PMEC Justification Toolkit

Determining ROI

As a manager you may often be faced either with your own need to attend a professional conference or requests by your team members to attend one. Professional conferences can be expensive and not all budget managers understand their importance or the benefits derived by conference attendees. Use the information below to help you justify the expense of attending a conference and provides some handy worksheets you can use to do so. In order to approve any allocation of resources to a given project or program, you need to understand two components to make decisions:

  • Expense (the “investment”)
  • Return on Investment

Here are some easy-to-use tools to help you calculate the investment and identify your return by attending the Product Management Education & Certification 2010 Annual Conference.

Customizable Letter to Manager (PDF)

Customizable Letter to Manager (DOC)

Understanding Your Conference Expenses

Conference expenses are affected by a number of factors. Before you can even begin to justify conference expenses, you need to calculate what those expenses are. To do so, use the following Expenses Worksheet to develop a cost estimate for attending your selected conference.

Expenses Worksheet




Conference Registration


Pre & Post-Conference Class Registration, if applicable

usually optional


Materials Fees (if any)

books? software? media?



try Kayak.Com to get a quick estimate



$139 + tax Fairmont


Transportation: Airport to Hotel

if flying: taxi? car rental?


Transportation: Hotel to Airport

if flying: taxi? car rental?


Mileage Reimbursement

driving to conference? To the airport for your flight? Use Google to calculate distances, then multiply miles by 50 cents/mile (IRS standard for 2010)


Parking Reimbursement

at airport for flight departure, or at hotel where conference is located


Food Per Diem

see IRS 2010 guidelines for conference locale rates. Remember, most include breakfast, lunch, & breaks are included in your conference registration




total number of employees going

multiply subtotal by total number of employees going = total


Understanding the Benefits

Let’s face it: many benefits from conference attendance are hard to quantify. For example, many experts agree that the top benefit of conference attendance is networking value. Where else can you find so many industry contacts facing the same issues as your organization? Are there solutions you’re not aware of?

Although networking is undoubtedly the most important aspect of a conference, it is also the toughest for which to quantify any value.

On the other hand, if an employee came to you and said, “I want you to fund me for $2,000 and I don’t know what it’ll do for you,” then you would likely scoff at the offer…and maybe even mumble a few colorful metaphors about his/her suggestion.

When you propose a conference for approvals, don’t focus on how much you want to go; focus on what you will specifically bring back to the organization as payback for the investment.

Some specific details you’ll need to identify include:

  • Session content. What sessions have particular relevance to your organization’s work? Specifically identify:
    • Tools
    • Technologies
    • Processes
  • Vendor contacts. Will the conference showcase vendors with tools you use or are evaluating for potential future use? Is this an opportunity during which you’ll be able to compare competing tools?
  • Best practices. Will there be sessions in areas that will immediately benefit your organization?
  • Training. Will there be workshops designed to teach attendees a special skill and/or help your team overcome current or future challenges?

Quantifying the Benefits

Although you might understand the benefits of the conference that interests you, your manager may not. Therefore, to be most effective in justifying the conference, you need to clearly articulate the connection between your organization’s knowledge requirements and the conference program. DO NOT assume that your manager will be able to automatically make those distinctions.

To support this process, use the following Benefits Worksheet to help you focus on the benefits.

Benefits Worksheet

Your Organization’s Benefits

Specific Needs and the Conference Sessions & Training that Meet that Meet the Need

Networking Benefits

  1. This conference will allow [specific team members] to network with other professionals and vendors in the industry. We will be able to take the pulse of what is happening for tools, technologies, and processes, and hear ideas we weren’t even aware of.

Teambuilding (if sending a big part of your group)

  1. This conference will help build our team, providing a forum for team members to discuss tools, technologies, and processes and how we can might apply them in our company to improve our information products, workflow, and processes.

Current Tools

Future Tools Exploration

Current Technologies

Future Technologies Exploration

Current Processes

Future Processes Exploration

Vendors With Tools & Technologies You Are Exploring

It’s All in the Selling

After you have identified the specific knowledge benefits, you’ve provided both the expenses and benefits your manager needs to decide the value of your proposition.

Sell your conference proposition!

*Excerpted from Mike Doyle, manager, author, teacher, conference organizer and founder of the Documentation & Training Conference.

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