How to convince your boss to let you attend a conference

Three young women network at a conference

You’ve set your sights on an event that’s got a cool keynote and is related to your work (*ahem* MessageGears Accelerate *ahem*). Now you want to attend and you’re wondering… “Will my company cover the bill?” 

It feels like a no-brainer. Your peers will be there, the sessions are relevant to your job, you’re sure to pick up some new LinkedIn connections while you’re there.

The hard truth is, none of those reasons are enough to convince your boss to let you take time off, travel, and do it on the company’s dime.

So what’s an aspiring conference attendee to do?

Gather all the details

You want to go into the conversation with your boss armed with details about why you want to go to this particular conference in the first place.

Maybe you’re a marketer and you’ve always admired the marketing campaigns executed by a big brand that’s presenting at the event. Or maybe you’ve heard about the value of the sessions from friends and peers in the industry. 

Whatever the case, gather these details along with information about:

  • Where the conference is and whether you’ll need to pay for travel arrangements and accommodations
  • Any registration costs and what’s included

Be prepared to show the value in what you’ll get for the company’s investment. For example, at our Accelerate event, attendees don’t need to pay for registration or accommodations, they just need to get to our host city of Atlanta. (That’s a lot of bang for your company’s professional development buck!)

One thing you’ll also want to pay attention to is the timeframe of the conference. If it falls during the busiest time of the year for your company, you’ll likely need to work a bit harder to prove that the juice will be worth the squeeze.

Focus on what’s in it for them

Anyone who’s spent any time in sales knows messages that resonate usually focus on what’s in it for the buyer. 

In this case, your company is paying something for you to attend this event – even if that’s only the small cost of a plane ticket. Your professional development is an investment, and your boss is going to want to know why the company should want to cover the tab.

Will you have a chance to network with folks at other companies to help land new clients? Will your presence help to promote your brand? Will you learn any specific skills or insights that will improve the results of your own campaigns? Can you share the concepts and ideas you learn at the event with coworkers when you return? Will you learn valuable product roadmap information about the tools you use in your role every day? Whatever the proposed outcome, you’ll get a stronger result if you’re able to tie it back to your company’s goals.

Prepare for a no (or a maybe)

While we like to look at the bright side and want to assume you’ll get an immediate “yes” to your request, there’s always a chance that what you want to do is out of budget or conflicts with another company priority.

Come into the conversation with your boss prepared for a no or a maybe response and you’ll be better positioned to advocate for yourself with other options to make sure you get the professional development you need to grow in your role.

For instance, maybe the conference is across the country in a town without a big, affordable airport, and thus, is out of the budget. Are there other conferences or events closer to your hometown or near a large, regional airport where you might be able to get a similar experience?

Just do it

While it can be nerve wracking to ask for your company to make an investment like this (and let’s face it, everyone’s watching their pennies these days), it’s important to remember that conferences can be a great way to learn new skills and boost your career and your company’s performance.

Your boss wants you to succeed, and all you’re asking for is help making that success a reality.

If you’re interested in attending MessageGears Accelerate and need more resources to help with your request, check out this sample letter you can customize and share with your boss. (It’s not gated, so don’t fear a form-fill!)

We hope to see you in Atlanta this Fall!

About the Author

Elsbeth Russell

Elsbeth has nearly two decades of experience helping brands attract and engage audiences through content. For the past six years, she’s been dedicated to helping B2B companies in the email marketing space connect with audiences through community building and social media marketing.