You have found some very exciting looking conferences to attend this year and now your waiting for the big moment to sell it to your boss. I know it can be hard to convince management on the benefits of face to face networking events, especially if conferences are not typically in the budget. So your task is to illustrate the solid return you’ll be bringing back from the conference based on time and money spent.
The first step is to put together a realistic expected expense report. Be sure to include all the line items that may come up while traveling in addition to the conference registration.
There are many travel deals to be had out there. Be sure to plan ahead so you can thoroughly research any deals on air fare, car rental, or hotels. Conferences will also often have an early bird rate for registration, so be sure to check out the conference website and any related social media for any other special promotions.
Once you know what the cost is going to be, you can provide full disclosure on the expense and present the key benefits that you will reap from attending the show. You can lay out exactly what you will be able to contribute to the company in return for their investment. This can be a bit difficult to quantify. However, if you are able to point to specific skills, contacts made, or knowledge gained you will be able to follow up on that once the conference is complete and the extra business starts rolling in.
Skype, WebEx and audio calls are convenient and create the illusion we’re actually having a meeting — but nothing beats the power of a truly personal, face-to-face connection.
There are many benefits to attending conferences and networking with business partners face-to-face that you could emphasize. I’ve listed three that I feel provide the most value to businesses:
- Sessions / Education: Conference sessions can provide some great education on any new technologies, issues, or techniques in the industry. These are all items that can help an organization grow. They also often are full of best practices and training on processes that can directly benefit job tasks.
- Networking: The power of personal face-to-face communication is undeniable. The ability to find commonality and bond through small talk and read body language are two benefits that are difficult to replicate via email. Meeting individuals in person also gives you the benefit of:
– Keeping a pulse on the industry. Talking with people will help you get a gauge on any hot topics and the current buzz in the industry. There is a knowledge gained when people are able to exchange ideas, feedback, and experiences.
– Establishing a presence. The more events your company is represented at, the greater the likelihood that people will start to recognize you and your network of contacts for potential business opportunities will continue to grow as well.
- Exhibit Hall: Meeting with potential vendors can lay the ground work in identifying prospective partnerships. Often times there may be competing vendors, so you can easily compare different organizations within one space.
Once you have carefully weighed the expenses and benefits of conference attendance, you are now ready to present and sell your proposal to management. Best of luck, and we hope to see you at an upcoming show!