Imagine there’s a tech conference you really want to attend, but you’ve got to convince your boss to let you take time off to go. And you need to persuade them to pay for it. It’s not always easy to convince a manager to support your conference choice because such events come with expense, including the conference itself, but also associated costs of travel, hotels, and time away from work.
We’ll help you step into your manager’s shoes and follow key steps to help you persuade them to let you attend the best tech conference for you and your company.
1. Confirm your why
First, be clear about why conferences are essential to your development and how they contribute to the company because, whatever your sales pitch, they are a business investment.
The right tech conference can:
- Develop and improve your professional skills.
- Keep you updated with industry trends, information, strategies and news.
- Allow you to network and learn from like-minded others.
- Expand your knowledge and help you to find new solutions to old problems through thought leadership and networking.
- Provide access to some of the biggest names in your field.
- Give you a break from the norm and recharge your motivation through learning.
2. Decide why a specific tech conference is relevant
It could be that you want to go to an event that focuses on developing a certain skill or focuses on a specific area, or there may be one conference that stands out for many reasons. So, be prepared to discuss with your manager the advantages of attending the tech conference both for your development and also for the benefit of the company.
Or, for instance, if you know there’s a session at a conference on how to develop specific skills that are part of your performance management objectives, let your manager know because this could help to develop you and contribute positively to the company.
3. Research, research, research
Once you’ve identified the conference you want to attend, list all the key factors to present to your manager. Gather as much information as possible, including conference length, location, and cost. Find out who the key speakers are, what topics and themes will be covered and how these areas will develop you and contribute to your company.
Some conferences may be fantastic for your personal development and networking, but if there’s nothing in it for the company, then it’s unlikely your boss will buy into it.
If you have a clear picture of similar events, it’s important also to have these details so that if your manager asks you if there is a cheaper option or a shorter one, you can tell them that none exists or that there isn’t any this year etc.
The point is, you’ve got to be able to persuade your manager about why you want to attend this particular technology conference, what it can offer you, why you should attend now and why a cheaper alternative isn’t going to work.
4. Be transparent
To present a compelling and transparent case to your manager, you must be open about everything required for event attendance.
It might sound obvious, but make sure you are absolutely clear on the dates and timings, cost and location so that you have the basics covered when you present your case to your manager. There’s no point telling your manager that the conference will cost a thousand pounds if you then need to add more money for travel and accommodation.
If you aren’t sure how much a hotel will cost, speak to the conference organisers and see where they would recommend in the local area to compile a rough approximation of costs. Plus, if the tech conference offers early bird tickets at a reduced price, highlight this to your manager so you can show the cost-benefit of early ticket purchase.
In addition, check the dates don’t clash with any key projects, deliverables or times when colleagues may be off. If you can’t cover workloads or staff shortages, you’re probably not going to convince your boss to let you take time off too.
5. How will you apply your learning?
If your manager still needs to be convinced, then why don’t you try and convince them how you will apply what you learn to the business environment?
For example, if one of the sessions is focused on how to motivate your people when budgets are cut, or restructuring has occurred, and this is something that your team is going through, you can outline to your manager how you can use the deliverables of the session to apply to your team.
When you return from the conference, you could organise a team update on the top things you’ve learned or the main industry trends that were discussed. Or prepare a presentation outlining key conference takeaways and present it to your manager and/or team.
In addition, you could write a list of the main things you’ve learned and create an action plan to accompany the learning to hold you accountable for continuous learning long after the conference (and share it with your manager).
6. Consider how you present the conference pitch
And finally, consider how you present your conference pitch to your manager. If you’re lacklustre or don’t sound particularly enamoured about the prospect of the conference, you might not persuade your manager to let you go!
All the research you’ve done might be in vain if you don’t sound like you want to attend. So, consider your delivery and inject lots of enthusiasm into your pitch.
If you’re the boss
If you’re the manager being sold a pitch from a team member about attending a technology conference, consider a few things before you say no or put the request at the bottom of the to-do list.
Employee development can boost motivation and learning and encourage retention and effort. If you force an individual onto a course or to a conference they dread, the learning outcomes may be minimal. However, the right conference for them, as long as it’s a business fit, can develop them and bring benefits back to the business.
And remember, not all conferences are on the other side of the world, costing time and lots of money. Some are online, and others may just be a day out of the office or local to the employee. Investing in someone’s personal development can make them feel valued and benefit the business.
Conferences are excellent for developing individuals and bringing new ideas, strategies and working methods back into an organisation. So, if you find the perfect conference for you and your business, research, present your case to your manager, and convince them to let you attend.
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