Why Attend? Justifying Attendance with a Purposeful Why and a Targeted Who

BLOG Conference Objectives - Sherra Bell Image RevisedMy role in recruiting requires that I stay up-to-date on who’s who; so I’m a regular attendee of conferences, summits, seminars and Meet-ups, usually on my own dime. From experience, I find that most annual industry events represent the highest quality investment of time and resources, especially when aligned with personal, professional and organizational goals. However, I also have learned that the extent to which any of us derive value depends greatly on what we choose to make of an experience. This requires some advance planning, especially if you have to justify attendance to your employer.

Your TUFF Summit 2016 organizers want you to make the most of your experience this year. As a result of that commitment, they have asked me to share my thoughts on event preparation in a series of blog posts. It seemed best to start at the beginning with how you decide (or get permission) to attend.

I find that considering and planning attendance at any event starts first with finding a purposeful answer to why you should want to attend. That likely depends on the stage of your career. Any how-to advice like this is obviously geared more to the novice than the veteran but I hope there might be some nuggets of helpfulness along the way for every experience level.

Assuming you are newer to the profession, know that you are primarily looking for opportunities to begin building peer connections or connecting with potential mentors and future employers. In contrast, once established in your profession, annual industry conferences function more like a reunion designed for maintaining relationships and visibility. Those who become presenters or panelists, typically agree to do so to establish or maintain credibility while serving the community by sharing their expertise. At every event, you will also have recruiters and hiring managers scouting for talent and sales people positioning for exposure to new opportunities. Generally speaking, however, anyone choosing to attend a particular event is also ultimately still doing so based on expectations about the quality of the content and speakers because they attract the right kind of thought leadership, case studies, best practices and niche networking for everything else to come together as it should.

So how do you decide if this or any conference is best for you right now? Assessing the content and speakers is easy once the schedule is posted. Generally organized as Keynotes and Sessions, you are looking for topic titles and descriptions that align with your goals as well as speakers you respect. If you don’t know a speaker personally or by reputation, you are still looking for speakers working for relevant organizations in relatable roles. As you review topics and presenters, you are thinking about your own interests as well as the interests of anyone you hope to meet.

If still unsure, review the mission of the sponsoring organization and the background of its organizers. You can also search the Internet for historical content like videos or presentation downloads, as well as Twitter feeds based on the previous event hashtags. Chances are that if people you respect are connected to the event, it is worth being there.

For a review of TUFF Summit’s history, check out these links:



#TUFFsummit2014 / #TUFFsummit2013 / #TUFFsummit2012

2012 Materials

2011 Materials

After reviewing all available conference information, you should be able to articulate what you expect to learn based on which speakers and topics interest you most. With that plan in place well in advance, you are able to schedule your travel to capitalize on key experiences. You’ll know with more certainty if staying an extra night for the early kick-off or end of event workshop is an appropriate return on the additional investment.

As a recap, below is a simple format for justifying and planning attendance at the upcoming TUFF Summit (to yourself or your boss).

I would like to attend TUFF Summit on June 8-9 because it aligns with goal(s) to:


 A few of the speakers and topics most relevant to my/our current goal(s) include:

  •  ________________________________________________________________________________________,
  • ___________________________________________________________________________________, and
  • ________________________________________________________________________________________.



Registration will cost $________________ before February 29th and $________________ after.

Travel and accommodations will cost approximately ___________________________________. I will need to arrive at the

conference on  ____________________ before ____________________

 and depart on ____________________ after ____________________.

I hope this helps as you consider attending and start planning for TUFF Summit 2016. Once those basics are decided and you’ve registered (and reserved your room if needed), you can shift all of your attention to the people you hope to meet and how to derive maximum networking value. Be sure to watch for my future posts about networking preparation and follow-up.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about what you are pondering in preparation for attending. Please post in the comments below.

Bio: Among many other things, Sherra M. Bell is the founder of Creative Know-Who, a sales and recruitment consultancy serving creative teams. She completed two years of architecture studies at Auburn where she finished instead with her BFA in Visual Communications. She is a native of Atlanta, past president of AIGA Atlanta and has spent the past 20 years attending more than an average amount of conferences, summits and seminars.


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