Put On A “Conference” Without A Budget


There are many hurdles to overcome in order to go, or take a team, to a conference.  Especially in a down economy. But what if:
• The conference is local.
• You can invite whoever you want.
• It would cost next to nothing (or maybe even nothing at all)

That eliminates most concerns, doesn’t it?

Before I talk about how to do this, we have to discuss WHY conferences are beneficial:

  1. Getting to hear great content.
    Honestly, this is overrated.  That’s a big deal for me to say, because I’m a content junkie.  You can still have a successful conference experience without great content, but great content is the icing on the cake.  Most of us prefer our cake with icing.
  2. Being around other people who are like-minded.
    This is underrated.  How cool is it to attend an event surrounded with others who value the same things you value?  You know that by attending a marketing conference, people you encounter read similar books and have similar challenges.
  3. Getting away from “it all.”
    One of the biggest benefits of a conference is breaking your routine and escaping the busywork, appointments, meetings, phone calls, etc.  The time away sparks fresh ideas and creates space for retrospection and assessment.

We’ve all done the trips, which can be expensive and time-intensive.  Some of us have put on our own conference, which were not dirt-cheap and VERY time-intensive.  What if you tried something else?

  1. The Internet is full of great content.
    TED is one of the premiere conferences around and their content is available online.  There are also DVDs available from a variety of past conferences.  Look at the websites of conferences you covet attending and check their resource areas for videos of past sessions.
    –Business organizations may be interested in Tom Peters’ videos.
    -Churches and ministries may appreciate video resources from Willow Creek in Chicago.
    -I’m sure there’s much more out there. This is a small sample.
  2. Gather a group of like-minded people.
    Big or small, depending on what we want to accomplish. (not too big or you get into the expensive, labor-intensive and time-intensive stuff) This could be employees, clients, vendors, networking spheres… even competitors.
  3. Find a place to ‘get away.’
    You may need Internet access, but other than that, you could be almost anywhere.  This could be the back room at your favorite cafe. Maybe a small conference room at a local hotel.  It could be a cabin or even a large home.  Point is, turn off email and cell phones, and block off some time (a day?).
  4. Create an agenda.
    My goal would be to choose content, people and a schedule that fosters creative discussions about what you’re all about.  In the blocks for presentations, you could even allow other colleagues show a video that inspires them.  Give them some ownership.  Think about food breaks, snacks, note-taking and – most importantly – bathroom breaks.

Now, go get your conference on!

Dustin Staiger is a business and marketing coach in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, marketing, communications and creativity for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations as well as large enterprises.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “Put On A “Conference” Without A Budget

  1. Very helpful!!!!! I always thought conferences had to be huge and cost tons of money. I never thought of the small one on a budget. I’m an author, and this helps me a great deal. Thanks Dustin! Do you put on conferences yourself?

  2. Thanks Kesha!

    I’ve helped put on small conferences and workshops with various teams. This idea came up as a way for our creative arts team to put together an inexpensive conference for some of our leadership at church. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

  3. I would prefer a larger area rather than smaller, and somewhere where there is a bit of shelter incase it rains or something like that. I don’t really want to hire an outdoor function room unless it is relatively reasonably priced. It would be best on the north/west side of Brisbane but areas closer to southbank or the CBD are acceptable (ie kangaroo point, new farm etc). Thanks for any ideas!.