Maybe it's because it is a yearly event, it came up too soon, or you go to so many—but, whatever the reason, you failed to set concrete goals before you headed to that conference. We know that the best way to squeeze the most out of your event is to have clear goals ahead of time so you can more clearly evaluate after the fact whether or not your goals were met.
But how can you tell—after the fact—if the expense to you or your company was worth it? These six questions can help you determine that.
If I had to pay for it myself, out of pocket, would it be worth it?
No, really, how much did it cost? Add up the costs, both for time and expenses. You won't know the cost unless you know the cost. Add up the financial expense to you or your company for the hotel, transportation, meals, drinks and entertainment. Add the cost of you being away from your family and/or job. Now weigh those costs against the potential revenue, resources and knowledge gained.
Do you have enough information to give a "what I learned" presentation to your coworkers or employees?
One of the ways to squeeze more worth out of your conference is to share what you learned with your colleagues. As you review the more educational aspects of the experience you just had, do you have too much to share for a 20-minute presentation? Or do you have a hard time coming up with anything you learned?
Conferences can save time on education by catching you up quickly on industry interest. Conferences can help you discover techniques, tricks and technologies that normally won't be covered in a training class. Spreading those ideas back at the office gets much more value out of your experience. If you can’t, it wasn’t worth it.
Do you have at least 10 relevant business cards or new contacts?
Although the halls of your office might have great people, it’s an unlikely place to find cohorts who can more frankly understand the pitfalls and specifics of your specific position. Since the main reason to attend conferences is to meet people in your industry, ask yourself how successful you were in meeting new people within your industry.
For every three days, you should have, at the very least, 10 relevant business cards or new contacts. These contacts don’t all have to be sales-related.
Attending a conference can put you in contact with the best brains in your industry. Want to network with writers, trainers, directors, prospects and otherwise good people to know? Make people a priority.
Do you have at least three ideas for improving ROI or implementing better efficiencies?
These three ideas should come to mind rather quickly. These are zingers that you picked up in a panel session or an idea gleaned from a networking event. Conferences provide hands-on learning from the masters in a way online and book experiences can’t match.
What did you learn about your competition?
Conference attendees have a great opportunity to get a peek at what their competition is doing. As a conference attendee, you can also benefit from seeing the reaction of other attendees to your competition’s strategy. You should also take note of which of your competitors and suppliers don't show up.
Did you leave the hotel at least once?
I’m not recommending you skip out on the conference entirely. However, if you’re in a new city, try to check out at least one local restaurant or historical landmark. Take a new contact with you. It’s good for your brain to get out of the windowless conference rooms and cramped hotel rooms.
What questions do you ask to find out if a conference was worth the time and financial expense?