There are dozens of conferences that you can attend both within the UK and abroad. But the reality is that they all cost money. Whether you or your employing organisation is paying for it, it can be hard to justify attending all of your favourite conferences.
Many turn to outlining the benefits of attending a conference, but for some attendees the total cost can be a major barrier to attending.
I totally get it! It’s not a simple as just buying a ticket.
You also need to pay for accommodation and travel. Then there is food (perhaps during the day and evening), tickets to socials and networking. And of course you won’t be working during those days! These costs can really add up, especially if it takes place over more than one day.
I get it. I want to go to lots of different conferences too. While the decision is not always just about money, if I can help you save money, then it might allow you to spend the money elsewhere to grow your business.
So, I’ve been wondering…is it possible save money when attending an industry conference? Could I help you create a case to attend the conferences and events you want to attend by helping you save money beforehand?
19 ways to save money when attending an industry conference
Finding the money to attend a conference at the last minute can be difficult. The best thing to do is to PLAN well in advance. Maybe 6 to 12 months.
Sit down and plan all of the conferences you’re going to attend then work out the budget you’ll need for all of them. This will also help you take advantage of some of my tips below which will be much harder to do when closer to the event.
#1 Keep an eye out for competitions
One way to save money on conference tickets and anything to do with conferences is to look out for competitions. Conference organisers tend to do these early on for their marketing. They may also run competitions closer to the event too.
I know, because we have done it. We ran a competition in 2016 and another for CMA Live 2017 earlier this year too.
Obviously you can’t guarantee that a competition will be run or that you’re going to win that ticket, but perhaps it’s the make or break decision for you. If you don’t win you aren’t going. If you do win, you are going.
That being said, say you’ve already bought a ticket, still enter the competitions, because you might be able to give that ticket away to someone, or give your original ticket away to someone.
#2 Take advantage of early-bird conference ticket rates
Generally speaking, you can save more money when you plan in advance.
Registering early for an event gets you in on the early bird tickets. These can be 20, 30, 40 per cent off! Not only that, you spread that cover over a period of time too.
Say for example you bought your ticket for CMA Live 2017 when we launched the tickets in June 2016, you will have received circa 40% reduction on our standard price.
But that was eight, nine months ago and if now arranging other aspects of your stay, it doesn’t feel like an even larger amount of spend all at once. The feeling is different about the additional money you’re spending now.
If you register early, look at the payment plans as well. These allow you to spread the money as well as taking advantage of those early-bird rates.
Top tip – make sure you’re on the lists for all the conferences that you want to go to. It will ensure you receive notification of the early bird rates to you in advance.
#3 Book your hotel ASAP!
As with the early bird offers on conference tickets, apply the same mentality to your accommodation booking too. Make sure you book early or at least keep an eye on the prices going up and down. Don’t leave it until the last minute, especially if it’s a city based conference.
#4 Use budget hotels/accommodation
It may not be your first choice, but there is the option to use budget hotels. The reality is that you won’t be spending much time in it.
#5 Buddy up and share accommodation
You could also look into group type accommodation. For example, if there’s five or six of you attending the conference, you could look at getting an Airbnb or an apartment. It may also help with food and drink costs if you book somewhere that has cooking facilities.
Top Tip: If you don’t know anyone attending, find out if the conference has shared online group, twitter list or even email list. Pop a message out and find out who’s staying where and any local knowledge that they have.
#6 Who do you know that lives nearby?
You could also consider bunking up in someone’s living room, kitchen, in their bath, in their kids’ spare bunk bed. Whatever! If you know some friends or family perhaps that stay in that area, you can stay with them and then commute into the city.
Buy them a couple of bottles of wine, feed them dinner and generally say thank you. Not only will you get to attend the conference you want but you can reconnect with friends and family too!
#7 Book your transport ASAP!
Spotting a trend with a few of my tips??
Yep, the key thing is to sort your travel arrangements out early. There’s nothing worse than arranging it all at the last minute and then feeling like you’re getting ripped off for something that might have cost a third of the price if you’d booked it in early. Whether it’s trains, planes, even hiring a car, book early!
#8 Consider alternative travel or a car share
Don’t just consider travelling by plane or train.
