Getting an ROI from Your Conference Attendance

Attending and learning from conferences can be amazing opportunities for your career or your business.  They can also be huge money drains.  It’s easy to take a look at the conference registration and make a quick decision about whether we can afford it – or even worse – whether it will clear our credit card limit or not.

A smart business owner will take a bit different approach.  Here’s how to calculate how much revenue or increase in price you need to justify the expense of attending a conference.

Direct Costs

Let’s make up some figures for the cost of the conference:

  1. Conference registration for a 2-day show:  $1,000
  2. Hotel, air, meals, parking, and transportation:  $1,000

These items will take care of your out-of-pocket costs.  Be sure to include any surprises such as taxes on hotel rooms, internet room charges, tips, overpriced meals, Starbucks runs, and any other special needs while you travel.  Also, you’ll want to add a premium for the more expensive cities such as New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.   I just paid $13 for a baked potato in Las Vegas, and I won’t tell you what the steak cost.   To keep costs down, I brought a box of cereal and snacks with me ahead of time, but it’s still tough to avoid these inflated charges when you’re on the road.


While you’re attending the conference and also while you travel to and from the conference, you’re unable to do client work, and this needs to be taken into consideration in your ROI calculation.  Assuming you charge $100 per hour and can work on client work 5 hours per day, your opportunity cost is $500 per day.  If the conference is two days and you need two travel days, your “lost” revenue is $2,000.

In total, the cost of attending the conference is $4,000.  To break even, we need to earn $4,000 in revenue, but hopefully we can do more than break even for all of our effort, wear and tear, and time away from your family.

There may be far more costs before or after the conference which you will also need to consider.  Perhaps you spent some time reviewing the products of the exhibitors before or after the conference.  If you decide to purchase software during the conference, add the cost of training, certifying, and getting past your learning curve.  All of these investments need to improve your clients’ lives and reward you generously for all the risks you’re taking as a business owner.

Recouping Your Investment

Here are three ways you can recoup your conference investment:

  1. Add in an education fee when you are setting your pricing with clients to compensate for the training time and expenses that will keep you up to speed and serving your clients most effectively.
  2.  Implement enough new ideas from the conference that will increase your profits or revenue to cover the costs of the conference; in our example, this is $4,000.
  3.  Justify your attendance and time at the conference based on the intangibles you receive, including how it energizes and motivates you back at home.   You will still need to make up 8 days of work; however, this may be worth the energy you gain from the conference.

You can also choose not to justify your return on investment if you want to.  Perhaps you simply like to make an appearance at the conferences so that you are considered a leader in the group.  Perhaps you feel the need to connect with people in person.  Perhaps you have friends you want to see and simply want a tax write-off.  It’s all up to you how you want to justify your attendance; I am not judging here but I do feel that if you are attending conferences for “lifestyle” reasons other than business, it’s important that you are aware of how much it truly costs.

Proactive Planning

We suggest you take time once a year and plan out the conferences and training that you’d like to attend for the entire year.  Assess your strengths and weaknesses, and create a training plan for yourself.  Study what other clients of this conference or training are getting in terms of ROI, and choose the products and services that are going to give you the best return in your business.  You can still have fun this way, and your personal bank account balance will look the best as well.