How to Tell if a Conference is Worth Your While

Here’s a handy article and quiz written by a conference addict:

Travel-Worthy or Time Waster? Take Nancy’s Quiz Before Attending Your Next Conference.

1. People.
The conference is:
a) invite-only
b) open to anyone, but some of the attendees are people you are dying to meet
c) open to anyone but focused on a niche topic you love, so you might bond with a few good folks
d) the equivalent of a buffet in Atlantic City: open to everyone, cheap, and a little bit dirty.

2. Location.
The conference is in:
a) the city where you live and/or work
b) a location you’re dying to visit
c) an undesirable market but within three hours’ commute
d) Cleveland.

3. Timing.
The conference will take place:
a) over three workdays during a slow period at the office
b) over a non-holiday weekend and includes an open bar
c) during that Lady Gaga concert you were planning to see
d) on the same weekend as your sister’s wedding.

4. Price.
The conference is:
a) all expenses paid, including travel and hotel
b) free, but you cover your own travel and lodging
c) kinda pricey
d) going to require a second mortgage.

5. Your role.
You are:
a) a featured speaker
b) like any other participant — treated equally and on lots of panels
c) hoping to ask a public question
d) encouraged to be seen but not heard.


Food. Samantha Smith is one of my favorite interns and a conference junkie in the making. She suggests a bonus of five points if the food is plentiful and free.

Scoring guide: (a)=10 points each (b)=7.5 (c)=4 (d)=2

40 – 55 points. Pack your bags and kiss the kids goodbye! Davos, TED — here you come!

30 – 40 points. Worth doing. A couple of tips to maximize the benefits: If you’re on a panel, go last. Be the cleanup hitter that pulls things together. Look at the attendee list in advance. Who are these folks? Make a list of the people you’d like to meet — and schedule those meetings in advance.

20 – 30 points. This conference doesn’t quite meet the bar. Invest your time and money in better bets more suited to your availability, resources, and skills.

10 – 20 points. Schedule a nice dental checkup instead, and maybe get a dog. Do something — anything — else. This is a boondoggle not worth the bother.

I’d like to say stick with me and I’ll make sure it’s worth your while.

What is the best conference you’ve been to and why?


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