My really cushy job at Quest Software required me to attend conferences. Lots of them. All over the world. Whenever a new conference was announced, I’d submit a few abstracts to speak, because speakers usually get their registration paid for. Then I’d whip out the company credit card to book my flight, hotel, and rental car.
At the conference, I’d whip out the card again to take care of my dinner, drinks, and sometimes even a round of drinks for my fellow SQL Server professionals. After I got home, I’d grumble about having to fill out pages of paperwork, but that was it – the tab was just taken care of. The PASS Summit in Seattle. SQLBits in Wales. PASSCamp in Dusseldorf. TechEd in New Orleans. The Microsoft Certified Master program in Redmond. My card racked up a lot of use.
Now, everything’s different, and I see conferences in a whole new way – as a very expensive hobby, not a free perk. Sure, I have to foot the bill for the airfare, the hotel, the car, the meals, and the Jagermeister, but that’s not the worst part.
When I attend a conference, I’m not getting paid.
If you’re a company employee, your company probably continues to pay your salary while you’re off getting trained. As a consultant, I don’t get those luxuries. That means I have to look at the ROI of attending each event, because I really am making an investment. Is this conference going to build my skills? Is this session really worth my time and money? Am I going to meet cool people that I can’t meet anywhere else? I’ve always heard other consultants like Adam Machanic, Gail Shaw, and Kathi Kellenberger (who now works for MS) making these same decisions, and now I have to make ’em too.
I’ve had a bizarre luxury – I’ve been able to travel the world and test-drive all kinds of conferences and training. I know which ones produce the most value to me for education, for networking, and for building new clients. Here’s the part I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around: even though they cost me more money, I still want to go to almost all of them! For example, I just submitted sessions to SQLBits in the UK knowing full well it’s going to cost me transatlantic airfare and a lot of downtime, but it’s still worth every penny of my own money.
Over the next few months, I’ll blog more about:
- How to convince your boss to send you to conferences & training
- How to get the most out of conferences & training
- How to avoid unnecessary expenses
- What to do when you get back so that your boss sends you again
See, I have a selfish interest – I’ll be selling training sessions, and I want you to be able to get the funds to pay for all that fancy learnin’!