How to attend a conference without breaking the bank
How to attend a conference without breaking the bank.
1. Get help from your employer, Ask, but be prepared
Just asking never hurts. This may bring anxiety and fear to some of us out there, but asking could be well worth it. Chances are, your boss wants you to go to a conference because they know it will give you the opportunity to learn valuable skills you won’t pick up at work and it shows them you want to improve, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able give you an immediate answer of “Yes”. Here is the information you need to gather for your boss to increase your chances of a “Yes”:
- “Can’t spare to have you not working during those days”. Offer to dedicate time after each conference day to stay caught up, work while traveling, offer to work a few extra hours the days leading up or after the event, etc.
- – “It costs too much.” Ask what the budget then make appropriate cost-saving For example, stay one less night, forego meals (sometimes conferences feed you anyway), suggest cheaper flight times, offer to pay a portion of the cost if you can, etc. Maybe you’ll have to just pick a more local conference to start.
- “I don’t see how the company would benefit.” Ideally, you will have provided a sufficient argument beforehand, but have additional benefits to list and describe in greater detail to really drive the point home. Practice with a co-worker or friend, if needed.
2. Offer to go with HR and help recruit
Many HR teams in Engineering companies recognize the benefits of bring along actual engineers to help them recruit new employees. It helps potential Engineering candidates really learn about the company from someone with a job more similar to theirs. Engineers have a better idea of what the job position entails, especially if the job position is similar to theirs or if they have worked directly with others in that position.
- Be part of the conference.
- Volunteer at the Conference,
Most conferences, if not all, need volunteers. Most volunteers are given discounted or free registration to the conference. You may not get to attend every session, but you’ll get to attend quite a few and you’ll get to speak with the conference organizers who are most likely highly successful in their field. This is a great way for students to attend local conferences, but it also can be beneficial for working professionals to use this strategy as well. Students should check if volunteering can count towards any participation or community service requirements, while working professionals should ask their supervisors if they can attend and volunteer on company time.
3. Be a speaker.
This one is for the planners. Conferences typically set speaker applications months before registration is even open, so you need to dedicate some time every once in a while to check for calls for participation.
You may be thinking, “I have nothing to talk about,” or, “No one will be interested,” but chances are, that is not true. Being a speaker is not an easy task and there is a lot of preparation involved, But if you are already working on a project or have recently finished a project related to the conference, why not apply to share your work and attend a conference for less money? Even if you aren’t already working on a project, you might still have enough time to get your abstract together and apply. After all, a speaking experience can do wonders for your career.
4. Participate in Affinity Groups at Work, Even Remotely
My employer created an affinity group called “STEM UP”, and I’ve been participating remotely from a different site. I haven’t been able to help with events in person, but the affinity group was still very excited to send me to a conference to represent the company. I’m excited to have gotten the opportunity to contribute to the affinity group in a bigger way like this. –Jennifer, Applications Engineer, Massachusetts, United States