Convincing prospective attendees to come to your conference is one thing; selling their bosses on it is something else. What can you do to help prospects persuade their managers?
You may have convinced a potential attendee that she can’t miss your conference, but guess what? She may not be the decision-maker.
Rather, it could be her manager who delivers the final verdict. That means part of an association’s job in marketing its conference is to help interested attendees make the case to their bosses that the value they will get out of the event—and bring back to their colleagues—outweighs the cost.
So, what’s an association to do?
Many organizations use a justification toolkit or template. Almost all include a letter that potential attendees can download, personalize, and use to explain to their bosses how they would benefit from the conference. This example [PDF], from the Society for Human Resource Management, allows prospects to fill in information about the sessions they think would help with their professional development, as well as a breakdown of the costs (registration fee, plane ticket, hotel, meals, and so on). The Association for Training and Development offers a similar letter [Word doc].
And if a letter isn’t enough to earn approval, other organizations offer additional tools and resources to win managers over. The How Design Live conference gives prospects talking points to use. For example, if a boss is concerned the registration fee will be a budget-buster, it suggests employees use this response: “This isn’t just a four-day event. Its benefits will carry over through the rest of the year and beyond, so it’s a great value. I’ll capture detailed notes from every session, so our whole team can learn along with me.”
Then there’s the American Association of Law Libraries, which gives prospects tips on how to lower the cost of attending. Among them: take advantage of early registration discounts, buy plane tickets early, and apply for conference scholarships and grants. Recognizing that those new to the industry or young professionals may have a few more hurdles to jump in order to get approval to attend its annual conference, the Qualitative Research Consultants Association offers a 25 percent discount off their registration fee to first-timers, which may help convince managers to say yes.
Another tactic is to reach out to managers and decision-makers directly and tell them what they can expect their employees to take away from the conference and how that will benefit their entire organization. This worked to my advantage at my first job. When someone from a publishing industry conference contacted my supervisor to tell her what my colleagues and I would learn, she gave three of us the seal of approval to attend.
What does your association offer to prospective attendees to help them make the case to their boss? Please share in the comments.