Want to attend a conference but don't have the budget? Here's how...

So you’ve spotted a workshop or conference you’d love to attend. You know it would be great for your business. Trouble is, it feels out of your budget right now.

And it’s not just about the price of the ticket; you also need to factor in the cost of travel, accommodation, food and socialising (not to mention the time taken out of your business).

If this sounds like you, the first thing you need to do is change your mindset. Instead of saying ‘I can’t afford it’ ask yourself ‘what could I do to make it affordable?’

Here’s ten money-saving ideas to help you make it happen:

1.Book your conference ticket early

It's expensive to host a conference or live event (if you want to find out how much, read this) which is why tickets often start at a few hundred pounds/dollars and can run into thousands. However, most event organisers offer earlybird prices and/or the option to pay in instalments. 

Get in early and you can also save on travel and hotel costs too.

2.Offer to volunteer at the conference

Some event organisers recruit volunteers to help out in exchange for a free ticket. It’s generally pretty mundane stuff - making up delegate packs, working the registration desk or handing round the microphone during Q & A sessions - but it might get you in the conference hall to hear the speakers. I don’t recruit volunteers for my events (I want my ‘helpers’ to be fully focused on the delegates) but many event organisers do, so it’s always worth asking.

3.Ask the conference organiser if they have an affiliate deal

Some event organisers offer commission/rewards for ticket referrals. Recommend the event to friends/colleagues and you could shave a significant amount off the cost of your own ticket.

For example, for our upcoming event #2020 Sorted we'll be giving speakers a special limited time only discount code, so if you'd like to come along do talk to one of our speakers.

4.Offset the cost of attending the conference with an event or offering of your own

If you’re heading to a new town or city for an event, how about hosting your own workshop or opening up a number of consultancy slots to cover the cost of your ticket? If you run a product-based business, perhaps you could host a pop-up event in a local market, office or co-working space. You might even be able to invite some of your fellow conference attendees to come along. Plenty of venues rent out space by the hour at very affordable rates (my personal tip: try schools, colleges, and churches) and you can put together a sales page using an online ticketing service like Eventbrite in minutes.

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5.Host an online event or sale

What do you already have of value in your business? Perhaps you have information products i.e. courses/webinars/video tutorials you could bundle together and offer at a special price? Something you could teach in an online class or webinar? Or products you could bundle up or offer at a special price for a limited period? When I bundled my book and media diary together sales went up - even though the overall package was more expensive. 

If you work in/for a charity or not-for-profit organisation, this applies to you too. I've yet to come across any business or organisation that doesn't have something valuable it could teach to others. With a bit of creative thinking, you could even generate a brand new income stream.

6.Get more customers

Yep you heard me right. Tot up the total amount of money you need to attend (including travel, accommodation and expenses), work out how many new clients you need to attract - or products you need to sell - to cover the cost. Then ‘reverse engineer’ the process i.e. work out how you’re going to making it happen. If you run a consultancy or coaching business, this can be as simple as emailing your existing/previous clients to ask for referrals or creating an additional service like web designer and SEO expert Martin Huntbach's 30 minute website critique. Creating and delivering a simple consultancy product like this could net you the price of a conference ticket in hours. 

If you have a product-based business, you might consider hosting a special sale (see number 5) or hosting a pop-up event.

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7.Get someone else to pay for your conference ticket

Do you have a client who would benefit from you attending the event? If you can show how your attendance could have an impact on their bottom line, you may be able to get them to contribute towards the cost of your conference ticket - or even cover the lot? If you have multiple clients who would benefit, you may be able to persuade them to split the cost.

8.Shop around for travel deals (or car share)

The earlier you book your travel, the cheaper it is likely to be. If you’re travelling by train, consider buying singles on trainline as this can work out a lot cheaper. If you know other people who are travelling to the conference, you might also consider car sharing so you can split the petrol costs (and, if you’re hiring a car, even take turns to drive).

9.Consider alternatives to hotels

If you’re looking to save money on your accommodation, you can’t get much cheaper than crashing on a friend’s couch or staying with family. If this isn’t an option, budget hotels, guest houses and hostels can be less expensive than standard hotels (and be just as comfortable). Check out Hotwire for good hotel deals. You might also consider staying on the outskirts of the city centre and travelling in each day, as this can work out cheaper. If you know a few other people attending the same conference, you could rent an apartment together and split the costs. Airbnb has some great properties for groups. If you choose to rent an apartment, you can save more money on food and drink by shopping locally and cooking your own meals.

10. Look for money ‘behind the sofa’

  • Are you paying direct debits for services you no longer use?
  • Do you have any tech/equipment (or anything at all in fact) you’ve been meaning to sell on Ebay?
  • Is there a dress or bag sitting in your wardrobe you meant to return but didn’t get round to?
  • Do you have money sitting in a bank/building society account you no longer use?
  • Is there any unnecessary expenditure you could cut right now?

Devote an hour to looking at your ‘money leaks’ and you might be pleasantly surprised how much cash you can gather together (I recently claimed back £95 that had been sitting in a dormant bank account, for example).

Over to you 

If you're reading this post, you’re an entrepreneurial sort. So if you really want to attend an event, I believe you’ve got what it takes to figure out how to get yourself there.

However, if you’ve looked into all these ideas, and still can’t find a solution, it might be best to starting saving for next year instead. Start putting aside a small amount of money each month and get yourself on the wait list so you’re the first to hear about any earlybird discounts.

Want to attend #2020 Sorted? You can find out more and book here

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