Monday, February 3, 2014

I want to attend a conference

Maybe there's a conference coming up, something you'd just heard about. It relates to your job, and the sessions seem interesting. You think you'll learn some things you can apply back in the office. But when you ask your supervisor for permission to go, no luck.

It's a difference in perspective. You're looking at the conference as a way to build up skills. Most managers may see it as an unplanned-for expense. Managers build their budgets at the start of each fiscal year. Depending on funding availability, professional development often gets left behind in favor of paying for all the "little things" that need to happen. It's unfortunate; as leaders, we need to build up our teams. Professional development benefits everyone; through learning new skills, an organization becomes more effective and efficient. And this provides a step up for staff.

Conferences are important—so how do you make the best pitch to attend them? A colleague on a conference committee shared this link to the American Librarian Association: Steps in making the case—Making your case for attending, and show how you'll be more valuable to your institution afterwards. The original list is 9 points, but I would consolidate them into this shorter list:

Understand the conference
Your supervisor will want to know what the conference is about, and what you will get out of it. Read through the conference materials and schedule, and identify sessions and topics that could help you—and tie them to specific projects and initiatives within your group.
Tally the costs
How much is registration, hotel, and travel? Is there an "early bird" discount for those who register early?
Prepare an absence plan
Put together a draft plan for how essential tasks will get done while you’re away, including how technology will keep you accessible and in touch as needed.
Put it in writing
The article provides a sample memo that you might use to submit a written request to attend a conference. But it is quite long, at two pages. I recommend you edit down the memo to briefly describe the conference, its benefits, and costs. 

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