You are picky when it comes to professional training. I don't blame you.
Especially when money is tight. Which organization do I join? Which conference do I attend? What online seminar is worth the money?
If you are a public relations, communications or marketing professional, either at a company, an agency or on your own - how do I make sense of the multitudes of offers I see daily?
Let me give you six factors to consider when it comes to a convention or conference. In no particular order, here you go. (This should work whether you are a seasoned pro or starting out).
1. The experts. Check out the bios of the panelists. Are they tied to major accounts? Do they look like they have some years on them? Have they moved up quickly in their career? Are they quoted in the trades? Do they hold positions in the trade association or with other organizations? A quick Google search can tell you whether this conference has collected the "top of gamers" or the "desperately seeking credibility" types. Do the descriptions try to "sell" you their credentials or does it become clear you have someone who is going to give you some meat on the bone?
2. The keynote speakers. Yeah, it would be nice if every conference had the complete "A" list, like it would ever happen that Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell and the other gurus were all in one place next to a Steve Balmer or another CEO or two from a Fortune 100 company. But keynoters are just the icing on the cake. Some of the best conferences are the ones that focus on great panels, seminars and programs and, maybe, get you an well-known name.
3. The range of programs. I don't know about you, but it seems conferences today are becoming more and more specialized and singularly focused. I used to plan on attending 2-5 major conferences a year with the public relations industry, but because of time (less of it in this economy) and money (same), I need to be on the lookout for the one conference that gives me the full complement of programs. Today, I can't afford to be highly specialized. Today, it pays to get a range of training and experiences under your belt - if only to borrow ideas from another field or medium. A health care tactic or strategy just may be applicable to some of my public affairs work.
4. The networking. Let's face it, it's not only the training, but the networking and the parties that make a conference worthwhile. OK, so the day is ending and you have every intention of running back to your hotel room to get some work done, or read the book you brought along. But, that person from Memphis you just met at the morning session sounded like he/she had some intriguing life stories and was going to grab a drink at the bar across the street. And, he/she invited you to meet her/his friends. Forgot the book. Network. The odds are generally in your favor that you'll meet a lifelong connection who will come in handy someday. After years of attending conferences, I have friends across the country - each with the right, specific answer to the most unique question or dilemma I come across. And, they all know where I work so my company's reputation and name recognition is marketed with just a couple of beers.
5. The location. Vegas? Been there. New York? OK, still have fun there. But, why not pick somewhere new and different? When a conference pops up in a city you've never seen - it's the one and only chance you likely will see this town. At least, not as a layover to somewhere else. I have been fortunate to have seen some very important sites in Philly only because a convention was there. I've managed to see football games in Detroit's and Philadelphia's new stadiums because of conventions. I've been to well-known museums. And, of course, some famous bars. Go ahead. Dream.
6. The price. If you are considering a conference that lasts 2 or 3 days, there are probably 30, 40 or 50 sessions. Maybe more. Now, consider the asking price for a teleseminar or webinar. Take the lowest price webinar and then multiply that by the number of likely sessions you'll attend at a conference. Now, do you start seeing the economies of scale? A packed conference will have a much higher rate of return. Let the boss know this when you ask to have the company pay for this training.
Bonus: An extra tip. Leadership training. Look for the conferences that have sessions designed to make you a manager. Even if you never become an EVP or team leader, these sessions will make you a more valuable member of any team.
So, now look at the PRSA 2009 International Conference and see how these factors line up.
Hurry. The conference is less that a month away. Go to www.prsa.org/ic2009