Is That Industry Conference Worth It?
I just spent three days in Manhattan at a conference for nonprofit marketers and fundraisers. But, this blog is not just about the conference last week, but all of our industry conferences.
I’ve been going to these conferences for years—many, many years (since about 1992). I’ve attended as a newbie in the industry, a mid-level manager, a consultant and a senior executive. I’ve been a speaker, a moderator, a sponsor, a board member, etc.
And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve talked with a lot of people who constantly tend to ask the same question: “Are these conferences really worth it?”
My answer? You get out of it what you put into it. That sounds like a great answer, right? Well, let me explain.
It depends upon your role.
The majority of people asking this question are senior executives. Granted, those of us who have been around a while probably can write and predict the agendas for these conferences and be 80 percent accurate without actually talking to anyone. But that is not a problem. What this tells me is that there is plenty of information still to share and get into the hands of our teams.
Our role is to make sure we get people who need to learn out to the conference. If you are in a position to support or defend a budget that will get someone to a conference, do it—but make sure it is worth it.
Yes, travel and networking with industry peers is a privilege, but the primary purpose of a conference is to learn. If you are sending someone on your team, require the learning part. If the conference is three days, make it a requirement that each team member in attendance must return to the office with three ideas that can be implemented within three to four months for your program.
If you are an agency, the same rules apply. Make sure sending someone to the conference is worthwhile by having your agency team member bring an idea back that his or her client could use.
Also, have attendees present to the full team once they are back in the office. In this environment, everyone’s knowledge grows and the expectation is set that conferences are for learning things that are realistic and applicable.
In the end, if your team members cannot come home with new knowledge, then it’s time for you to play your executive role again and raise this as an issue to the staff and volunteers who are responsible for the conference.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.