In these critical times, achieving effective results demands a paradigm shift that can only be realized with exposure to new thoughts and ideas. The Western Section of The Wildlife Society Annual Conference will help you discover and implement ideas that deliver results. It will train your mind to search for innovative solutions. It will provide opportunities to make valuable connections with other association professionals and suppliers who have solutions you need. And, it will prepare you for the long road ahead.

General Tips
Many travel budgets and training budgets have been slashed, and some agencies and organizations are experiencing severe financial problems. Which means that regardless of the merits of a conference, you’ll probably need to justify the expense – so here are some things you might want to consider:

  • Focus on what you will specifically bring back to the organization as return for the investment.
  • Offer to prepare and deliver a short presentation and Q&A to your colleagues to share what you learned. This way others in your unit can also benefit from your attendance.
  • Share the syllabus and speaker handouts with your colleagues. As an attendee, you have unlimited access to materials posted by speakers.
  • Be ready with a plan that shows who will cover for you while you are attending the conference.
  • Offer to share a room to reduce hotel expenses by finding a roommate.

How to calculate ROI of the conference

As a manager, how do you propose any allocation of resources in your organization? You need to understand two components to make decisions:

  • Expense (the “investment”)
  • Return on Investment

Understanding Your Conference Expenses

Conference expenses are affected by a number of factors. Before you can even begin to justify conference expenses, you need to calculate what those expenses are. To do so, use the following Expenses Worksheet to develop a cost estimate for attending your selected conference.

Expenses Worksheet

Expense Guideline Cost
Conference Registration $
Pre & Post-Conference Class Registration, if applicable usually optional $
Materials Fees (if any) books? software? media? $
Flight try a Web travel service to get a quick estimate $
Lodging conferences usually have special rates with hotel $
Transportation: Airport to Hotel if flying: taxi? car rental? $
Transportation: Hotel to Airport if flying: taxi? car rental? $
Mileage Reimbursement driving to conference? To the airport for your flight? Use Mapquest to calculate distances, then multiply miles by .55 cents/mile (IRS standard for 2014). $
Parking Reimbursement at airport for flight departure, or at hotel where conference is located $
Food Per Diem see IRS guidelines for conference locale rates. Remember, most include breakfast, lunch, & breaks $
subtotal $
total number of employees going
multiply subtotal by total number of employees going = total $

Understanding the Benefits

Let’s face it: many benefits from conference attendance are hard to quantify. For example, many experts agree that the top benefit of conference attendance is networking value. Where else can you find so many industry contacts facing the same issues as your organization? Are there solutions you’re not aware of?

Although networking is undoubtedly the most important aspect of a conference, it is also the toughest for which to quantify any value.

On the other hand, if an employee came to you and said, “I want you to fund me for $4,000 and I don’t know what it’ll do for you,” then you would likely scoff at the offer…and maybe even mumble a few colorful metaphors about his/her suggestion.

When you propose a conference for approvals, don’t focus on how much you want to go; focus on what you will specifically bring back to the organization as payback for the investment.

Some specific details you’ll need to identify include:

  • Session content. What sessions have particular relevance to your organization’s work? Specifically identify:
    • Tools (authoring tools, Content management systems, etc.)
    • Technologies (XML, DITA, etc.)
    • Processes (structured writing, single-sourcing, etc.)
  • Vendor contacts. Will the conference showcase vendors with tools you use or are evaluating for potential future use? Is this an opportunity during which you’ll be able to compare competing tools?
  • Best practices. Will there be training sessions in areas that will immediately benefit your group?
  • Training. Will there be workshops designed to teach attendees a special skill and/or help your team overcome current or future challenges?

Quantifying the Benefits

Although you might understand the benefits of the conference that interests you, your manager may not. Therefore, to be most effective in justifying the conference, you need to clearly articulate the connection between your organization’s knowledge requirements and the conference program. DO NOT assume that your manager will be able to automatically make those distinctions.

To support this process, use the following Benefits Worksheet to help you focus on the benefits. Use whatever makes sense for your particular organization and conference, and omit the rest.

