The economy is down, and some of us are adapting by doing more with less. We have less time, less money, and fewer people. The overall lack of resources has us running in circles, rarely slowing down for a breath of air. Precisely why conferences are still essential. Conferences give us a chance to take a deep breath and to gain perspective on where we are and where we need to go. In “Why Conferences Are Still Essential,” the editorial of the February 2003 Harvard Management Communication Letter, Nick Morgan points to three ways to go about choosing a conference:

  • Attend a conference that is in your area of expertise—This is a no brainer. Obviously, our careers and interests drive us to these conferences.
  • Attend a conference that addresses a completely unfamiliar area of business—Business is competitive. Gain an edge by diving into an unfamiliar area to give you a cross-reference that will help you gain a broader picture of the business climate.
  • Choose a conference that tells a story from beginning to end—”Look for a conference whose organizers have woven together a story line that adds up to something intelligible by the time the conference is over.” Map the speaker topics to the overall conference theme to make sure the alignment is right.

But, how do you justify attending a conference? Morgan says, “You just have to find a way.” We suggest the following:

  • Establish a business case for the conference.
  • Talk with people who have attended the conference before.
  • Review the content and summarize how it will benefit your organization.
  • Offer to assume a share of the costs.
  • Volunteer to visit a customer site in the area of the conference.
  • Offer to give a brown-bag talk about the conference when you return.
  • Write a summary of the conference for your peers.
  • Bring home one idea that you want to implement immediately.