is attending conferences worth the opportunity costs?

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2008/09/20 · 6 comments 1 views

in c blogging - case studies,d business SME

    Never ceases to amaze me. While some people feel attending conferences such as Going Solo is smart for delegates as well as for presenters (see below), others say conferences are a waste of time. So how do you decide?  Read about the criteria I use for deciding if I want to attend or prefer staying home instead.

Of course, there are academic conferences (e.g., US Academy of Management) where researchers from academic and other organizations (e.g., research labs) present their latest findings and advancement in science. There are those that present a firm’s work and sales pitches nicely packaged in a conference. Some are not so good and others have managed this quite well such as the Forrester conferences.

So wich conference should you attend?

DominicJones Replied to seventh “presentation request” of the week. Some of the same people over and over. Same answer each time: I don’t travel well.

DominicJones Maybe I should just tell them the truth. Presentations are too much work for too little gain. And I don’t mean money. I mean reach.

In the above tweets, Dominic Jones finds that scalability does not make it worth while, another comment I got is:

InfoSec InfoSec @commetrics if I present, key criteria is: can I meet people that will make me learn & do more biz, payment alone won’t cut it,never enough

Considering the time it takes to prepare a presentation, travel to and from the venue, while attending the conference itself, attending these things is a high investment. In fact, it seems a bit useless to just go there, present and leave again after having made your presentation.

If you are there already, attend the whole conference and network, meet people and so forth.

So if you set yourself a goal to attend two conferences a year, possibly presenting or not, how is one to decide which one of the many one can choose from? You simply do neither have enough time nor resources to attend more than just a few each year.

During May I attended the Going Solo conference to see what people had to say, network and so forth.

CyTRAP: @ComMetrics delegate at small conference not presenter=learn&network,find people that I want to collaberate/work with=freelancers

Thibaut Thomas thibautthomas @ComMetrics confs are ideas made physical. Its about being in a physical place with inspiring ideas, and continuous learning, people meeting

To assess the reward of such a conference like Going Solo is difficult for me.  As a small business I should consider this comment:

InfoSec InfoSec @commetrics if I present, key criteria is: can I meet people that will make me learn & do more biz, payment alone won’t cut it,never enough

I think it is very difficult to know before attending a conference if it will bring the rewards one hoped to get. However, the risk can be limited somewhat by following the criteria outlined below.


Here is another tweet:

SMIuk08 SMIuk08 @ComMetrics attend/present confs=part of traditional forms of marketing (advertising,lead gen,e-mail) all impacted/disrupted by social media

I think it is safe to say that as a small business, unless things ultimately result in one’s cash register to ring,  the activity should be curtailed. Attending conferences, besides the delegate fees, travel and accommodation expenses and so forth, also represent opportunity costs (you will not be generating income during the days you spend at the conference).

The difficulty today is that if you live in a large metropolitan area, it could happen that there are several ‘relevant’ conferences being held right at your doorstep in any one year. So how do you choose?

All else being equal (ceteris paribus), helping me to decide if I should be attending a conference or not are the answers I get to these questions:

1) can I present – presenting gives me more exposure and is an easy way to gain face recognition in the crowd while, hopefully, being approached by people afterwards (e.g., breaks, lunch, dinner drinks, etc.)?

2) will I learn – things at the conference that help me with my business (depends on type of attendees, quality of presenters, etc.)?

3) will I meet potential clients – what is the likelihood that such an individual is in attendance – will I get an opportunity to talk to this person that might just become my next client?

4) are potential collaborators attending – do I get the chance chance to meet somebody I have never met before except e-mailing with or an individual I want to work together with (e.g., do a project together, submit a tender together, etc.)?

5) what are my costs – what are the delegate fees, travel expenses and time needed to make sure one attends sessions and goes to the social networking events  (e.g., flying Easy Jet is cheap but might take you 5 days away from your family instead of three using another carrier)?

I tend to consider attenting a conference that meets at least 4 out of the 5 possible criteria I have listed above. Regardless of this effort it is still a risk. Hence, you may decide after the conference that it was better or worse than you thought. In fact, you may have hoped that it would meet a criterion listed above but find out after the conference that it did not. Those are the breaks.

All these questions help with is minimizing the likelihood of you wasting time and money, attending a meeting that may just not be for you.

Attending meetings instead of generating revenue can be a very expensive propsition for a start-up. So these questions help you get more out of your next conference.

  • Anna

    Velen Dank! Super spannende Infos! Schweizer haben die Nase vorn. Sehr gut. Und so soll es auch bleiben :-)

    • Urs E. Gattiker

      Liebe Anna
      Danke vielmals für das Feedback über meine Session am Barcamp Bodensee. Natürlich ohne den @Oliverg:twitter hätte das Barcamp wohl nie stattgefunden.

      Ich habe mir erlaubt unten 2 Fotos noch anzuhängen von Mark @MrWomm:twitter die er mir geschickt hat.

      @AnnaGroszewski:twitter was mich natürlich noch wunder nimmt ist was Dir denn gefallen hat an der Präsentation?
      Welche Info war für Dich hilfreich, nützlich?

      Hoffe Du wirst antworten. Merci Urs @CyTRAP:twitter

  • Anna


    An deiner Session hat mir gefallen, dass du sehr offen nützliche Infos zum Bloggen auch aus SEO Sicht geteilt hast. Ich kann mich noch sehr gut an “Facebook and my Sexlife” oder “Picture right side” entsinnen.

    Sei du selbst, denn alle anderen sind schon so (be authentic) war für mich noch mal ein Ansporn tatsächlich so zu schreiben, wie ich bin. Vielen Dank dafür.

    • Urs E. Gattiker

      Liebe Anna [ @AnnaGroszewski:twitter ]

      Danke für die Antwort. Uebrigens, zu Facebook and Sex Life habe ich z.B. dies geschriegen – echt authentisch 😉 :

      Facebook Likes: Is this job applicant a drug addict? EINFACH ANKLICKEN – URL

      Das mit den Fotos oben rechts habe ich auch in diesem Blogeintrag gemacht….

      Bin froh das da anscheinend auch bei Dir Einiges hängen geblieben ist. Und Dein Feedback hat mich gelernt das einprägsame Beispiele aus der Praxis halt immer hilfreich sind (siehe Wandtafel Foto unten).

      Anna, Merci für das Feedback.

  • Jay F Kay

    Danke für die vielen Infos. Ich sehe schon, ich sollte mich wirklich ausführlicher mit dem Thema befassen.

    • Urs E. Gattiker

      Lieber Jay

      Danke für Dein Feedback. Ja es gibt einige Infos.
      Aber wie du diese verwendest hängt ja sicherlich von deinen Zielsetzungen ab (z.B. Vergnügen, Aufbau einer Marke oder Geld verdienen dank Advertising).
      Hier mal der Link zu Deinem Blog und den Daten. Die haben wir aber noch nicht alle eingesammelt scheint mir:

      Ansonsten einfach ein Ziel setzen wie ich in der Session sagte und dann daraufhin arbeiten :-)
      Danke @hoomygumb:twitter hoffe das Du den Blog abonniert hast hier:
      Dann mal viel Spass Urs @CyTRAP:twitter

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