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Conferences are great. You can learn a lot about your field, and it can be a great excuse to travel and visit new places. And they can also be an amazing networking tool, if you know how to hack them correctly. The one not-so-great thing about conferences is they can be expensive, especially if you have to travel around the world to get there. That's why I want to share the story of how I convinced Monster Worldwide to send me to the U.S., and to one of the top SEO conferences in the world.
I first thought of this at Monster because they are a global corporation. A small company might balk at the suggestion of sending you abroad for a conference. But at a global company like Monster, you are already working and communicating with people around the world. Why shouldn't you be able to travel to go meet them? The key is putting together a good proposal, and showing your company the value that's in it for them.
Here was my strategy, with tips on how you can do the same:
Prove your worth
After my first year at Monster, I decided to go for it and ask my company to send me to MozCon in Seattle. I working was in Monster's Malaysia office, but I had managers who were based in the U.S. From early on in my career I knew I wanted to travel there. So when I submitted my proposal, my idea was to go to MozCon and then add another three days to visit my boss, making it a one-week trip. This is normal if a company is sending your abroad, so I wanted to make sure there was value for my entire trip. Face-to-face time can be extremely valuable, especially for a global company.
At the time I felt comfortable making this pitch because I'd been with the company for just over a year and I had proved I was valuable. I did very well at Monster. I did a good job of strategically connecting with the right people, and demonstrating that I was worth the investment. It's a very expensive thing to send someone abroad, so you have a better chance of them saying yes if they believe it will benefit the company.
Draft a proposal
Part of my strategy was to demonstrate how valuable it was for the company to send me on this trip. By proposing a conference or training program, you are showing the company that you want to learn and grow. It helps if you are specific about how you will bring that new information back with you and implement it.
Going to an SEO conference was an obvious choice for me because it's my field of work. I also saw value because I knew there would be competitors there, and the people who do SEO for them. I wanted to hang out with them and see what they are doing. You should also look at the list of speakers and what topics will be covered. Consider whether those topics would be of particular interest to your boss and coworkers.
Include numbers and give some options
The first cost to consider will be the conference ticket, which is usually set. Of course you will also need to include pricing information for flights and hotels. For these costs, I recommend giving them two options. For flights, include both business class and economy class options. Usually they will just fly you economy, but it’s better to give two options, so there's no harm in putting it out there. (Besides, including the business class price may give the impression that the economy ticket is a deal. #PricingPsychology)
For lodging, again give two options. I would find an AirBnB option, which is typically the cheapest way to go, and a hotel option. Some companies only allow you to book on company-approved hotels which can be frickin' expensive, but if that is their policy you may be able to stay in a nice hotel for free.
Demonstrate added value to the company
As part of your proposal, commit to reporting back to your team in tangible ways. When I submitted my proposal to Monster, I committed to two things: writing a conference report with actionable items, and giving a presentation to the team on what I learned.
And then, of course, you have to follow through. After my trip to MozCon I created a detailed document with all of the information I thought the company could use. I also created a deck for my presentation, so afterward Monster had both as valuable, sharable documentation. It can be helpful to get specific, too. When writing my proposal, I looked at specific sessions I thought would benefit certain teams. Then I offered to relay my findings to the relevant person in the company.
Keep it short
Make your proposal easy to read, so it can be quickly reviewed in one minute. That way your boss can easily send it to their boss, or to anyone else who needs to review and sign off on it.
It can also be helpful to have an informal conversation with your boss first. Don't just blindside them with a request. Talk to your manager and say, “I’m thinking about this, and I’d like to put together a proposal for you.”
If you haven't proved yourself yet
This whole process is a bit easier to do if you know you’re a valuable asset to the company. But if you are new, that doesn't mean you have to wait a whole year before you even try. Let them know your interests and set goals. Talk to your manager and see if they are open to setting a goal of sending you to a conference. For example, you might say "If I reach goals 1, 2 and 3 this is what I want." And don't fucking forget to put it in an email. Setting the right expectations make it black and white in a big company. Things get lost in verbal communication.
Conferences are fun, and attending a good one can be a great way to grow your career and contribute to your company. But I hope what you will take away from this post more than anything is that if you want something, you have to ask for it! Be strategic in how you make your request, and demonstrate how what you want can add value to the company. You could apply this strategy to a lot of things, and end up doing some pretty cool shit with your career.
Want to talk with me about working for a global company? Or learn more about SEO strategy? Send me a message, I'd love to connect with you.