Benefits Worksheet

Your Organization’s Benefits Specific Needs and the Conference Sessions & Training that Meet that Meet the Need
Networking Benefits This conference will allow [specific team members] to network with other professionals and vendors in the industry. We will be able to take the pulse of what is happening for tools, technologies, and processes, and hear ideas we weren’t even aware of.
Teambuilding (if sending a big part of your group) This conference will help build our team, providing a forum for team members to discuss tools, technologies, and processes and how we can might apply them in our company to improve our information products, workflow, and processes.
Current Tools
Future Tools Exploration
Current Technologies
Future Technologies Exploration
Current Processes
Future Processes Exploration
Vendors With Tools & Technologies You Are Exploring

It’s All in the Selling

After you have identified the specific knowledge benefits, you’ve provided both the expenses and benefits your manager needs to decide the value of your proposition.

Salespeople work the same way. They don’t let customers infer the value of what they are selling, they make that leap for them.  Sell your conference proposition!

Justification letter for your supervisor:

< Date >

Dear < supervisor’s name >,

I would like to attend The Western Section of The Wildlife Society Annual Conference taking place January 26-30, 2015 in Santa Rosa, CA.  The conference will enable me to attend a number of education sessions that are directly applicable to my work and will allow me to network with a variety of wildlife experts and colleagues from around the Western United States and beyond. Many of the presentations are tailored to the < your profession > professional and give information on how to < list benefits to your responsibilities >. I am seeking sponsorship for the registration fee, travel expenses to the conference, and living expenses during the conference. A detailed cost breakdown is included below.

After reviewing the conference website, I have identified a number of education sessions which will allow me to gain knowledge and understanding about how we can improve our processes. The presentations are facilitated by both industry experts and colleagues who have faced similar challenges. I chose each of these presentations because it is directly related to an issue we are dealing with in the currently. Getting the information in a seminar format will greatly reduce the research time and costs the < your organization’s name > would normally incur in researching the topics. Incidentally, I have only listed some of the seminars that I will attend. Including them all would make this memo much too long.

< You will need to insert the session descriptions which most apply to your responsibilities. >

< The numbers in brackets below will need to be adjusted to reflect the current pricing. >

The full price conference fee is <$xxxx>, but can be reduced with the early bird special by registering before December 19.

< You will need to insert your travel cost numbers in here >

Here is the breakdown of conference costs:
Roundtrip Airfare: <$xxxx>
Transportation: <$xxxx>
Hotel: <$xxxx>
Meals: <$xxxx>
Conference Fee: <$xxxx>
The total costs associated with attending this conference are: <$xxxx>.

The opportunity for me to develop better contacts and gain knowledge in specific areas of < your profession > makes my attendance at The Western Section of The Wildlife Society Annual Conference a wise investment, which will yield rich dividends for < name of your organization >.


< your name here >


From US Law Enforcement Conference

Justify Your Attendance

You recognize the value of attending GovSec 2012, but how do you communicate that to those responsible for approving your professional development requests? We know that travel and training budgets are tight, and it’s difficult to get approval to attend events and conferences, which is why we’re here to help!

One of the best ways to get approval to attend a conference is to connect your responsibilities, goals and challenges to your conference experience. Listed here are some goals common to our attendees, as well as the ways in which GovSec meets these needs, so you can make a strong case for attending.

Goal How GovSec 2012 Supports Your Goal
Objectively evaluate products, services, tools and solutions needed to fulfill your mission. GovSec does not advocate particular technologies, products or companies. Instead, through break-out sessions, in-depth workshops and an exclusive exhibit hall, we help you explore the options so you can make decisions that are right for your organization.
Stay up-to-date on the latest government security tactics, technologies and initiatives. The GovSec conference program delivers exceptional learning opportunities on the maintenance of critical infrastructure, cybersecurity trends, domestic and international terrorism, law enforcement and more!
Make better decisions for your team, project and organization. After attending GovSec, you will better anticipate, prepare, prevent and response to terrorism, accidental and natural disasters and attacks on critical infrastructure, Leave with the latest tools, strategies, and resources at your fingertips. Effectively incorporate cutting-edge trends and best practices into your daily strategy.
Learn how other agencies are fulfilling their missions. GovSec 2012 offers the ultimate networking experience. Meet hundreds in YOUR field, dealing with the same challenges you face.