are getting everything out of it that you can.

To go to executive roundtable meetings, conferences, and other leadership development events and not apply what you’ve learned is like joining a gym to get in shape, but regularly attending only to take showers and enjoy the smoothie bar. You can do those things without all the expense related to a gym membership.

One of the more intentional leaders I know will take an extra day after a conference to review all their notes and determine what they will apply from the conference, including determining who will do what, when, and how.


  • Do you or your team members attend conferences, executive roundtables, etc.?

  • Who last attended one? What have they applied from their last trip?

  • Do you regularly stop to memorialize what was gained from the experience, identified what will be applied, or thanked others for making it a possibility for you to attend?