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Outsourcing the action

October 9, 2014, 11:55 AM UTC
Illustrations By: Jason Schneider

I don’t get things completely wrong very often, but when I do, I’m big enough to say so. For years, sometimes in the pages of this magazine, I’ve contended that the fun in this game is over and that essentially social events where people go away to some remote location, have drinks, put on a serious face when need be (mostly in the mornings), engage in sporting adventures, enjoy more drinks, eat tasty meals, play games, fool around a little, have some more drinks, and generally keep their spirits up, all in the name of business, have gone the way of Hula-Hoops, laser discs, and Excellence. I was wrong. Boondoggles aren’t gone. They’ve just been outsourced. They’re called conferences.

This misunderstanding on my part has led me to hold a negative attitude about these increasingly ubiquitous events. Some people always seem to be on their way to one, at one, or coming back from one, and I’ve always seen them as a bunch of heedless slackers. Now I see what they’re up to, and you know what? I want to get in on the action. I loved boondoggles! Some of my best times were spent—or misspent—at them! I thought they went away. But it turns out I can still get all the good things I used to enjoy.

First, just as in the old days, I can stay at a lovely location I’ve always wanted to visit—free. Possibilities include Chicago, Aspen, Sun Valley, San Francisco, Gstaad, Singapore, Paris, London, Dubai, and Dublin, just to name a few. Google “financial conference” and just look what a Baedeker of destinations we have to choose from.

While there, I will of course be staying at a marvelous and stunning hotel I probably wouldn’t spring for if it were on my own dime. Years ago I had stayed at such dreamy places as Pebble Beach, Captiva Island, Park City, and Hilton Head, and believe me, those establishments know how to pamper a serious businessperson. Try one of their bathrobes on for size! (But don’t take it home unless you want it to appear on your expense account.)

Next, I can drink a lot of free top-shelf booze and go to kick-ass parties with beautiful people, some of whom will want to suck up to me because they believe I represent a professional opportunity of some kind. I probably don’t. But it’s not a real event if you’re not ingratiating yourself to somebody. I’d like to meet Warren Buffett, for instance. Or George Soros. I hear and Harrison Ford showed up at a Fortune confab not long ago. Cool, huh? I can also go whitewater rafting, ride a bike, or just lie on a beach. And if I really want to get serious, I can play golf.

Oh, and of course when need be, I can feel good about myself while listening to stimulating presentations. A recent mega-conference run by the Wall Street Journal in beautiful Newport Beach, Calif., featured Jack Ma, Tim Cook, Marc Andreessen, Rupert Murdoch, and Carlos Slim Helú. Talk about heavyweights!

Perhaps best of all, while I’m at my boon … I mean conference, I will slowly but surely become part of a community of like-minded cool people who are bonded by the experience. I may make friendships and connections that will last a lifetime!

When I get home, I will feel refreshed, energized, and just a little bit superior to the poor fools who didn’t get to go this year. I will sit in my office and feel terrific, ready to face whatever the operating environment throws at me. As I sip my morning coffee, I may call up a new friend I made while I was away. Heck, I may explore a business opportunity or fictive deal that almost got struck there. I may even take a peek at my morning trade news to see when the next exciting gathering might be that I could offer a legitimate business reason to attend.

Good God! It’s in … Kathmandu! Won’t that be a blast? Hope to see you there!

Follow Stanley Bing at and on Twitter at @thebingblog.

This story is from the October 27, 2014 issue of Fortune.