IT training budgets are often thin enough without the added cost of traveling to a professional event, but attending conferences can be a valuable professional experience for your career. You might need to justify the expense to your boss. We have a few ways to show your boss the light.
Plan A: Making an Actionable Conference Plan
Select a conference. Each year, there are hundreds of tech conferences in the U.S. and worldwide. In fact, here are our top 10 favorites. Pick the one that makes the most sense for your company’s budget, network, and career goals. Basically, be able to justify it.
For instance, if you’re a network admin, it might be awesome to go to a Big Data conference in Germany, but Cisco Live in Las Vegas might be a better choice.
Make a plan. Most conferences have two parts: educational sessions and the show. Both parts can help you justify the expense to your company. Are you changing vendors soon? The show is a great place to talk to representatives from potential vendors. Are you implementing a new component or system? Find a workshop or session that fits your company’s needs.
Do your research, and actually highlight the vendors you’d like to talk to, or the sessions you’d like to attend. Put it down on paper, and schedule it out. It’s a lot like asking your boss to fund your training.
Return on investment. This one might be harder to quantify, but not impossible. How many hours would it save if a conference session taught you a better way to handle help desk tickets? How much would a botched server migration cost the company? Event staff members curate sessions based on relevance to current trends, and the speaker’s experience, so you’ll be learning from people with centuries of cumulative experience in IT.
Teach it Forward. Be a force (and expense) multiplier. Promise to teach your co-workers what you learned about the latest technologies or methods. In fact, you can even distribute the conference schedule to your colleagues, take requests to sit-in on sessions, and relay information back to them. If there’s only enough room in the budget for one person to attend, you might as well be the one to go. Some conferences even provide slide decks to attendees, Cisco Live does.
Plan B: Paying for Conferences Yourself
Conferences are valuable professional experiences. If your boss isn’t budging, then you might need to take measures to get there on your own dime. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get to a conference even if your company isn’t paying for it. The biggest expense isn’t always the room and travel. Sometimes it’s the actual conference fee itself.
Early bird specials. Most conferences offer significant discounts if you pay in advance. It could save you hundreds of dollars. Admittedly, it’ll still be expensive, but not as expensive.
NOTE: We have to take a moment here to remind you that you could get a full year of CBT Nuggets training for the cost of just one conference fee (even the early bird special).
Speaking engagements. Can you come up with a solid case study? Do you have in-depth knowledge about a particular piece of hardware or software? You, too, can be a speaker. If accepted, you’ll be able to attend the conference for free. You’ll still have to pay for your room and board, but the conference will waive your registration fees.
It’ll take some planning, though. On top of actually putting together a solid brief, catchy headline, and your bio, you’ll need to watch for the “Call for Speakers” announcement about 10 months out. Conferences start booking speakers really early. (At a quick glance, several of our top 10 recommended conferences are still accepting speaker applications!)
Bonus: If you’re speaking at a conference, your boss will almost certainly find a little money for you. It’s a huge honor and great publicity for your company.
Ask for partial reimbursement. Show your boss that you’ve already incurred the significant cost of the registration fee, and see if there’s room in the budget for X dollars for a cheap hotel and an inconvenient flight. You can always ask.
Ask for a stay of PTO. At the very very least, maybe you can convince your boss to let you have the time away without giving up precious PTO. You might not want to frame it as “It’s the least you can do.” Confirm that you’ll have everything. You’re going to further your career, expand your knowledge, which ultimately has a dollar value to the company.
Attending conferences is just one way to show your dedication to your career development. You can always train with CBT Nuggets. Did we mention you can get a year of training for the cost of one show? Just saying.
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