5 Handy Tips on Getting Your Company to Sponsor Your Tech Conference Pass
1. Do your research – The earlier, the better
There are so many tech conferences (especially those focused on women/diversity in tech) out there that sometimes it’s 1) hard to keep track, and 2) you get overwhelmed. Before you go to your manager to talk about personal development and training, make sure you are equipped with a list of the top 5 conferences you want to go to and why, in order of priority (especially if you know budget is going to be an issue). Many websites already publish lists like these, including The Bizzabo Blog and The Muse. Be ready to back up why you’re picking one conference over the other, especially if one is international, and the other is regional + costs less. Make sure that you live up to your commitments as well – if you promised your manager/team that you will submit a trip report after to document and share your learnings from the conference, ensure that you do it. There’s nothing more important than trust and accountability, plus everyone likes someone who shares knowledge!
2. Talk to other women – Find out which conferences they go to, what their testimonials are
The best conferences with the strongest diversity and inclusion programs/tracks are usually not a secret. The Grace Hopper Celebration conference, for example, is widely-regarded as one of the premier Women in Tech / STEM conferences to attend and meet other women in tech. However, there are many more conferences available which may be a little less well-known, but may still offer heaps of valuable information and networking opportunities for you. Regional conferences also tend to cost less, which gives your boss one less example to say no to you attending them 🙂 If it is challenging getting opportunities to attend international conferences outside your country, you may want to consider attending some local/regional ones first, before working your way up in convincing your boss to entrust you with the opportunity to attend an international one. Talk to other women in your team, or broader organization, or even friends in the same industry to find out what are the conference they get to go to, and see if that’s something that might be relevant to your work as well.
3. Talk to conference organizers – Many now offer Business Justification Letters
Conference organizers are increasingly offering customizable Business Justification Letter templates/tools to help you put together a more compelling case to your manager. Microsoft Ignite does as well. Feel free to take advantage of that, and add your personal touch and reasons why you think the conference would be beneficial for you to attend. If you don’t see that on your conference organizer’s registration website, drop them a mail and ask if they have a template to share!
4. Build good relationships with your coworkers
When you attend tech conferences, you will likely be out of the office for a while, whether it’s for a couple of days, or sometimes even one to two weeks. Build good relationships with your coworkers and ensure that you have a work coverage plan in place – see if your coworkers would be willing to help cover you while you’re away, and absolutely be sure to return the favor when they go to conferences. If everyone helps one another out, everybody benefits. Before you leave for the conference, you should also be kind to your coworker and ensure that you handover cases/work/projects in good order, so that it’s easy for them to help pick it up. Ensure everyone is in the loop on your out-of-office plans and provide alternative/backup contacts while you’re out of the office, so that your manager has the confidence to let you attend the conference.
5. Cover bases at home – Make sure you have support from your family
Family is important too – before you sign yourself up for any conference, be sure that you’ve taken care of the family situation at home, especially if you have young children. Talk to your spouse to make sure they are able to cope while you’re away for that couple of days, and make it easier for them by providing all the things they need to know while you’re away. If you have family in town to help look after them, great. If not, consider whether it might be worthwhile to bring them along to the conference. Many conference organizers are increasingly open about potentially offering childcare support for parents, if there is demand for it. If that’s something you require, definitely reach out to your conference organizer to see if that might be something they can offer.
The above list is absolutely not exhaustive – many of you probably have a ton of other great ideas and suggestions about ways you can get managers/companies to approve you to attend a tech conference. What were some strategies/methods that worked for you in your organization? Share with us your tips in the comment section below!