Attending events like the upcoming DC Code Writers Workshop (June 9th) are smart investments not only for individuals, but also for companies. Attendees will leave with new skills, innovative ideas, and valuable connections—all of which can boost an employee’s contribution to their team.
In this post, we’ll take a look at how to go about asking your supervisor to pay for your conference costs.
To start with, it's a good idea to run the idea by your supervisor verbally if you speak to them frequently. This could be a quick interaction in the break room, before a meeting, or over the phone. Try asking: “I saw that an interesting conference called [name of conference] is coming up on [date]. I think I’d get a lot out of attending, and I’m wondering if you’d agree. Could I send you some more details about it?”
As a follow up, we’ve found that one-page “pitch” letter works well, because it gives you a chance to demonstrate the value that you—and the company—would gain by attending.
Let’s explore some of the key components to include in your letter.
Start with a 2-sentence pitch
Begin your letter with a short and sweet description of what you’re asking. Share the event name and logistics, and state that you’re requesting their approval to attend. Keep it focused, clear, and to-the-point.
Describe what you’ll get out of the event
Now that you’ve laid the foundation, build the walls. Explain the theme of the conference, and share key details that are particularly relevant to your work. Think through the main takeaways you hope to gain from the event, and show how these will boost your contribution as an employee. Does the conference have several tracks? If so, let your boss know which one you plan to attend and why.
Link the event to company or individual goals
Is there a workshop or presentation that will address a problem your team is working to solve? Are their specific people at the event that your company would benefit from networking with? If so, spell out how the conference will help your team meet targeted goals. This exercise is also helpful for you to determine how you’ll spend your time at the conference.
Create a follow-up plan
Your supervisor will want to know that once you come back from the event, you’ll use some of the knowledge you gained. Share a plan to report back on what you’ve learned. Maybe this will be a 1-pager that summarizes your key takeaways, or 5 minutes of talking time at your next meeting.
Explain what the cost covers
Conference tickets usually cover not only workshops and presentations, but also meals, networking opportunities, and perhaps a pre- or post-event reception. This is also your chance to tell your boss about any ticket deadlines—usually prices go up as the conference approaches.
Determine if the event applies to others on your team
Chances are, some of your colleagues could also benefit from attending the conference. Events offer a unique chance to build the bonds within your team by getting outside the office and exploring new topics together. Commonly, event organizers also offer ticket bundles that bring down the cost. If you already know that some of your colleagues are interested, consider submitting your request letter together. This will strengthen your ask significantly.
Set a timeline
End by asking your boss if they can let you know by a certain date. This way, you’ll have the chance to follow up and make a second pitch if needed. Put this date in your calendar so you don’t forget!
Format and send
Lastly, format the letter so that it’s easy to read (please no long, run-on paragraphs), and edit for brevity—it should be no more than one page. Attach to a succinct email, send, and you’re off! That said, not everyone loves text-based pitches. If you know that your boss prefers to talk rather than read emails, it’s still useful to put together these ideas, so that you can have your pitch ready when you discuss it.
To help get you started, we created a sample "Convince Your Boss" template for the DC Code Writers Workshop on April 28th (Software Leadership in a New Era) that you can draw from. Good luck!