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Junket or jewel?
Are you bombarded on a daily basis with email and junk mail inviting you to all sorts of conferences? A cynic might suggest they are an opportunity for a sneaky day out of the workplace.
Today I have been offered discounted places at two conferences (acquired brain injury; falls prevention), as well as being reminded how fast places are selling at three others. One charming young woman even phoned me up and all but pleaded with me to sign up for an event in a very swish London venue. I declined. The last one I attended (free of charge – it pays to be cheeky) had superior pastries but inferior workshops.
Among all of the other unsolicited calls, email and post, there seems to be a sudden surge in the number of conference flyers coming our way. It’s clearly a healthy business to be in. The cost of these can range from the free of charge to the prohibitive-for-a-charity type. I have become very wary of both in recent years. No event that requires return travel to Liverpool is a bargain, as I pointed out to my staff. Unless of course you already live in Liverpool. Our proximity to the NEC can be helpful in this regard.
Point out opportunities and possibilities
So why attend conferences? Well, they are an amazing source of free pens, sticky notes pads and boiled sweeties for one thing. You could even score a tidy cotton bag with some random competitor’s logo on it. You can ogle things you will never be able to afford, and you will no doubt have your pass swiped by some dainty lady and, as a consequence, be the recipient of shedloads of useless bumf about the things you will never be able to afford.
OK maybe this is a bit unfair. I believe that the right choice of event can be a real networking opportunity; as a frequent exhibitor I have certainly attracted new enquiries and potential recruits from conferences and exhibitions. If the day includes some interesting CPD opportunities, all the better. Workshops and seminars can be fascinating and mind-expanding (or a bit contrived – buyer beware!).
I suppose the key for employees is to choose wisely and try to glean the most benefit from the smallest outlay. You will have more chance of your employer saying yes to a request if you point out the learning opportunities, remark on the networking possibilities and share a car with a few colleagues. Going in your own time is often a winner too. The golden ticket of course is to volunteer to present a seminar.
As a manager, beware the requests for anything near shops or requiring an overnight stay (read: junket). Ensure you have explored the options for a BOGOF (buy one place and get another free) or group discounts. Never ever send your staff off to a conference without a handful of business cards, leaflets and publicity material about your service, and strict instructions to represent the service in a positive light. For this reason, it is also wise to choose a venue that does not have an alcohol licence.
Conferences can be a splendid excuse for a day out, or the opportunity to expand your mind and your networks. Next time you open a flyer, make sure your reasons for not relegating it to the shredder are the right ones!