In the 21st Century with tele-conferencing and webinars you might think that real-world conferencing was like the sabre-toothed tiger, great in its day but replaced in its niche by more highly-evolved species.
Not so; more people go to conferences and seminars out in the real world than ever before. Companies pay to send their employees and entrepreneurs even pay to go to these events out of their own pockets. Decision-makers like these would only pay for conference tickets if they saw a good return on their investment.
What Is the ROI of a Conference Reservation?
You will see much discussion about measuring return on investment for conference attendees, but most of it is full of meaningless jargon. The long and the short of it is that ROI is very difficult to quantify. The best evidence for a good return on your investment is that hard-nosed accountants from major companies authorise attendance at the same conferences year after year.
Surveys that are filled out by delegates and used to measure ROI by conference organisers are very dubious in their authenticity. Delegates need to show they have learned something, so fill in the boxes appropriately.
Returns are much more than financial, and it is that which makes them impossible to measure in most instances:
- How do you measure the value of getting your business card into the hands of the most influential person in your field?
- How do you measure the value of a ten minute conversation with someone who you later go into a joint venture with?
- How do you measure the goodwill that exists between two attendees who have enjoyed dinner together?
Mozcon tickets are about $1000, plus travel and accommodation, but people attend year after year, many paying their own costs. That tells us something about ROI. Check out the comments here at moz.com.
The 7 Reasons to Attend a Conference
- Catch up on new developments
- Learn what other people are doing
- Interacting with others in your own and related fields
- Acquiring new contacts
- Building goodwill with suppliers and customers
- Broadening your perspective
- Team building
1. Catch Up on New Developments
You really need to be away from the office to have the time to focus on new developments in your area. When there are no interruptions you can absorb the implications of new ideas more easily.
2. Learn What Other People Are Doing
When you and your employees never venture out of your offices it is an unwise isolationist position. It is dangerous to work in isolation all the time, you lose perspective and suddenly your business is under threat from changes in industry practices.
3. Interacting with Others in Your Own and Related Fields
Within your own company it is easy to develop a myopic view of your market; talking with other people helps you to see the bigger picture.
4. Acquiring New Contacts
People still prefer to do business with people they have met and spoken with face-to-face. The only way to do that is by attending conferences and seminars. It is impossible to put a value on a contact in terms of the extra business you will do through that person.
5. Building Goodwill with Suppliers and Customers
It is important to talk to the people you already do business with, to maintain those personal contacts that make business work. It might be something as simple as a pre-dinner drink together or a shared cigarette break.
6. Broadening Your Perspective
Within your team everyone shares the same perspective. When you meet people at industry events each person has their own perspective and in every case it is a different one from the one you are used to hearing every day in the office.
Cross-pollination is important to produce new ideas, in business just as in agriculture. Just talking to people in related fields could spark an idea for a new company product or a new application or development of an existing product.
Everybody needs to feel as though they are on a team all pulling for the same objective. If your company can send two people to a conference their take-away will be much more than double that of an individual. They will work together as a team making more contacts and discussing new ideas while they are there and will return fired up with enthusiasm to pass on what they have learned.
Next time you are asked about an employee attending a seminar or conference, say ‘yes’ because the long-term benefits may not be measurable but they are still enormous. Conferences are still valuable to you even if their ROI cannot be measured.
Have your employees attended many conferences up to now?
How many conferences have you been to yourself?