Feeding Your Inner Geek – Top Tips on Getting To Conferences

Feeding Your Inner Geek – Top Tips to Get Your Boss to Send You to a Conference

Industry conferences are fun. Ok fine, they are a flippin blast man! They are the highlight of many peoples entire year. You go and meet people that do just what you do. They can relate to your day-to-day trials, tribulations, and successes. They are fun to hang out with and party a bit too. The capper is that it is done without the wife/husband/kids/and coworkers around to ride rough shod. You know you have made it in the business world when your boss sends you to industry conferences. It is a dog-eat-dog world in some corporations where fights over seniority and perks break out when it comes down to who gets to go to a conference. You aren’t Carl Spackler, so here are some top tips on how to make sure you are the one that gets to go to the next must-see industry event.

Post Conference Deal Sealers:

Let’s start at the end and work backwards. You just went to a great conference where you: shook some hands, saw some inspiring speakers, got a mini vacation from the rigors of home life, drank some drinks, and lived the life – you had a ball, baby! So the question arises: how can you get to more conferences? Your bosses need to see value, value, and more value out of sending you to a conference. The best way to do that is to make sure you sell them on the conference you just visited. After all, your boss was probably begrudgingly agreeable to letting you go in the first place. Having you out of the office for that many days of lost productivity and expense can be a strong hill to climb for most cost-sensitive business people. It is imperative that you always follow up on what you learned with your staff.

The Follow Up Presentation:

  • After a conference, ask for a meeting with the staff and your boss to show them a presentation on the conference and to “teach them” what you learned.
  • If you can do a full formal presentation to your boss, then go for the Full Monty PowerPoint within the allotted time.
  • If you can only do something in email, then do a shorter PowerPoint, but expound upon your bullet points (tip: put the really good stuff at the start).
  • Take your notes from the conference and create a follow up presentation. Use the word “value” in all of your follow up discussions with your boss: overwhelming, paradigm shifting, revenue generating value, value, and more value. Your bosses look at conferences strictly from an ROI point of view.
  • Perfect that overwhelmed glossy-eyed look.
  • Find your boss’s pain points. What was to be solved by you going to the conference? How did the conference address that point?
  • When you talk to coworkers, forget about the jello shots and focus on the sessions. You need allies in the office to help your case for the next conference.
  • Use pictures from the conference in your PowerPoint.
  • Get pictures of you with the quality speakers. You boss needs to know that you carried the flag to the right people.
  • If the presentations can be downloaded from the conference website, then use a few slides from them.
  • Put three to five specific “action items” in your powerpoint. Bosses love the self starters and real go-getters.

Talk the Talk:

The best way to show how influential a show was to you is to talk the talk back at the office:

  • Write down 5 specific things that your company can do that you learned at the conference. Detail them in-depth, but keep the outline short and understandable.
  • Sling the 2.0 current lingo. Liberally use words like: mashups, AJax, SMO, analytics, organic, paid performance, leveraging assets, or other industry specific and popular buzz phrases. Don’t even blink when you use the phrases.
  • Visit one of the marketing speak generators and pepper your language with deal-sealers like:
    paradigm-shifting architecture

  • Play the education card – early and often. Talk about how much you learned.
  • If you have a company blog or personal blog, blog about the conference.

Touch, Taste, Feel:

Conferences are abstract, out of the office, and hard for staff back at the office to visualize. You need to make it real for them. As far as they know, you just left for a couple days vacation and lost productivity. Bosses love to look at and touch stuff. Bringing home conference materials helps to make the conference real. Make them feel a part of the show even though they did not attend. (warning: the danger here is that you will do such a good job, that they will want to go themselves next year. This may or may not be a good thing).

  • While at a show like

    , visit any of your own vendor booths and pick up their company literature. Get business cards of any people you can at the booths. Business is a contact sport.
  • If there was a celebrity keynote – get their autograph on your show book and get a picture with them. Use them in your followup PowerPoint.
  • Get lots of pictures of sessions and expo halls. Nothing sells a conference like pictures. If you don’t have any of your own – go to Flickr and find some from the show. Use these pictures in your PowerPoint. Avoid the pictures of you slamming beer bongs at the local pub. Tip: if pictures are taken of you at the bar, hold the beer behind your back or set it down quickly before the picture is snapped.
  • Keep the conference bag and bring it back to the office and leave it laying around your cube.
  • Put the conference book on your bookshelf in such a way that it can be seen from the opening to your office. Also, make sure to take some notes in the book and dog ear some corners so that when you boss looks at it, he can see that you used it. Get the cover signed by your fav speaker.
  • Take your conference lanyard and badge and tack them on the wall of your office for all to see from the door. When you boss stops by, they will notice it. They will see (literally) how much that conference had an impact on you.
  • The line item. At budget time, fight for a conference attending budget.

Selling the Next Conference:

  • Make a preconference presentation on why you should go to a conference and what you are going to accomplish by being there.
  • List specific goals you have in mind in going to the conference.
  • Point out specific issues and problems that will be addressed by attending a conference. (Be sure *not* to list personal advancement as a goal).
  • Identify people that you would like to interact with at the show and how they can help your issues at hand.
  • Go find

    of your competitors hanging out at a conference with the big shots. Let a little competitive envy work for you.
  • Emphasize the networking opportunities. These are nonspecific, but intrinsic value-adds that your bosses will inherently understand.
  • If you feel strongly about attending the conference – offer up a vacation day. You can also offer to travel over a weekend.
  • If budget is tight, offer to stay at a cheaper hotel.
  • Go through the conference material with your boss and identify specific sessions you want to attend.
  • You can also mention that you would like to become a speaker at the conference and need to know the conference as well as the attendees.

Malcolm Gladwells Badge

from PubCon Boston 2006


Getting to PubCon Vegas:

  • Sell the fact that it is wall-to-wall marketing industry insiders.
  • Emphasize that it is less than half the cost of competing conferences.
  • Point out that there are real world speakers that actually do this stuff for a living.
  • Tell your boss you will be networking with the leading edge of the web.
  • What is your current biggest tech problem and how is it going to be solved at the PubCon geek fest.
  • Remind your boss that all of your competitors are there – you should be, too.
  • Avoid linking to shots from the
    Yahoo Playboy

    swim party of 2006. Best to avoid the shots of

    too. Go to something more wholesome like
    Owen Byrne of digg
  • Finally, drive home the point that more real world info is shared in an open environment like Las Vegas than any other conference in the United States.

Do the above and you are
Going to PubCon Vegas Dude

– bt