Many employee’s manage to get management sign-off to attend trade shows such as Synergy. Most even get their expenses paid too.
But what about those independent consultants?
For many, (myself included) the costs of attending conferences come out of ones own pocket, so here’s a useful guide to justifying the cost (to yourself) of attending.
Reduce the “triple hit” effect
Consultants are hit three times when attending conferences:
- We have to pay the conference fee ourselves.
- We have to pay our own travel, flights, hotel and meal expenses
- We often have to take unpaid leave whilst we’re not on a clients site
You can reduce this “triple-hit” by the following:
- Take an exam whilst your at Synergy. Pearson Vue exams are free to conference attendees. Whilst the basic CCA-level exams are £95 each, the advanced CCEE and CCIA exams are £167 and both kinds are on offer so you’re already a good way to offsetting the conference fee. Register here in advance to ensure you get a place.
- Find the cheapest flights and take advantage of accommodation offers to ensure you’re not paying over the odds
- Expense everything. Attending conferences is a valid business expense so costs can be claimed against tax.
- Attend TechEdge. It has some great technical content around support and troubleshooting Citrix products. Plus it’s free if you’re Citrix certified – just enter CERTIFIED in the support agreement field on the registration form.
- Ask your line manager if you can bill, or part-bill for the working days you’re in attendance. Given the importance of Citrix technologies to the project you’re working on (well they are, right?), your client is bound to benefit from your attendance, and they may well agree to pay for your time whilst you’re there. Add further value to that argument by reminding your client that you’re paying the conference fees and T&E out of your own pocket.
- If the above is agreed to without any hesitation, it’s worth asking a follow-up question whether they will also cover your T&E. Unlikely, but you don’t get anywhere without being a bit pushy right?
- If you work under a VAT registered company, ensure you reclaim the foreign VAT charged on any significant expenses made whilst attending (e.g. Hotels). See HMRC website for details.
- If you can’t bill for your time, don’t think about the cost. As a consultant, you already don’t take enough holiday right? See this as “holiday with added value”. Which brings me nicely on to…
Realise the added value of networking
As consultants, many of us are our “own brand” and the more knowledge we have the more valuable our services to clients become (and thus it becomes much easier to justify that higher daily rate).
Synergy and PubForum are great networking opportunities with other technically-skilled people. You can often get far more value from a ten minute chat over a beer with someone than from half a days Power Point from some sales guy. Don’t underestimate the value of networking – this often more than justifies the financial costs.
See the sights
Make sure you aren’t locked in your conference/hotel room for the week. Get out and about and see Barcelona. Mix with the locals. Sample the food and drink.
If you travel on business a lot, you’ll know how depressing it is to travel from airport -> hotel -> office -> hotel -> airport without seeing anything of your host city. Don’t make the same mistake.
PubForum organise evenings out with fellow delegates and Sunday is sightseeing day. Many vendors and exhibitors organise “drinks receptions” during Synergy. Speak to the reps in advance – get yourself on the guest lists. They will be more than happy to give you a slap-up meal on the hope they can flog you several thousand licenses of whatever they’re selling as they’ll expense it themselves too.
Bring your other half for a “weekend city break”. Double rooms are no more expensive than single ones, so for the cost of a budget airline ticket, you can treat your other half to a long weekend in Barcelona. As they’ll be assisting you with “work related tasks” during their stay their flight and expenses will also be fully tax deductible. Of course, this only works if their happy to amuse themselves in shops/pubs during the day whilst you’re locked away in a dark room learning about printer drivers.