Is That Tech Conference Worth Your Time and Money?

By Dave Sobel

As I write this, I’m sitting in another airport headed to another conference.

Specifically, the United lounge at my "home" airport of Dulles International Airport, enjoying a moment in the Red Carpet Lounge as my flight is delayed 3 hours. I’m hoping to actually be taking off at the time I should have been arriving in Miami, where I’ll be speaking at the Autotask Community Live event.

These kinds of wonderful, "rock star" travel moments, scrambling to find a seat in a crowded lounge to get some WiFi make you think long and hard about the value of travel for your business. As fashionable and stylish as travel is, is there something else you could be doing?

I travel frequently for the owner of a business in the IT channel. I have amazing respect for those of our vendor partners who travel all the time, hitting those 1K marks for air miles and being on the road 180 days or more. More than respect, however, I’ve learned from them the value of measuring the trip.

Any vendor who attends a channel conference will do a measurement on the return on the cost of the event. They’ll understand what their cost of being at the event is, both in time and in hard dollar cost, and determine if the business they will gain, influence, or retain is worth the investment. Sometimes they are there to build new business, other times to maintain current relationships, but always for some level of business gain.

Will they land a new customer? Will they find out some new trend that shapes how their business will go? Will they make a connection to a partner to take their offering to the next level? All of these will be analyzed to determine the value of the trip before they go.

After the trip, they’ll report back to their organization on their findings, on their connections, on the new business won and the leads collected. Each interaction will get tracked in their CRM, and will show, quantitatively, the value of the engagement.

As solution providers, many of my colleagues don’t think about this at all. They look at the parties, on the swag, and on the "feeling" they got from the event. I’m not saying these aren’t important – particularly not the energy that a set of new ideas can surge into a business. But traveling for those reasons alone can cause more distraction than new business. Would the time have been better spent working on the business? Or even in it, as the case may be.

Think about all of your engagements in this manner. The "fun" might be worth it – if you understand the cost. The moment you actually understand the cost, however, your eyes open up to the fact that these engagements have much deeper meaning, and business value.

I did the analysis for my business on this trip. It came out positive, and thus I booked it. Are you doing that same calculation, each and every time?

This article was originally published on 2011-06-08