Article How to Calculate ROI of the Conference  BACK TO GUIDE
How to Justify Conference Attendance

By Mike Doyle

As a manager, how do you propose any allocation of resources in your organization? You need to understand two components to make decisions:

• Expense (the “investment”)
• Return on Investment

This article provides some easy-to-use tools to help you calculate the investment and identify your return.

Understanding Your Conference Expenses

Conference expenses are affected by a number of factors. Before you can even begin to justify conference expenses, you need to calculate what those expenses are. To do so, use the following Expenses Worksheet to develop a cost estimate for attending your selected conference.

Expenses Worksheet

 Expense  Guideline  Cost
Conference Registration  Try a Web travel service to get a quick estimate   $
Flight    $
Lodging  IAPMO has a special rate with conference hotel  $
Transportation: Airport to Hotel  If flying: Taxi? Car rental?  $
Airport to Hotel Transportation:  Hotel to Airport  If flying: Taxi? Car rental?  $
Mileage Reimbursement  Driving to conference? To the airport for your flight? Use Google Maps to calculate distances, then multiply miles by 55.5 cents/mile (IRS standard for 2011)  $
Parking Reimbursement  At airport for flight departure or at hotel where conference is located  $
Food Per Diem  See IRS guidelines for conference locale rates. Remember, IAPMO Conference includes light breakfasts and four evening meals  $
 subtotal    $
Total number of employees going    $
 = total    

Understanding the Benefits

Let’s face it: many benefits from conference attendance are hard to quantify. For example, experts agree that the top benefit of conference attendance is networking value. Where else can you find so many industry contacts facing the same issues as your organization? Are there code changes pending of which you’re not aware or that you need to support, modify or oppose?

On the other hand, if an employee came to you and said, “I want you to fund me for $4,000 and I don’t know what it’ll do for you,” then you would likely scoff at the offer … and maybe even mumble a few colorful metaphors about his/her suggestion.

When you propose a conference for approvals, don’t focus on how much you want to go; focus on what you will specifically bring back to the organization as payback for the investment.

Some specific details you’ll need to identify include:
    • Session content. What sessions have particular relevance to your jurisdiction’s work? Specifically identify: 
        • Tools (Updates to UPC and UMC)
        • Technologies (Horizontal Wet Venting) 
        • Systems (Venting, Boilers, Refrigeration, etc.)
    • Exhibitor contacts. Will the conference exhibition showcase vendors with new products that may be unfamiliar at the jobsite? 
    • Best practices. Will there be training sessions in areas that will immediately benefit your group? 
    • Training. Will there be workshops designed to teach attendees a special design?

Quantifying the Benefits

Although you might understand the benefits of the conference that interests you, your manager may not. Therefore, to be most effective in justifying the conference you need to clearly articulate the connection between your organization’s knowledge requirements and the conference program. DO NOT assume that your manager will be able to automatically make those distinctions.

To support this process, use the following Benefits Worksheet to help you focus on the benefits. Use whatever makes sense for your particular organization and omit the rest.

Benefits Worksheet

Your Organization’s Benefits  Specific Needs and the Conference Sessions and Training that Meet the Need
Networking Benefits  This conference will allow [specific team members] to network with other professionals and vendors in the industry. We will be able to take the pulse of what is happening for tools, technologies and systems, and hear ideas of which we weren’t even aware.
Current Tools  
Future Tools  
Current Technologies  
Future Technologies  
Current Processes  
Exhibitors With New Products You Need to Know About  
It’s All in the Selling

After you have identified the specific knowledge benefits, you’ve provided both the expenses and benefits your manager needs to decide the value of your proposition.

Salespeople work the same way; they don’t let customers infer the value of what they are selling, they make that leap for them.

Sell your conference proposition!

(Reprinted with permission from Writing Assistance Inc.)