So you want to go to a conference
Conferences are cool. New technology, great people, a different city, and time away from work. So you want to go to MIX, QCon, Carsonfied Events, Interaction10, SXSW or other great conferences? And you want your company foot the bill? Well these days you need a good reason. What’s your business case? In other words, why in the world should your company pay for you to go and why should they care. Especially these days.
Here’s what you need
A plan. To be exact, a business plan. According to Wikipedia, A business plan is a formal statement of a set of business goals, the reasons why they are believed attainable, and the plan for reaching those goals. For you, a business plan is why it’s good for you to attend this conference and why it’s even better for your company to pay for you to go.
So, first step. Work all this out on paper or an email draft. Figure out, in one sentence, why the company should send anyone (not just you) to this conference. This validates the conference makes business sense. Make it clean and something that your manager could send to their manager. Put it in business language, not in jargon that you use.
Next you’ll need to give the business case as to why you should be the lucky one to go. Again, give a single sentence as to why you should go. For example, here’s one for MIX, “MIX will give our company, the information and methods to create great experiences for our products; providing a business advantage, allow direct access to Sketchflow team for creating our interactive prototypes and help me learn how to move our platform to a Silverlight 4 implementation.” If you break down the sentence, it’s got three parts:
- Good for the company. (Strategic info for the company.)
- Access to teams and/or people that you would not have unless you attend.
- Good for the team.
Float that with your manager. But be sure to relate that it has direct impact on the work that you are doing.
After the business case, you can create a grid of of sessions that have benefit to the company and give a corresponding explanation. Make sure they are sessions that support your case. Here’s an example.
SketchFlow is the prototyping environment in Expression Blend. See how to use SketchFlow to collaboratively design, evolve, explore and review user experiences and interactive content.
|We’ll use Sketchflow to create interactive wireframes that can be shared with our clients prior to build. This will validate the design and interaction of our applications and cut down on thrash in our design and development cycle.|
The Web has been transformed by the recent proliferation of rich interactions and applications. But the workhorses of the online world, Web forms, have been slow to evolve with these changes. As brokers of crucial online interactions like e-commerce checkout and registration, forms bridge the gap between people, their information, and your product or service. As a result, Web form design matters. But web forms aren't keeping up. Come see a walk you through of the latest applications of rich Web form interactions (made possible by dynamic technologies like Ajax) including: dynamic help systems, inline validation, selection dependent inputs, and more. Also get an outline of how gradual engagement approaches to form design can create compelling new user experiences for a wide variety of Web applications and services. Learn how these modern approaches to Web form design can enhance your Web sites and applications.
|Web Forms are often overlooked in our process, and by using this information we can improve the experience that our clients have when filling out our forms. Less frustration around what we present to people will lead to less session abandonment and more revenue. |
In this half-day workshop, you’ll learn the skills necessary to create powerful Silverlight 4 applications. We will start with basic platform capabilities and tools, and show how to build media applications, rich applications with MVVM, and out-of-browser support.
|By attending the Silverlight 4 boot camp, I’ll have all the tools necessary for moving our web application to a Silverlight based version. I will also give a “lunch and learn” to the rest of the team to share best practices.|
You’ll need to create a grid like this for all the sessions. Remember that new sessions are always added, so check back or subscribe to session RSS feeds. Announcements are also made at company conferences, so be sure to state this in your business case. On a side note, if you get hit with a statement like, “That conference is only about ‘technology X’”, be sure to create a filtered list removing “technology X” sessions and then show the business value around it.
If you have a team going then you’ll need to create a matrix for each session and team member going. Do not have everyone going to the same session (unless it’s an EPIC session or you have a great reason). You want coverage, not overlap.
||reason for Larry
|More info here
||reason for Curly
|Even more info here
||reason for Moe|
For ideas about good business value for sessions, talk to your co-workers. See if they have any questions or challenges that could be answered by attending and talking with teams or specialists. This will boost the value of the conference. If you can walk up and ask a product team about their technology for a coworker, you just got more business value.
Ok, how much?
Next item on your list is what is this going to cost. A spreadsheet will do just fine and it’s the tool of business. If you’re giving this to them prior to an early bird discount, list it. It will usually pay for a night or two of hotel or even your airfare. List all of the items below.
- Hotel – Give multiple options (on site, off site, near site, etc.)
- Airfare or Mileage
- Food - (remember a lot of conference provide breakfast and lunch. If they do list it and mark it as included!)
- Taxes – ( you want to give them a complete cost, not just an idea)
- Misc. costs (tips, coffee at the airport, etc.)
- client entertainment - (put this one in and see if there is a budget for something like this. You very well could be sitting next to them. And if you are you should be able to buy them a drink at least!)
Remember! List discounts in your spreadsheet! You want to present the cost savings.
Once you’ve got all your homework done, you can get this to your manager. Remember you want to make it easy for them. Easy for them equals easy for you…
If you want to stay at the venue hotel, remember that a lot of times the additional cost of staying onsite, makes up for staying at other hotels. Remember that in Vegas, you can’t cut it close when it comes to getting a taxi or thinking that you’ll just walk from the Tropicana to the Mandalay Bay is not just a short walk. You walk all the way from your room to the lobby, then down the street to the hotel, then through the lobby of the Mandalay Bay to the back where their conference center is located. This could take you quite a while.
Another very important item, probably the most important. Once you’ve come back and you use a nugget of knowledge from the conference, be sure to note that in a non-obnoxious way. This will reinforce the value of your attendance.
Have fun, learn a lot, bring it back, share and good luck.