Justifying Going to a Conference
I hate to say it, but you have a reason to be worried. Association executives have been citing downturns in attendance for the past year, and the economy hasn’t picked up enough yet to change the trend.
Looking around on my own desk, I see several colorful postcards promoting events that I’d love to attend. I’m fortunate that the Omnipress leadership sees great value in allowing their employees to attend events that will help us do our jobs better. But as a responsible employee, I still want to spend my company’s continuing education budget wisely, so I pick and choose carefully. I lean toward the ones that are: (1) convenient to attend, (2) look like the best value and (3) are relevant to my profession.
How do you show your potential attendees that your event is both valuable and convenient?
I think one of our clients, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), has the right idea.
AWHONN recognized that their attendees would have to justify their trip to the annual event. They created a web page called “Getting Employer Support to Attend” and added it to their conference pages, immediately making getting to their event more convenient for the attendee. Instead of having to create an email to ask the supervisor if they could go, they could download a sample letter with all the points spelled out!
In addition, AWHONN listed other tips to garner support from leadership:
- Offer to bring back what you learned by creating a presentation and sharing the handouts.
- Elaborate on what you plan to get out of attending and how that will benefit your job.
- Create a schedule to show the people who will cover your tasks while you’re away.
- Offer to reduce expenses by sharing a room.
I also liked the Conference Justification Kit provided by IDUG, an organization of users of IBM’s relational database system, DB2. They created several resources, including a clever article from Cheryl Watson, an expert in their industry. Cheryl advises attendees to promise to create “BIG action reports,” implement at least one idea you learned at the conference, compare the cost of hiring a consultant for the same education and to train others.
“Your manager may feel that your attendance at a conference is similar to the management trip he took last month to Hilton Head and the golf course,” Cheryl writes. “You need to prove it isn’t.”
One more resource, though it’s a couple of years old (I guess that means attendees have had trouble justifying their attendance for a few years? Hmmm)… here’s a handy expenses worksheet to help attendees figure out what they may be spending.
The Conclusion – Be Proactive!
The lesson I’m learning from these organizations is that you can be proactive in helping your attendees come to your event. Make it as easy as possible for them to approach their budget managers, and perhaps they’ll find your conference worth attending!