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Last year, I had to privilege of attending 1 1/2 conferences. The half was SXSW (South by Southwest), in which I did a Chevy sponsored road trip to the event, but unfortunately had to leave due to a few family emergencies. The second one, I feel, completely redeemed my earlier disappointment: the first annual Financial  Blogger Conference.

Neither one of these trips were cheap, especially when adding up the ticket price to travel (airfare or gas), and your hotel stay. You can potentially be out hundreds to possibly a couple thousand dollars per conference. However, there are people who go to 5-10 conferences a year! Not only is that a lot of traveling, that can be a lot of money. However, conferences aren’t just for personal fulfillment; attending can be considered an investment.

BIG BUCKS FOR BIG REWARDS

Many people would absolutely turn their nose up at the amount of money it costs to attend a conference or convention, where you’re around hundreds of people, attending workshops and seminars, and going to networking events and parties. In their minds, it’s simply not worth it. As an entrepreneur, or even someone who works for a company who sends them to a conference, attending can potentially boost your business to a new level. You have the opportunity to rub shoulders with your peers in an industry, meet newcomers and heavy hitters, learn things you didn’t know, and have fun in the process. I think being able to do all these things in one place is worth the price.

You have to decide what price you’re comfortable with though. The Financial Blogger Conference is a lot more affordable than SXSW. Just comparing ticket prices ($595 for a ticket to SXSW Interactive for the first deadline vs. $149 for a ticket to Financial Blogger Conference) can make you raise a few eye brows. Not to mention based on the crowd, you may have to act quickly to secure a room for the amount of days you plan on staying. Sure, you can save some money by rooming with another attendee, finding a promo code to enter when you register, or even secure a speaking spot, but you will still be looking at a nice sum of money.

Benefits Of Attending Conferences:

  • Connect you to potential advertisers: In order for a conference to be a success and generally run, there will need to be sponsors. Many of the sponsors are businesses that are looking for your business. If they are looking for an additional reach, your blog could host advertising for their product or service. It’s so much easier to finalize a deal when you meet a real live person, in person. You could at least get a meeting with a brand you’ve been dying to work with, or find out about a company you knew nothing about but is just what you’re looking for.
  • Introduce you to other people in your field: Many of us on the Internet are trying to develop our online businesses. You can’t look at your fellow bloggers as competition, but rather, a community. It’s nice to put faces to names that you’ve been following online, learning more about them on a personal level, and figuring out ways you can work together. At FINCON, it was really nice to put faces to names.
  • Allow you to introduce others to your brand: There are going to be people there who are unfamiliar with your work, and here is your chance to spark up a conversation, and give your brand the best pitch ever. Practice your elevator pitch, prepare your business cards, and flex those networking muscles. The Internet is a huge place, and we couldn’t possibly keep up with every single blog and website. Take some time show people what you have to offer. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism either.
  • Learn from experts in the field: The speakers at these conferences are usually the big wigs you look up to. I was so excited to meet Ramit Sethi, Adam Baker, and JD Roth. I had been reading their work online and actually got a chance to shake their hands and even ask them a few questions. I had the opportunity to listen to their story, and their advice, and take notes to keep! This part alone, in my opinion, covers the cost. Start thinking of questions you would ask the greats early, so you won’t stumble over your words and miss your opportunity. If you get nervous, just remember their human to, and take a deep breath.
  • Travel to places across the country: If you’re the type of person who stays in their location all the time, and never leaves their city or town, conferences can get you out into big cities and get a little more cultured. I got to go to Austin for SXSW and a suburb of Chicago for FINCON. This year, I plan on visiting Denver, and possibly Philadelphia and New York, all places I’ve never been to. If you, try to go a few days early or stay a few days after to explore the city you’re in, because during the conference, you’ll probably be too busy learning and networking.

Do you have a budget set aside specifically for attending conferences and networking? How important is networking to your business?  Will you by participating in any conferences this year?

Note: Jeff from Sustainable Life Blog will be hosting a Yakezie panel at FINCON 12 in Denver this year.  Should be good for those interested in joining the Network or just curious to know how the Network has evolved.  Members, we’ll be hosting a little drinks shindig one evening to meet as many of us face to face as possible! Sam

Photo: Yakezie Conference In Hawaii next? We can go on team-building hikes that end in waterfalls!