In these critical times, achieving effective results demands a paradigm shift that can be realized only with exposure to new thoughts and ideas. The Western Section of The Wildlife Society Annual Meeting will help you discover and implement ideas that deliver results. It will train your mind to search for innovative solutions. It will provide opportunities to make valuable connections with other association professionals and suppliers who have solutions you need. And, it will prepare you for the long road ahead.
In 2021, due to the Covid19 pandemic, we’re meeting virtually. This means it will be easier than ever for you to attend the Annual Meeting since you don’t have to leave home. Also, the costs to attend will be at their lowest since there are no travel costs to pay. We hope you’ll join us at our first-ever virtual meeting which will likely be one of the most attended of all time.
Many travel budgets and training budgets have been slashed, and some agencies and organizations are experiencing severe financial problems. Which means that regardless of the merits of a conference, you’ll probably need to justify the expense – so here are some things you might want to consider:
- Focus on what you will specifically bring back to the organization as return for the investment.
- Offer to prepare and deliver a short presentation and Q&A to your colleagues to share what you learned. This way others in your unit can also benefit from your attendance.
- Share the syllabus and speaker handouts with your colleagues. As an attendee, you have unlimited access to materials posted by speakers.
- Be ready with a plan that shows who will cover for you while you are attending the conference.
- Offer to share a room to reduce hotel expenses by finding a roommate.
How to calculate ROI of the conference
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
Understanding Your Conference Expenses
Conference expenses are affected by many factors. Before you can begin to justify conference expenses, you need to calculate those expenses. To do so, use the following Expenses Worksheet to develop a cost estimate for attending your selected conference.
|Pre & Post-Conference Class Registration, if applicable||usually optional||$0|
|Materials Fees (if any)||books? software? media?||$|
|Flight||try a Web travel service to get a quick estimate||$0|
|Lodging||conferences usually have special rates with hotel||$0|
|Transportation: Airport to Hotel||if flying: taxi? car rental?||$0|
|Transportation: Hotel to Airport||if flying: taxi? car rental?||$0|
|Mileage Reimbursement||driving to conference? To the airport for your flight? Use Mapquest to calculate distances, then multiply miles by .55 cents/mile (IRS standard for 2014).||$0|
|Parking Reimbursement||at airport for flight departure, or at hotel where conference is located||$0|
|Food Per Diem||see IRS guidelines for conference locale rates. Remember, most include breakfast, lunch, & breaks||$0|
|total number of employees going|
|multiply subtotal by total number of employees going = total||$|
Understanding the Benefits
Let’s face it: many benefits from conference attendance are hard to quantify. For example, many 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 solutions you’re not aware of?
Although networking is undoubtedly the most important aspect of a conference, it is also the toughest for which to quantify any value. 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 are particularly relevant to your organization’s work? Specifically identify:
- Tools (authoring tools, Content management systems, etc.)
- Technologies (XML, DITA, etc.)
- Processes (structured writing, single-sourcing, etc.)
- Vendor contacts. Will the conference showcase vendors with tools you use or are evaluating for potential future use? Is this an opportunity during which you’ll be able to compare competing tools?
- 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 skill and/or help your team overcome current or future challenges?
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 conference, and omit the rest.
|Your Organization’s Benefits||Specific Needs and the Conference Sessions & 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 processes, and hear ideas we weren’t even aware of.|
|Teambuilding (if sending a big part of your group)||This conference will help build our team, providing a forum for team members to discuss tools, technologies, and processes and how we can might apply them in our company to improve our information products, workflow, and processes.|
|Future Tools Exploration|
|Future Technologies Exploration|
|Future Processes Exploration|
|Vendors With Tools & Technologies You Are Exploring|
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!
Justification letter for your supervisor:
< Date >
Dear < supervisor’s name >,
I would like to attend The Western Section of The Wildlife Society Annual Meeting taking place virtually, February 1-5, 2021. The conference will enable me to attend many education sessions that are directly applicable to my work and will allow me to network with a variety of wildlife experts and colleagues from around the Western United States and beyond. Many of the presentations are tailored to the < your profession > professional and give information on how to < list benefits to your responsibilities >. I am seeking sponsorship for the registration fee, travel expenses to the conference, and living expenses during the conference. A detailed cost breakdown is included below.
After reviewing the conference website, I have identified several education sessions which that allow me to gain knowledge and understanding about how we can improve our processes. The presentations are facilitated by both industry experts and colleagues who have faced similar challenges. I chose each of these presentations because it is directly related to an issue we are dealing with in the currently. Getting the information in a seminar format will greatly reduce the research time and costs the < your organization’s name > would normally incur in researching the topics. Incidentally, I have listed only some of the seminars that I will attend. Including them all would make this memo much too long.
< You will need to insert the session descriptions which most apply to your responsibilities. >
< The numbers in brackets below will need to be adjusted to reflect the current pricing. >
The full price meeting fee is <$xxxx>, but can be reduced with the early bird special by registering before December 18.
The opportunity for me to develop better contacts and gain knowledge in specific areas of < your profession > makes my attendance at The Western Section of The Wildlife Society Annual Meeting a wise investment, which will yield rich dividends for < name of your organization >.
< your name here >