Conference and workshop attendance is one annual practice I suggest as an investment in yourself, in my book Navigating the Career Jungle: A Guide for Young Professionals. The benefits of attending a conference or workshop are numerous: not only do you have the opportunity to meet other professionals in your industry, it’s a huge knowledge boost as you learn tips and tools that enhance your professional skill set. Conferences are generally hosted at least partially during the workweek which means you will have to be out of the office for a few days. Many professionals forego attending conferences because of the costs associated with attendance and a fear of taking time off. Both of these issues can be solved if you convince your employer to assist you by covering conference registration fees and to approve you to be out of the office without using vacation days.
So how do you pitch your conference attendance to your supervisor? There are many ways you can do this, but regardless of the approach you take your pitch should answer the following questions.
What’s in it for the company?
You must relay to your employer how your attendance at this conference or workshop will enhance your day-to-day responsibilities and how it ties into the organization’s mission and current growth strategy.
Who’s hosting, who’s attending, who’s teaching?
If your company is going to invest in sending you to the conference, your employer needs to know that you’re going to be learning from the best in the industry. Be sure to include a link to the conference website. If the host of the conference has a reputation for organizing impactful events, that reputation will boost your pitch. It will also help your case if the employer knows that the other conference attendees represent companies that are leaders in the industry.
How will you be sharing what you learned with your colleagues?
Through a knowledge share activity! Think of creative ways you can share what you’ve learned with your peers within the company. You should pitch your knowledge share activity at the time of your ask. Consider hosting a lunch and learn, creating an infographic or a writing a series of blog posts for the company intranet. Get creative with the way you share your knowledge. By sharing the information that you’ve learned, you also are able to establish yourself as a leader within the organization and to network within the company.
Prior to sending an email or speaking to your supervisor about sponsoring your attendance to a conference, research the registration dates and cost. Schedule a meeting to pitch your idea before registration ends; if a conference offers an early bird discount, try to schedule the meeting before the early bird discount ends. Don’t expect an immediate answer. Your supervisor may have to find the funds within the department’s budget and ensure that there is proper coverage in the office for the days you will be out. At the conclusion of your meeting, request a follow-up meeting to discuss if your request is approved. If you’ve provided a compelling case of the value your conference attendance will bring to the organization, it’s highly likely that your pitch will be well received.