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Why attend conferences when facing tight budgets?

"Boss, here's a conference I'd like to attend. I know budgets are tight around here but this one looks good. OK?"

"No, it's not OK, Joe. We've got to see a positive return on our money for every dollar we spend this year. How will this conference do that?"

Sound familiar? It should. That conversation will probably be repeated thousands of times in 1991. If "Joe" had put in some preparation for his conversation with the "Boss," he would have been able to answer that question. In fact, he should have started the conversation like this:

"Boss, here's a conference I'd like to attend. I've studied the scheduled and program carefully and these are the reasons I believe this conference will give me the information and the ideas to improve our operations and cover my time and expenses."

At this point, "Joe" must follow up with some detail. He should discuss the technical presentations at the conference that are of interest to him and outline specifically how his company might make use of them and why he needs more information. If the conference also covers management topics, the same justification should be supplied.

Then Joe should consider if multiple presentations or "tracts" are part of the program schedule so he can choose a topic versus having to sit through program "softspots."

No conference can provide continuous, high-level learning for everyone without interruption, but a conference with only one tract is less likely to achieve maximum payback for all attendees. Numerous hastily contrived, usually profit-motivated, conferences have only a single tract and frequently at exorbitant fees.

Will Joe hear knowledgeable speakers, "fresh faces" on the conference circuit, or is the program loaded with speakers who make a living going from conference to conference and delivering the same, tired, predictable message over and over again?

Will he meet professional peers at the conference or just a lot of tire-kickers?

Will he get copies of the presentations and a roster of all attendees with their names, titles, full address and telephone numbers or just a list that specifies "John Brown--XYZ Co." The latter is useless for subsequent contact but frequently handed out by conference sponsors who are afraid someone will use their attendee roster for promotional purposes.

Then Joe should look at some of the intangibles of the conference. Is it just a dog and pony show, a huge trade show with a lot of hoopla and time-consuming distractions, a place to pick up samples and handhouts and take advantage of some open houses, or is it a serious conference?

How much is the conference fee, what is the hotel rate, what items are included in the conference fee like meals, parking, copies of presentations (not cassettes sold at extra cost), travel expenses, and number of conference hours each day? Does it award continuing education units (CEUs), and similar benchmarks?

Will Joe be crowded into theater-style seats trying to take notes on his lap with a coffee cup in the other hand, or will he have classroom style accommodations in which to spread out and make learning a pleasant task, not a challenge? If this isn't evident in the conference publicity, call the conference registration number to find out.

If they don't know the answer, you can assume the worst.

Some of these points may be too intangible to highlight with the Boss, but they should influence Joe on how aggressive he intends to be in obtaining permission to attend and how serious he is in believing he can bring back profit ideas from the conference.

Lastly, there is another approval technique that supersedes all of these. It's simple: put it in writing! If you take the time to analyze a conference on paper, give it to the Boss, then follow up with a verbal request, your Boss will know you are serious.

Sure it takes time. But if you're routinely turned down for conference attendance, you're hurting your personal development in addition to missing opportunities to improve your company's operations.

Recession is not a time to pull the cover over and crawl in. It's a time to work harder, work smarter and improve your own development just to maintain your competitiveness.

A quotation I just read in a letter from a company whose major business is operating training courses is apropos. It read, "In rapidly changing technologeis, when jobs become fewer, it's the PEOPLE WHO KEEP UP WITH CHANGE who offer the greatest value!"

Lots of good conferences are held and many are consistently improving their contents as conference organizers become aware they must give increased value for fewer dollars. You have substantial choices. The Association of Data Communications Users (ADCU) has an excellent national conference, open to everyone, coming up on May 20-22 at the TajMahal Casino Resort Hotel in Atlantic City which includes all the features outlined above.

Call (612) 881-6803 for more information or a brochure and analyze this conference along with others before you begin that "Boss, can I go to . . . ." conversation!

Augie Blegen is a telecommunications consultant and executive director of the Association of Data Communications Users, Inc., P.B. Box 20163, Bloomington, MN 55420, (612) 881-6803.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Datacomm User
Author:Blegen, August
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Previous Article:Will standard interfaces be enough to turn the tide for ISDN implementation?
Next Article:Anatomy of a recovery.

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