How to: get the most out of attending conferences

Event professionals don’t need telling about the value of a good conference. But could we be improving our own conference attendance? First Event’s Steph Caldecott explains more…

Measuring return on investment (ROI) from conference attendance can be equally, if not more, difficult than measuring the ROI of organising your own. You need to work out the value and benefits gained from having team members away from the office. Some of the benefits include:

– Improving your company’s presence in the industry
– Increasing awareness of your brand
– Networking and building relationships with peers
– Enabling a beneficial learning experience

These factors aren’t direct lead generators, however, they are present in the lead generation process – which is, after all, a large focus of many business strategies. For example, building relationships with others in the industry is beneficial for both future collaboration and brand awareness; networking can ignite the interest of potential clients (or even generate a tangible lead), and attending informative conference sessions can provide you with tips and ideas to take back to the office and implement through your own company strategy.

First Event's Stephanie Caldecott
First Event’s Stephanie Caldecott

Another benefit of sending employees to conferences is the impact it has on their professional development, which could, in turn, enhance their productivity and performance. As the number of millennials in the workplace increases, the emphasis on professional development is becoming more important because millennials are focused on learning. According to a report by PwC: “This generation is committed to their personal learning and development and this remains their first choice benefit from employers” (Millennials at Work, PwC).

Giving staff members both the responsibility of representing the company and the opportunity to develop by attending conferences could be part of a wider employee engagement strategy, but it’s important to make sure the right people go to the right events.

Conference ROI Checklist

1. Who is attending the event?
Sending the wrong person to an event may not only be interpreted negatively by colleagues, but also by fellow event attendees and organisers. Some events specifically target senior, decision-making members of staff, so it’s essential you are aware of the attendee requirements before committing to an event.

2. What are you hoping to gain from the event?
Whether it’s knowledge, contacts, or just promoting your company name, having an actual reason (rather than attending ‘because you should’) to attend an event that falls in line with your objectives is enough to initially justify attendance and the costs that come with it.

3. How will the event contribute to your company strategy?
When in doubt, referring back to your company strategy – which should highlight your goals and objectives, is a good way to gauge whether it’s important and justified enough for you (or a colleague) to attend. This way, you can determine exactly what the event will bring and contribute to your business, and decide whether it’s worth taking the time and resource away from your company for its duration.

First published by M&IT Magazine.