Business Meetings and Conferences: Of What Value Is a Packed Agenda?

Packed AgendaToday, I have some open questions for meeting, conference and corporate event planners. I hope that they will generate a lot of discussion. Please share your reactions in "Comments."


  • What is the value in packing the agenda?
  • What is more important, the quantity of content presented or quality?




One of the most frequent complaints of conference delegates, keynote speakers and breakout session facilitators is that sessions are rushed and there is little time for discussion, questions and reflection. I proposed a new model for more effective conferences some time ago. It includes a more streamlined agenda in which there is an opening keynote and room for longer, more in-depth breakouts and roundtables.

  • Why pack 2 time slots for breakout sessions into the morning when one will suffice?
  • Wouldn't it be of more value to explore each topic in greater depth?

Business Meetings

Stack of HandoutsAt times, my company plans corporate events and business meetings from start to finish. In other instances, we are brought in to deliver our core specialities, team building or keynotes. One thing that is puzzling is the extent to which meeting and conference planners are packing their agendas. Often, participants are flown into foreign destinations and there is no time for a tour or to give them any opportunity to see it. What's the point?

To bring in a panel of experts, a team building consultant, and multiple keynote speakers for a 3 - 4 day business meeting or sales rally ensures that you will end up with a hodge-podge of ideas and little consistency. Participants will go back to work confused, overwhelmed,  exhausted and with a stack of handouts that they will never use. What is the value in that? (I gave this feedback to one of my clients and the response was "Our people are used to it?" I was left wondering "How is that a good thing?")

  • What is the source of this pressure for packed agendas?
  • Is it coming from hard-driving CEOs who don't realize that they are burning out their people?
  • Are communication bottlenecks such a problem that the company is trying it with an information dump once or twice a year?

It won't work.

Often, one consultant or consulting firm can deliver all the content and a consistent message to reinforce your theme. If the goal is to provide different perspectives, it would be much more effective for meeting planners, to have:

  • one consultant (or consulting firm) set the context, facilitate the team building simulation, and do an effective job of debriefing
  • a different keynote speaker address the group after dinner and for the wrap-up

Also, at times corporate event planners design the agenda in a way that wears out participants. If the team is going to the desert or the mountains for team building, why fight the traffic to get back to the hotels during rush hour, shower and depart for a different dinner venue. Really creative and luxurious dinner set-ups can be created in almost any outdoor setting. This would give participants more time to relax and return to the hotel when traffic has subsided.

Where is the value?

Perhaps I am missing something here. If I am, please do share your comments. I am left wondering "What value is there in involving a cast of thousands?" Remember, usually less is more....and MUCH more powerful.

Photo Credit: UK Youth Climate Coalition

Photo Credit: libraryman

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