If you can travel by other modes of transport, or if there’s a group of you there may be an alternative.
Perhaps you could hire a minibus or jump in a car to car share? So four or five of you could get in the one car.
That could really save a huge amount of money. Five of you travelling in a car instead of five of you all getting a plane ticket, and you could take turns driving as well. It might take you longer to get there, but you’re going to save a lot of cash and no doubt make some great friends on route!
#9 Book accommodation outside of the conference city
You could consider booking accommodation a little further away from the conference. This could be a cheaper option even when you’ve factored in commuting costs.
Though you may suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) on the social aspect of a conference, you could save money and commute if you are within a reasonable distance.
Is it more beneficial to attend and miss out on the socials than not attend at all?
#11 Reduce or remove all unnecessary costs
The other thing to do is to think about saving on unnecessary costs. For example, if you’ve decided that there’s going to be an apartment that you’re going to go into, why don’t you take stuff from home that you won’t need to buy when you get there.
It sounds simple but planning your food shopping and any personal items will stop you buying other ‘unplanned’ items. You know what it’s like…you’re in the supermarket without a list and all sorts end up in that basket!
#12 Research budget restaurants or eating out deals in advance
Do some research in advance and identify budget restaurants and meeting places, so you don’t have to pay premium for food and drinks.
Website such a Itison, Groupon and VoucherCodes are great for this.
#13 Avoid the pressure to keep up
At every conference there will be a range of people with differing mindsets about money and different financial situations too. You could you choose to drink less alcohol or eat less food when you’re out and about. Don’t feel the pressure of having to spend when other people are spending.
#14 Look for income opportunities
While not entirely a saving money tip, it will help offset those costs!
If you’re looking at attending conference, you could offer some sort of service to people in the location and around the conference dates. For example, if you’re a consultant, you could try and get some consultation work that allows you to recharge your travel for the conference. You could even consider having a client to pay for your conference ticket as part of your agreement.
Take a bit of time to brainstorm the opportunities you could create to make money while you’re there, or even when you’re travelling to the conference.
#15 Volunteer at the conference
Most conferences involve a lot of work both in terms of organising the event and logistics on the day. So write to the conference organisers and ask if you can be a room host or even a cloakroom host.
At CMA Live, we’ve offered spots before where students and others have undertaken some service work for us and have attended free of charge.
While you will have to work and there may be some restrictions on how much of the conference you’ll experience, you will be in the room meeting everybody. You could also join in on the socials too!
#16 Speak at the conference
We do get lots of pitches for speakers, and a lot of them will speak for free and get access to the event for free too.
Ask if you can speak at the event, submit a proposal, get to know the conference organisers, and then you get to go to the event for free. That’s ideal, although you’re maybe not getting paid any money, but you get to go for free, which is cool.
Best case scenario, you get paid and you get to attend the event!
- How I choose speakers for CMA Live (Coming soon)
#17 Buy online access to the Conference
If available to purchase, you may be able to buy access to an online version of the conference. Whether it’s attending a livestream version of the conference or getting access to recordings from the event.
It’s not really the same thing, but if you want to experience it and you don’t have the money for the ticket, then that’s definitely one way to do it.
#18 Make it a family holiday
A lot of people do this with CMA Live and they get the whole family involved!
They’ll arrange to spend a week in Edinburgh and Mum or Dad will go to the conference while the other person is being the parent for those days. They can then spend the rest of their week together discovering a new place.
#19 Attend next year
This may seem a little bit backwards to suggest, but it’s important to outline all the options.
So maybe you don’t go this year. Save your pennies up and go next year instead. You could get the date in your diary now and make sure you take advantage of the early bird discount that’s happening next year.
Maybe make it an every other year commitment to attend.
If the fear of missing out is absolutely killing you, then you might want to just bite the bullet and get involved now, but you’ll soon get over it if you put it off for just one year.
With just a little bit of thought and a little bit of planning, you can still have as much fun at a conference but not spend the money that you don’t need to. You could use that money for something else, maybe even next year’s early bird tickets!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too:
- Have the costs of a conference stopped you from attending?
- What’s the one money-saving tip you would give others attending a conference? Have you discovered a deal or bargain that you can share?