How to Convince Your Company to Pay for a SXSWi Pass

sxsw2009Times are tough, right? Everyone is slashing spending, especially around travel and conference budgets. But you need (read: want) to be at SXSWi. So it’s time to convince your boss that your attendance at SXSWi is something that the business needs to be successful.

Fortunately, if your company does or wants to do anything with the interwebs (and seriously, who doesn’t these days?), this is easier than you thought. Just follow these five easy steps.

1. Look at the SXSWi speaker/panel lineup and pick ten panels that are relevant to your line of work. I’m a web 2.0 developer with more than a passing interest in social media, so this is easy. But the panels run the gamut of topics, so you should be able to find something that works for your business/industry. Here’s an example: Building Personal and Company Brands with Web 2.0 Tools. Every company wants a stronger brand, right?

2. Copy the titles and abstracts into an e-mail to your boss and elaborate on how you’ll benefit from them. More importantly, give specific reasons why what you learn will help you and your team, peers, etc. achieve 2009’s business goals. To continue with our example, my company needs to grow our social media cred. The panel consists of Saul Colt, C.C. Chapman and Gary Vaynerchuk. According to their bios (on their web sites), Saul is “an accomplished marketing professional, with more than a decade of diverse high-level experience and a respected publisher” and C.C.’s company, The Advance Guard, “focuses on helping brands of all sizes smartly and strategically leverage emerging technologies for radical marketing programs.” Gary doesn’t really require an explanation, but if your boss has been living in a cave, then you might want to drop a few adjectives like “inspirational” and “passionate.” Example: This panel will help me form an action plan on how to grow my company’s social media cred, following the examples set by these three extraordinary social media mavens.

3. Outline the maximum line item costs for the event. The pass, the travel, the hotel and the food. If you really want to go, make your food budget less than $50/day, your hotel budget less than $100/day and cover the rest (if necessary) with your own cash. Don’t provide a total, as it might overwhelm your boss at first brush. Besides, I’m sure he or she can add.

4. Plan a post-conference re-cap meeting. This is crucial! Set a date and make a list of team members who you will invite, including your boss. During this meeting, promise to share the highlights of what you learned at SXSWi and what you recommend that the business do differently. Explain how these revolutionary ideas will boldly move the company forward in ways they never could have imagined.

5. Split the difference. Remind your boss that the conference takes place Friday-Tuesday (March 13th to 17th). If you travel after work on Thursday or on Friday morning and return to work the following Wednesday, you’re only missing three days of work AND you’re donating your time to the company you love so much over the weekend.

There you have it, your “free” pass to SXSWi. Well, it’s not exactly free. You have to deliver on all the promises you’re making to your boss, especially if you want to go next year! Now if only it was this easy to justify the music festival. . . .

(Thanks to allisonb00, the inspiration for many things in my life, including this blog post.)

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