Blog > Conference

How To Convince Your Boss You Should Attend A Conference

Have you ever asked your boss about attending an industry conference…only to be tuned down?

 

Or found a conference that really interests you but you're hesitant to ask your boss about going?

 

Viewpoints on the benefits of attending an industry conference can vary significantly.

 

Your boss may be very open to the idea.

Or not.

 

Many bosses will view your interest in a very positive light. They will be encouraged to see you proactively seeking new opportunities for professional development.

 

Others may not be so sure. Some will  be skeptical of the benefits. Many will have concerns about budget constraints and workload issues. Add to that the pressures of other things on their mind and you could find yourself in a tangle of obstacles.

 

However,

 

Much of their decision will come down to how you present the idea.

 

If you take it seriously and genuinely believe there is a benefit to you and ultimately the company you will have a much better chance of getting a “yes”.

 

Nothing will make them more doubtful than you coming to them with  a cursory idea of what the event is all about. If your intent is to get away from the office for a few days and to squeeze in a little sight seeing, they will see right through.

 

Show them this is important to you by presenting a well thought out proposal.

 

The key is preparation. Ensure you are as familiar as possible with event details and be ready to answer any questions he/she might have.

 

First a few things to consider:

 

Is this an event for your industry or in support of your functional expertise? Example. Your company is in Insurance. You are the Sales Manager. Is the conference for the insurance industry or is it a conference for sales professionals?

 

If the conference is for the industry that your company serves, your boss will likely be familiar with it. You may have to give more background if the conference is related to your particular function.

 

Here is a plan for your best chance at getting a “Yes”.

 

Choose the right event. 

  • Be honest with yourself first. Do you truly see the potential benefits to you and the company based on the content? The company is going to make an investment in you. How will you convince your boss if you aren't sure yourself?
  • Be realistic. Is the event local or across the country? You may want to start local first especially if this is your first time attending an event.

 

Pick the right time to talk to your boss

  • Book time with your boss specifically to talk about the opportunity.
  • Do not catch your boss in the hallway or poke your head in their door and throw out the idea and expect a good response. (You don’t know what else is on their mind at the time.)

 

Do your research. Here are some things to know:

  • how long an event has been running and the frequency
  • the typical attendance and demographic (speaks to relevance)
  • the background of the organization producing the event. Have they been doing this awhile? What others do they produce? (Speaks to credibility.)

 

Have the facts at your fingertips:

  • Dates of the conference and time away
    • Be prepared with the exact days you will be away
    • Consider things like needing to leave early the day prior to catch your flight or to drive
  • Know an overview of the format of the event (main session, breakouts, tradeshow etc.)
  • Speak to the relevance/timeliness of topics and presenters. Be ready to name keynote speakers and other presenters

 

Be prepared to articulate the benefits to you

  • Identify segments of the program will particularly benefit you and your work
    • Don’t just name a particular speaker without adding their subject matter and why that could be of benefit.
    • Be as specific as possible regarding what you hope to learn.
    • If the event is to enhance your career development, be prepared to explain how you see this impacting your work.
  • Networking opportunities. Will there be clients or other industry members there? How might meeting with some of these folks benefit you?

 

Will there be benefits you can share with colleagues or the company as a whole?

  • Is there a particular session at the event that directly ties into a challenge or opportunity facing your company?
  • How could your learning benefit others you work with?

 

Do you have feedback from others who have attended the conference in the past?

  • Share with your boss any relevant feedback from others who have attended
  • If you don’t know anyone who has attended, ask the conference organizer if there is someone you could speak with as a reference
    • How did it benefit their work? Would they attend again?

 

How will you report back?

Letting your boss know you are prepared to report back is a great sign that you respect the investment and time away.

  • Suggest that you will prepare a report of key learnings and new ideas to be shared with your boss and/or coworkers
  • Whatever you do, follow through with your promise when you return

 

Provide assurance your work will be covered

It is important that you acknowledge you have thought through the impact of your time away.

  • Prepare a plan of how your work will be covered.
  • Note anything pressing you are working on and timelines of how you expect to complete the work on schedule despite time away.
  • Confirm that others you assume to cover you are not away or overly busy at a similar time.

 

Prepare a detailed budget

Demonstrate your understanding that there can be much more to the overall cost of attending a conference than just the registration fee.

  • Create a total budget for the cost to attend. Include:
    • Registration fee (note if there is a reduced fee for early registration and the deadline)
    • Additional fees for materials, special sessions etc. if applicable
    • Transportation
      • Flights or other
      • Transportation (to and from airport and to and from event venue if applicable)
      • Car rental if necessary
    • Accommodation
    • Meals
    • Parking
    • Entertainment, service tips etc.

 

Value input and discussion from your boss

  • Is your boss familiar with the event? (Provide them with documents or links so they can have a look at the program.)
  • Do they know anyone who has attended and benefited from the experience?
  • Are there any of the speakers or topics that they would like to ensure your cover?

 

 

All of this detail may not come up in the conversation but the best thing you can do is to be prepared. Don’t get caught stumbling for answers - you will seem not to be taking it seriously.

 

Your best chance for success is to show you understand this is a business decision.

 

Be confident. The preparation will make you so.

 

Your boss may want time to consider your request. If so, ask if you can schedule a time to talk about it again. Follow through with confidence.

 

Despite all of your efforts, your boss may say “no”. You’ll have to accept that.

 

Ideally they will explain their reasons...but might not. Keep in mind you don’t know everything they are dealing with. They may have had previous bad experiences with conference-goers, may have other plans for you or may have someone else in mind to attend.

 

If the answer is no. Don’t argue. Suggest budgeting for someone to go next time. Let your boss know you’ll follow up with someone who attended to get their feedback so you’ll know for another time.

 

If the answer is yes. Great!

 

Whatever you do, be very certain to prepare for your time away as indicated. And follow up on all of your promises of reporting back. Make your report practical with examples of realistic opportunities and actionable items.

 

Whatever the outcome, if you have prepared well you will leave your boss with a positive impression. You will have demonstrated your interest and openness to professional development. They will be impressed and that you have treated the opportunity seriously and understand the investment involved.

 

And that could lead to other opportunities down the road.

 

 

 

 

Post by Margaret Johnston, eventswork.com

As a career event professional, Margaret brings valuable insight and knowledge to the recruitment, management and development of high-performance teams for the event industry. A strategic and inspiring leader, Margaret has held executive roles for several global event management companies and key roles in the start up and orchestration of many high profile and international events.

 

EventsWork is the favourite job board for event jobs in North America!

Check out the latest jobs here!

 

Job seekers: Create a Free Account to get job alerts, post your resume and more!

Employers: Post your event job today! Save time and money and reach a qualified audience.