The Cost of Conferences
Attending an IT conference is not a trivial expense for most companies. Good conferences have significant registration fees, and if the conference is out of town, there are travel and accommodation expenses to accompany the registration costs. The time away from the office also means that some work is not getting done. Most of the time this adds stress for others needing to assist in the absent of the conference attendee or stress on the conference attendee when he or she returns. Rarely, but possibly, temporary assistance may need to be employed. An administrative assistant or human resources person often needs to be involved to make necessary arrangements for the conference and ensure proper staffing if necessary. The net commitment is often thousands of dollars. Is it all worth it?
The Value of IT Conferences
An IT Conference is typically a mix of the present and the future. It is part training and part networking with some socializing thrown in. The experience can empower employees with a sense of representation, as they attend in the name of the company.
It is an opportunity to learn about future relevant technologies through sessions by industry professionals. Sessions are often presentations, but sometimes allow for interaction with the speakers through a question and answer session. At some conferences, labs are configured to allow attendees to learn about new technologies without having to deploy their own lab at the office. In balance, conferences typically include coverage of current technologies, the IT applications and products that attendees deal with in a day-to-day basis.
But, the greatest value is often found by accident. It may be the person you sit next to for lunch, or someone you meet at the lounge after the day’s festivities. The connections you can make in person represent a significant value for attending a conference. Sometimes it is just putting a face to a name; other times it is meeting a great vendor or potential partner for your company.
Maximize the Benefit of Attending a Conference
An IT Conference is a great opportunity to add value to the company by enriching personnel and gaining contacts. One key to maximizing the benefit realized by attending such a conference involves the transfer of conference training and value to other members of the staff where applicable. Those chosen to represent the company at a conference should do so with the knowledge that they must give a presentation to their department or team upon return covering the highlights and lowlights of the conference. This has the secondary benefit of ensuring that the employee actually attends the sessions and doesn't use the time as a vacation.
Networking contacts gained at the conference, whether potential customers, vendors or competitors, should be added to the corporate contact list if plausible. Conference DVDs, if provided, could be made available to staff unable to attend. Tips and tricks learned about travel, such as the proximity of the hotel to the convention center, should be transferred to those who made the arrangements. Some employers have their conference attendees blog about the experience live from the event, whether public or private (internal to the company).
Ultimately, the value of the conference to the company is greater if the attendee can transfer what was experienced and learned to other members of his or her team.