Should you send just any employee to an IT conference?  The answer is no!  A conference is a great place to build networks by meeting other industry leaders and contacts.  Attending a conference is a great way to boost employee morale and give people a break from the daily grind, should you really send every employee?  Will you foot the bill for a party weekend or a weekend that will bring long term added value to the company?  Not to mention deciding who should attend is an important because whom you send is a direct representation of your company.  Ask yourself some out of the box questions when determining who will bring value and not become a liability.  

Conferences are great for networking but networking requires conversation, and how many subject matter experts (SME) in information technology have an extrovert personality?  Send these folks, that are quiet and like to work alone to a conference and you will not benefit from networking.  Will they captivate the audience as a public speaker?  If your company’s SME is a poor public speaker I don’t think they should be appointed to speak at the conference, this won’t draw a crowd or sell your company.  Do they want to attend the conference or is it mandatory?  If they don’t want to go then you are wasting your money, you should ask first.  They won’t truly represent your business and convey its abilities if they don’t want to be there.  I hate to say it but there are usually cocktail parties at conferences, how many employees may have just one too many adult beverages?  I think we all have heard a horror story or two about behavior at a cocktail party and I doubt you want your company involved in the gossip so avoid it all together.  Conduct a quick survey of employees ask them about previous conference highlights, thoughts on attendance, networking and public speaking.  Bring it up in a meeting; ask for feedback, areas of interest including participation from previous employee conference experiences.

Taking the time to do this will only save you money and embarrassment in the long run, if your team understands they value of a conference and is excited to mingle with industry peers and other SME’s than those employees should be asked to represent your company.  They will create a presence for you and enjoy speaking to people about the industry and listen to ideas of improvements and opportunities.  They will engage exhibitors and encourage people to visit your company, help you market your capabilities this is someone you want at a conference!  They return to the office with knowledge and clearly relay it to the rest of the team; they strive to incorporate the value of the conference and its networking abilities.  Either way you look at it, you’re spending money on either sponsorship or attendance, why not get more “bang for your buck”, do some due diligence, and send the right employees!

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