How to Determine If a Conference is Right for You

No one likes to waste time. And with scarce government resources and budget cuts, time spent away from the office must be time well spent. If you have training dollars to spend this year, make sure you spend them wisely.

The secret to a selecting the best conference for your professional development needs lies in the agenda. The lineup of speakers, keynotes, and sessions are the heart of the experience.

So when you’re reviewing an agenda, here are the important criteria to keep in mind:

Relevant – Are the sessions relevant to your everyday job role or does it address issues you’ve encountered at work?
Practical – Are the sessions going to teach you useful skills or concepts that you can start implementing immediately?
Diverse – Do the sessions reflect a variety of topics or are they more niche?
Motivational – Will you leave feeling like you can take on the world or will you leave feeling drained and discouraged?

So you’re loving the agenda. But now you have to get approved. This is the hard part. You have to make a strong case that this is the best investment for your career to your manager.

Here are some questions you will probably need to answer when justifying the training:

How much will it cost?
You need to know the ticket price and when the deadline is to secure the best price. Will you be required to travel to the training? If so, you should estimate the transportation and lodging fees. Check the training website to see if there are any discounted rates for select hotels.

How long will you be out of the office?
If you are worried about being out of the office for too long, consider traveling outside of work hours or making a proposal to make up work time with extra hours before or after the training. It’s also a great idea to be proactive and make a plan with how you to plan to get work done while you’re away from the office. Who will cover your responsibilities and make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.

What skills will you gain?
It’s a good idea to specifically outline the skills you are looking to improve and map the sessions to them. If the schedule is mapped to OPM’s Executive Core Qualifications, this can be a great place to start.

How will the training benefit you, your team and your organization?
What will you be able to do differently with the new skills you’ll get from attending the training? Can you take on a new project? Be a better team leader? Make a plan to share what you learned with others in your organization after the training. You can host a brown bag lunch and learn session, share presentation resources or give an executive briefing with the key takeaways. Clearly communicating how the training will benefit your team members will show extra value.

Are there cheaper alternatives?
You have to be able to answer why this particular training. To answer this, you need to do some extra research to see what alternatives are out there and what the associated costs are. Determine the pros and cons of each option.

Do you feel empowered to make a case for the conference you want to attend? Addressing the issues included in this blog will take some time but you’ll be adequately prepared to have a serious conversation with your supervisor about getting the training your career needs.

At the Next Generation of Government Training Summit, you’ll get all this criteria and more. The summit is intermixed with sessions on leading people, leading change, and driving results as well as the fundamentals for career development. Check out the NextGen Approval Toolkit for all the resources and information you need to get a “yes” from your supervisor.