How IT Managers Can Get Their Boss To Say “Yes” To Attend A Conference

The key to getting your boss to say "yes" is to have a persuasive pitch
The key to getting your boss to say “yes” is to have a persuasive pitch

Image Credit: Kai Friis

By this point in your career I’m pretty sure that all of us have at one time or another attended one of our industry’s conferences. You know the drill: you fly in, check into your hotel, go register for the conference, determine what sessions you want to attend, mix and mingle with other people attending the conference and maybe even go out at night and close down a bar or two,. You know and I know that there are real benefits to attending these conferences, but when we’re using our IT manager skills to talk with our bosses who have to pay the bill, it can be quite a challenge to get them to say yes.

How To Make A Strong Presentation

One of the biggest challenges that IT managers face when they are attempting to use their IT manager training to get approval to attend an industry conference is that the conference might be just a little bit too hip. It may be associated with something else that is going on (South By Southwest comes to mind) or it might be in a location that is known more for entertainment than business conferences (Las Vegas anyone?) What this means for you is that you are going to have to overcome your boss’ initial push-back because of how they perceive the conference.

One of the things that you are going to have to do in order to justify your attending a conference that you want to go to will be to come up with an explanation for why your attending this conference will help the company. The good news here is that there can be a number of different reasons that all work. If you can make your case using data and specific projections for how things will become better or easier if you do attend, then you are one step closer to getting a “yes”. It probably goes without saying, but you should only ask your boss for permission to attend the conference when he or she is in a good mood.

Every company wants to grow their bottom line. That’s why when you are asking to go to a conference, you need to keep this in mind. Making a proposal to attend a conference that lays out how your attending the conference will benefit the company by increasing sales or revenue, cut costs, or allow you to connect with valuable people can do the trick. To help you do a better job of doing this, many conference websites contain a “conference justification” section that contains the basic material that you may need in order to convince your boss to allow you to attend.

Helping Your Boss Get To “Yes”

In order to get your boss to agree to send you to a conference, you need to provide them with the information that they are going to need in order to say “yes”. Often times this means that you’ll need to create a written proposal that lays out your goals for attending the conference. The things that you may include in your proposal might include freelancers that you’d like to hire, meeting with industry experts, recruiting candidates for open positions, etc.

A more dramatic way to motivate your boss to agree to send you to a conference might be to offer to split the bill with the company, A trip to a conference generally consists of a number of different components including conference fee, flight, hotel, food, rental car, etc. Offering to pay for one or more of these components out of your own pocket might be just the thing that will tip your boss over and cause him or her to agree to allow you to go.

Finally, just sending you to a conference can benefit you, but it’s not always clear how it will end up benefiting the company. In order to make the positive benefits to the company more clear, you may want to offer to share what you learn at the conference with coworkers once you come back as a form of IT team building. There are number of different ways that you can go about doing this, but generally taking notes during a session and then presenting what you learned during that session is an easy way to spread the information.

What All Of This Means For You

The industry that we are all in, IT, is constantly changing. As IT managers we owe it to our companies, our teams, and ourselves to stay on top of what is currently happening in our industry. Sure, we can read a lot of trade journals; however, nothing beats actually going out and talking face-to-face with and hearing from the people in our industry who are the trailblazers. What this means for us is that we need to go to conferences. In order to get permission to go, we need our boss to say “yes” and getting that yes is not always an easy thing to do.

Many of the IT conferences that we want to go to are either associated with popular events or are located in vacation destinations which can make it hard for our boss to see the value of our going. That’s why we need to take the time to carefully explain why we want to go and how our going is ultimately going to end up benefiting the company’s bottom line. To get your boss to say “yes” will sometimes require a written proposal or having us offer to pay for a portion of the trip. A conference that just benefits you is less attractive than a conference that can benefit more people so offer to share what you learn with others once you get back.

The good news here is that I think that you boss does want you to attend the conference that you are asking to go to. He or she realizes that you’ll learn a lot and you’ll come back a happier employee. Who wouldn’t want that? The responsibility for providing them with enough information about why your attending the conference would be good for the company rests on your shoulders. Take the time to build a convincing story and then you can start to pack your bags!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If your boss initially says no to your request to attend a conference, do you think that you should ask again?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What role does email play in your life? If you are like most of us, it plays a bigger role than you may be aware of. I’d be willing to bet that you start you day by logging into your computer and checking your email. You’ll read and respond to emails for a while and then you’ll go off to a meeting. During the day, when you come back to your computer, you’ll work on emails a bit more. At the end of the day you may wrap things up by spending more time on it before going home. Guess what – email rules your life! What’s an IT manager to do?