The Value of Conferences (or, how to justify a boondoggle)

(by Mike Raftery)

“It’s the most wonderful time, of the year”.  With no disrespect to Andy Williams, it’s our favorite time of the year, conference season!

We love conferences, and so should you.  The value they bring goes well beyond the swag and countless amount of pens you’ll collect from the vendors.  But these days every dollar counts, so how can you possibly justify such an expenditure?  Well, your friends at SCM Connections are here to help with some guaranteed ways to sell the conference experience to whoever approves your expense reports:


What does everyone else do?

Everywhere we go, we are asked for benchmarks:

What do other companies do?

How long do other IT projects last?

How is everyone else handling this?

As much as every situation is different, there is more that each one has in common.  So get out there, meet your colleagues, and ask some questions.  Attend case studies; it’s a great way to learn lessons from others’ successes and failures. Start up a conversation with the person next to you.  If you’re at the same conference, and in the same breakout sessions, chances are that you have some of the same experiences. Odds are you will pick up a few new ideas, and might even learn a thing or two about common challenges we all face.

VALUE:  Learning from the experiences of others is also a great way to bring innovative ideas to your own company and bring a new perspective back to the office.  Plus, you’ll have contacts to benchmark with in the future.


Come up for air.

Yes, we’re all totally connected all the time, but in reality that connectivity is limited to a very narrow subnetwork of contacts, ideas, and blogs filled with funny cat pictures.  The average workplace is a very tight insulated space, with a single culture, common approaches, and complaints.

Conferences are a great opportunity to peek outside of your cubicle and take a deep breath and get some perspective.  Odds are things are not as great, nor as bad as they seem.  Talk to people in similar industries, and roles and see what their challenges are and how they solve them.  With any luck you’ll come back with a new perspective and a few things to try around the workplace.

VALUE:  Personal development by incorporating best practices from all over the business world back to your own situation.  Also, a fresh sense of inspiration to incorporate new ideas into your own team.  This seems hokey, but I come back ready to sprint every time I get out of my old routine.



Bring business cards.  Yes, they’re quaint and old fashioned, but it counts to make a physical connection.  Plus, it gives someone a reminder to reach out to you in the future.  Look, we’re all decent human beings for the most part, and it’s a really small world.  Karma exists, and it is real, so stat filling your karma ledger by making a few new friends.  Life has a funny way of being unpredictable and you never know what you’ll need in the future or who might need you.  So build your network, it’s a good way to find good talent to bring into your organization, whether that be a potential employee or a new long term partner like SCM Connections (shameless plug).

VALUE: You might find a compatriot that you can lean on in the future.  Whether it’s help solving a problem, or someone that can fill a role at your company if they’re looking for a change.

SECRET VALUE: You might even get a better job out of it (shhhhh)


Well hopefully that helps.  Smile big, remind your boss of how much value you add every day and how much more you could bring with just a little bit of new perspective.  Also, don’t forget to bring them back a few new pens and desk ornaments.  We’ll see you on the conference floor!


SCMC will be at both Sapphire (booth #786C) and Gartner this year.  If you’ll be there too, stop by and say hello.

Mark your calendar!  At Sapphire Now, we’ll be presenting on the following.  Click the link to add to your agenda.

We’re also doing live demos of integrated business planning at our booth.  To set up time with the SCMC team onsite at Sapphire or Gartner, contact us here.

And if you haven’t registered for the Gartner Supply Chain Executive conference yet, you can do so here with our code (SCESP33) and save $425.

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