How To Decide If A Conference Is Worth Your Time And Money

Industry conferences can be a great way to grow your business. In some cases, they can increase your success faster than you ever expected. But, conferences are expensive. Between the flight, hotel, food and conference fee, the total cost can be several hundred dollars, if not thousands.

So, how are you to decide whether attending an industry conference is right for your business or not?

Will You Earn Enough To Cover The Cost Of Attendance?

Attending a conference is an investment in your business. Like any other investment, you need to earn more from attending the conference than you paid to go. Otherwise, you’re just taking a fun trip on your business’s dime.

Look carefully through the conference agenda. Evaluate how relevant the topics are to your work and if going in person will truly be beneficial. Decide as soon as possible whether you would like attend or not. The earlier, the better!

In particular, look for two factors in the conference agenda. These will help you decide if the investment is sound!

Will There Be Potential New Clients There?

Potential new clients (and the business they bring) is one of the easiest ways to recoup your investment costs. But you also need to consider the state of these potential clients. Are they ready to buy? A trade show—where people are actively looking to make a purchase— is completely different from an unrelated event where you might just be pestering people with your sales pitches.

Will There Be Potential Colleagues There?

Finding the right people to help you in your business will make or break your success. This is especially true in collaborative industries. If you wedge yourself into the “in” group, that might just be the ticket you need to launch yourself to success.

But regardless of your place in the group, good colleagues have a number of advantages. They provide or recommend professional services, like marketing, accounting or legal advice. If a colleague is too busy or knows of a client looking for other business owners like yourself, they may refer work to you. And you should use colleagues as a sounding board for new ideas in your own business.

The benefits of cultivating relationships with your peers is indisputable. And, the best way to forge good, long-lasting relationships is by meeting face-to-face.

What Are Other People Saying?

Unless the conference you’re looking at is in the inaugural year, there will certainly be opinions and feedback to be found somewhere on the internet. But don’t depend on the site’s advertising page to give you the real scoop. Slick marketing is hard to resist, but don’t get caught up! Ask around in the industry Facebook groups you belong to. Search Twitter for the previous year’s conference hashtag. Google post-conference blog posts by attendees. Check out the Instagram feed from previous years. Are posts upbeat and full of references to new connections made and mindsets shifted? Or do you see a few too many passive aggressive—or just outright unhappy—reports?

Are There Travel Grants Or Discounts?

Many associations and industries offer travel grants or discounts for people that might make the conference a better deal. If you don’t see any discounts or travel grants advertised, contact the conference coordinators. The worst they can say is no, but oftentimes you’ll be surprised at what programs are available and hidden away, except to those who ask.

One note, though. Block rate discounts at the hotel where the conference is being held is standard procedure—but beware! Sometimes this isn’t the cheapest option, and you can just as easily find more cost-effective options nearby by searching on your own.

Can You Sign Up Early For Reduced Fees?

If the conference offers early-bird pricing on conference tickets, the math might work to make the event worth it. But to get the special pricing, you do have to buy your ticket early.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to sit down at the beginning of the year and scope out which conferences you might be interested in attending. Make a point to sign up for organization email lists or check back regularly so you’ll be first in line to scope out the conference and make your decision.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of

image credit: Bigstock/kasto

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