Expanding Your Expertise: 5 Strategies To Get You To Professional Conferences

For the next couple days, I am at the ACPA conference in Louisville, KY. ACPA is an amazing organization that supports the work of thousands of higher education student affairs experts and professionals.

One of the benefits of many jobs is attending professional conferences and workshops. These are terrific opportunities to not only expand your knowledge of a particular field, but they also are a great opportunity to show the rest of the community your expertise and to network.

But how do you convince your managers that they should pay for these opportunities for your professional development?

Here are five strategies I suggest:

  1. Exposure for Your Office: As the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity. Of course, most organizations prefer positive exposure, and when they can boast about how many experts they have, all the better. Professional conferences offer the chance for you to present your accomplishments to a group of like-minded professionals and show the world how great your office is. These presentations often don’t take a lot of time and effort to prepare, but they go along way to creating very positive publicity for your office, and your boss!
  2. Learning Best Practices: Learning new and effective processes or strategies helps both your office and your professional development. Conferences are a great way to not only learn about best practices in your field, but to interact directly with those who are the experts. And when you meet these people you can …
  3. Build Capacity Through Collaboration: Conferences are probably the best possible place to build partnerships and to collaborate with other experts in your profession.
  4. Re-energize: Good conferences are physically exhausting. But I find that I have more energy to do great things at work when I return. When you are energized about the great new ideas you have from the conferences, your office benefits.
  5. Making Your Boss Look Good: When you feel energized and more educated about the field that interests you the most, you will work more efficiently and effectively. When that happens, your boss looks good to their bosses. The first four points above will go a long way to making your boss look good, not only from the positive publicity, but because you now feel energized and you have more knowledge about the field.

What are some of your strategies for attending professional conferences?

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Couple I’d add as well:

-Find a couple key sessions that address a problem your agency/office is facing right now.

-Walk the talk – this isn’t a one-time event. Make sure the first time you are permitted to go to a conference you go to the right sessions and follow-up at work (perhaps a 1-page summary, email with ideas you received)

Mark Sullivan

I’d also add volunteering to be a speaker. If your organization is doing something unique or cutting edge, they will often waive the fees if you are willing to do a presentaiton.

William Lim

My agency has zero discretionary budget for conference attendance. However, even though they can’t get registration or travel reimbursement, I know that some people have been successful in getting approval to count attendance toward work time so at least they don’t have to take personal leave on top of all the other expenses.


Good points William & Mark. I’d also suggest volunteering – most conferences (including our annual event) give free passes if you work the front desk for an hour or two

Hope OKeeffe

We’ve also had good luck seeking scholarships from the conference organizers. Then you can go to management for the reduced tuition or just the travel expenses.

Going cheap on the travel expenses — sharing hotel rooms, staying with friends, not spending the full per diem — isn’t the end of the world either.