“No” is the sure-fire answer you’ll get if you never ask. But before you ask, it may be helpful to have a plan of action to increase the likelihood that your boss will grant your request. Certain strategies could tip your advantage in the power of persuasion.
Before diving into techniques, let’s first look at the reasons your request might be refused:
It’s an excuse for a company-paid vacation
There’s no significant gain for the company (what’s in it for us?)
These are all legitimate reasons to refuse your request. That said, if you’re prepared to address each of these reasons, you may be able to convince your boss to allow you to go.
1. Be Knowledgeable About Your Request
Before approaching your boss or the CFO about going to a conference, you need to know what you’re asking for. Know every aspect of the conference so that you can explain how it will enhance your skills in the workplace and benefit the company. Gather information about the speakers/workshops. Create an agenda of which workshops/seminars you’d like to attend and why. Always relate this back to the company. In other words, prepare your plan of persuasion. Come up with a quick elevator pitch for your top 3 reasons to attend.
“For me conferences are like little mental vacations,” says Erin McKean (Founder of Wordnik.com the largest non-profit online dictionary), “[it’s] a chance to go visit an interesting place for a couple of days and come back rested and refreshed with new ideas and perspectives.
2. Take an Assertive Approach
You may want to try a 2-pronged approach. Send a formal written request (email or memo) followed up by a verbal request that allows you to state your reasoning for attending the conference. Make sure you state your Ask directly, otherwise your boss may not recognize that you’re making a request.
When approaching your boss about attending the conference, be concise and to the point, while still making your case. Express not only what you want, but why it’s important for you and the company.
“Employees who have a higher likelihood of persuading their bosses are those who make the strongest case via data and clear projections,” comments Max Altshuler (Sales Hacker), “If you can bring your boss to realize that participating in a conference can measurably benefit your team and company, there’s a good chance you’ll get the go-ahead nod.”
3. Stress the Benefit of Networking Opportunities
Attending a conference isn’t always about the seminars and workshops. There are often many occasions to interact with important people within other organizations that could grow your own company. You can get to know leaders in the industry, pick their brains for advice, and learn from their own life lessons in the workforce. Connecting with these important people in the field will also take your contact list to a whole new level.
“… I’ve been a big fan of attending conferences as a great way to learn, network, socialize, and enjoy a new environment,” comments Mark Skousen, (Economist, Investment Expert, and Editor of Forecasts & Strategies), “It’s always refreshing to get out and see a whole new world.”
Provide your boss with a list of the attendees/speakers in your networking sights and give a quick run-down of your strategy to connect with them. Set up meeting times before the conference with other executives and give your boss a copy of the itinerary.
If you can bring your boss to realize that participating in a conference can measurably benefit your team and your company, then there’s a good chance you’re on the right track.
Once you’ve done your research and presented the benefits you will need to put your sales skills to the test and pitch why they should invest in your professional development.
In the second part of this article we’ll tackle the issue of cost and look at how to get approval to attend an upcoming conference and have your company foot part of the bill!
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner