How To Calculate Your ROI On Conferences

Last week, Paul and Dave gave their summary of the best Australian finance conferences to attend this year in the episode 2018 Events: What we’re going to do and why. Their summary included 8 events – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A quick Google search shows many other finance-related conferences coming up plus even more focused on related areas such as AI and Business Management. So, you easily attend one or more per week if you really wanted to. But, do you really want to?

Let’s look at how you view conferences first. Your reason for attending will shape your expectations and perceived values. Do you see them as a drain on finances and human resources? Do you feel the benefits of attending are more long-term than short-term? Maybe you’re a conference junkie who goes to everything and has the T-shirts to prove it.

Clarify Your Expected Outcomes

To help make your motivating for attending a bit clearer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have strong feelings about attending the conference one way or the other?
  • Are you even in the organiser’s target demographic?
  • Is there something you specifically want to learn, a speaker you want to hear from or someone you want to meet?
  • Are there things you could learn that you could bring back and share with your colleagues?
  • Are you mainly going for the networking value? It’s ok to say yes.
  • Are you going because everyone else is going? This could mean you believe they’re all going because they expect to learn from it and that you could benefit from it, too. It could also mean that you don’t want to be the odd one out or you have a classic case of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Do you have another reason for attending? If so, ensure you have a clear understanding of what that reason is.

Consider The Full Cost

This can be a bit tricker than it first seems. Of course, you’ll need to include the attendance fee and your accommodation, that’s a given. However, you’ll also need to include things like additional meals and drinks, transport, parking or items you might like to purchase at the event.

Then there are the intangible costs such your personal time or the time you’ll be away from other, more lucrative activities. If relevant, list the costs of not going. What opportunities will you miss out on if you don’t attend?

Calculate Your Return On Investment

As most of you will know, the best way to determine your ROI is to have very clear and measurable outcomes in mind before you begin. It helps to focus on the needs of your organisation as well as your personal objectives. Your ‘conference plan’ should identify what these needs are, what are the desired outcomes, and how will these outcomes be achieved? The process could be viewed a bit like a treasure hunt where you tick off each goal achieved as you go.

The outcomes don’t have to have a monetary value attached, but they do need to be something that can be counted and measured. For example, you may want to seek a target number of:

  • New ideas that can be implemented at your firm.
  • New contacts/leads to follow up.
  • Meetups with other attendees.
  • Workshops to attend.
  • Supplier stands to visit.

Sometimes the true outcomes might not be known for several months or even years. Someone you met may end up becoming a major client or business partner, for example. This is where follow-ups are important. There’s little point going to all the effort of cultivating a good potential lead if you neglect to make regular contact with them after the event.

For some handy tools for calculating your investment, check out Mike Doyle’s article for Writing Assistance, Inc. How to justify conference attendance.

Remember To Review

Aim to write a review of each conference you attend. This will help you determine where all your goals were met and how the benefits stacked up against the cost of attending. You could do this for your own benefit, however, if someone else paid for you to attend, this step is especially important as you’ll need to justify their investment in you. These notes will be handy to refer to when the event comes around again.

Call To Action

Many of the themes in this article came from Episode 42 2018 Events: What we’re going to do and why presented by Paul Meissner and David Boyer. Paul & David are passionate CA's who care deeply about the accounting industry.

Paul quit his accounting day job seven years ago and now owns and runs the Melbourne-based firm, 5ways Group Chartered Accountants, and his online Freedom Accounting System firm which allows him to travel and work from anywhere.

For the last 4 years, David has worked as a Virtual CFO. At the start of 2016 he co-founded the Virtual CFO Association and in December 2016 his company, Sequel VCFO began franchising to mobilise the experienced work force of accountants in industry and bring their expertise to SMEs.

Together with their impressive list of guest presenters, Paul and David are the brave souls needed to fight through the noise and give accountants in practice the support and information they deserve.

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