How to Convince Your Boss to Send You to a Conference

IEEE Computer Society Team
Published 04/02/2024
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Convince Your Boss to Send You to a ConferenceGetting your higher-ups to pay your conference costs starts with you providing a persuasive answer to a fundamental question: What’s in it for them?

In this case, “them” might be your boss, your department, or your company at large. The best answer encompasses all three, as well as what’s in it for you.

Here, we offer some tips for helping you answer the “What’s in it for” question and building a compelling case for attending a conference on the company dime.


Choose the Right Conference

Although a small, vaguely focused conference in Greenland might align with your dreams of glacier chasing, it’s not likely to secure company funding. When it comes to getting company buy-in on conferences, content matters, while size is a variable.

A small conference that sharply aligns with your company’s focus might help you build a stronger case than something huge and overly general. Even at big conferences, though, the case you want to make is built on details.

Start by identifying your area of focus, then check out a conference listing site, such as IEEE Computer Society’s Conferences page or Once you’ve narrowed your search to a few conferences, study their upcoming program as well as programs from previous years. Examine and note sessions, workshops, keynote speakers, and tutorials that align with your own goals as well as those of your department and company.

This should give you a good sense of which conference to target. Then, make a list of the upcoming conference’s most relevant sessions, as well as the overall details: the dates, location, costs, and any extra events that can help you build a case for attending.

A conference’s history and reputation are important as well. Note the conference sponsors, keynote speakers, and exhibit hall highlights relevant to your company. The more boxes a conference ticks in relation to your responsibilities and growth—and your company’s goals—the more likely you are to get a yes.


Create a Proposal

The focus of your proposal should be on business justifications—that is, the “what’s in it” for key stakeholders: you, your team, your boss, and your company. Your initial research on conferences should give you the raw materials for building a compelling case for all stakeholders. Following are some general tips to create your proposal.


What’s in It for You and Your Team?

The more tightly you can tie specific conference sessions, tutorials, and workshops to your job, your projects (existing and upcoming), and your formal goals the better. List all the sessions that seem related and then dig deeper, brainstorming on how you’ll use the information gained in your daily work.

Next, consider how you can benefit your team by attending. Focus on sessions that would benefit your projects or your processes, as well as how you’ll share this information when you return. Proposals here might include creating a PowerPoint to share during a team meeting or delivering a brown bag session for your whole department. If presenting to groups is not in your wheelhouse, consider other ways to share the information, such as through Slack or Google Docs.


What’s in It for Your Boss and Your Company?

Here, you can zoom out to identify conference keynotes, tutorials, and demonstrations focusing on new technologies and business trends that can serve broader organizational goals.

Conferences also offer opportunities to network and elevate your company’s profile. Brainstorm here on your company’s direction and consider how networking with potential partners or job candidates might further it.


Deliver the Proposal

For companies and organizations that routinely fund conference attendance through a training budget, delivering the proposal might be as simple as sending a brief email. That email should outline the conference topic and logistics; a brief overview of its value to you, your team, and the company; and how you’ll share the knowledge you gain upon your return.

If covering conference attendance it’s not standard policy, you can increase your odds of a yes by setting up a meeting with your boss and delivering the proposal in person.

Following are some tips to help you succeed with this approach:

  • Start with a brief outline of the conference, the focus, and how it relates to your work and the goals of your organization.
  • If the response is positive, continue to give a second level overview that includes specific sessions of interest.
  • Keep your focus on specific gains, such as how a session targeting a new technology would tangibly benefit your work and your team.
  • Be ready to respond to questions, including those about how the time away will impact your daily responsibilities, your projects in progress, and your team.


When You Can’t Get to “Yes”

Some companies will cover partial costs of a conference, such as the registration fees, but won’t cover lodging or travel fees. At that point, you might have to weigh the benefits to your own education and career when deciding if you want to cover the balance.

And, after all your good work, you still might get a flat no. In that case, see if the conference offers virtual sessions. If so, funding might be available for that. You can then share what you learn with your team and your boss. Done right, this can serve as a proof-of-concept for the tangible gains possible with in-person attendance next time.


Starting Points

IEEE Computer Society hosts numerous conferences each year that deliver on their value for attendees and their organizations. Among these conferences are the following:

For more information on other events, see IEEE Computer Society’s Conferences page, which features a month-by-month listing of sponsored events.