Is Attending a Conference In Person Worth the Expense?

After you've had your own business for a year or two, you may start to think that you could grow your business more by attending a conference.  However, doing so is not cheap.  Depending on the conference location, you likely will have to pay for gas or air fare as well as lodging and food.  The ticket for the conference itself can cost hundreds of dollars.  You could easily be looking at a thousand dollars or more in expenses.

Is attending a conference in person worth it?

The answer is--it depends.

If you go to the conference, diligently attend every session and then retreat to your room for the rest of the time, the simple answer is no, the price is probably not worth it.  While the information may be worthwhile, there are other ways to learn that don't require spending thousands to travel to a conference.

However, if you take the time to socialize, mingle, and meet others, attending a conference in person is likely well worth the price.  

I'm an introvert, so I know how difficult mingling can be.  However, the real benefit of attending a conference in person is the connections that you make.  You can help others grow their business, and they can help you.  Information learned in sessions is important, but so are the relationships you can cultivate.

If you're not comfortable chatting up strangers, try some of these tactics:

1.  Look at the attendee list well before the conference.  Find a few people you'd like to connect with and start commenting on their blogs.  Send them a preliminary e-mail introducing yourself.  If you're bold, ask if they'd like to meet during the conference.

2.  Make a list of people you'd like to meet in person and learn a bit about them so you'll have something to discuss.  It's important here to be casual and make light small talk; you don't want to look like a stalker. Keep the rules of conference etiquette.

If you're considering attending a conference, to make it worth your while, you need to make the commitment to socialize and make connections, even if it's difficult for you.  If you do so, the conference will likely be worth your while. (And if you're having trouble justifying the cost, you could always look at conference sponsorship.)

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