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6 Ways to Attend Awesome Conferences for Free

6 Ways to Attend Awesome Conferences for Free

    Everyday, I see an awesome conference or convention I want to attend. While some, like the various PodCamps are free or fairly inexpensive, big conferences like CTIA can cost well over $1,000 to attend.

    Paying for every conference you want to attend is a fast way to go broke, even if you manage to grab early bird rates and other discounts. But there are a few ways to arrange for free tickets — not for every conference, unfortunately, but for enough to make the effort worthwhile. I’ve found that each conference and convention is different — not every method will work at every event. But for just about every conference, there really is some way to attend for free.

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    1. Cover it for the press

    As a freelance writer, I’ve managed to get some free conference tickets because a magazine or website wanted someone in attendance to write up the event. If you’re covering a conference for a publication, you’ll want to take great notes, at least a couple of photographs and generally pay attention. You’ll be writing a pretty in-depth report for your editor when you get back. Covering a conference is definitely work. If an editor shells out big bucks for your ticket, he or she probably expects a great article for the money.

    In general, editors tend to choose writers or photographers they’ve worked with before to cover conferences. But, if there is a certain conference you really want to attend, start querying publications that share an audience with that conference. You’ll need a sample of your writing to show editors — it doesn’t have to be published, but it does need to show your skills.

    2. Look for contests

    A lot of conferences and conventions give away tickets as part of their marketing. It’s never a sure thing that you’ll get a ticket through a conference. For conference you don’t absolutely have to go to, though, trying to win tickets isn’t a bad plan.

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    Usually, I just set up a Google Alert for the name of the conference and the phrase, “free ticket.” I seem to get most of the contests and giveaways that way.

    3. Volunteer your services

    Many conferences and conventions depend on volunteers to handle a lot of the work of putting together and running the event. Especially if you’re a member of the organization putting on the conference, you can often get a free ticket just by volunteering your time. The trade-off is that you won’t have the full convention free. If there are only a few speakers you really want to hear, that isn’t necessarily a problem.

    The earlier you can get in on the set up process, the more likely you are to get a free ticket out of it. If you’re on the organizing committee of a conference, no one’s going to ask you to buy a ticket. You may also be able to trade certain services — like setting up a website or designing a brochure — for a ticket.

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    4. Ask your boss to send you

    One of the good things about having a job is that many companies set aside money for marketing as well as developing employees’ skills. Both budgets often have money that can be used to send employees to conferences — and that employee can be you.

    It’s often a matter of asking your supervisor and seeing what funds are available. If you can clearly explain why a specific conference will make it easier to do your job, you’ll be better prepared to convince your boss why he or she should pay your way.

    5. Present at the conference

    In my opinion, this is the hardest way to get a free ticket. In order to present at a conference (and hopefully get free admission as at least part of your payment), you either have to be invited or submit some sort of proposal to the conference organizer. Either way, you’ll need credentials that will convince a committee that you’re worth having around. You have to be an expert or have done something pretty cool in the field. Volunteering is generally less work.

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    But if you have good credentials in your field — and a great idea for a presentation — you can often attend the rest of the conference for free. It may even be one of the better ways to attend a conference. Other attendees may seek you out just to talk more about your great ideas and experiences.

    6. Ask for a scholarship

    Many conferences maintain a small scholarship fund for people who can’t afford to attend. Most of those funds seem to go to students, and I’ve seen a few conventions ask for some sort of proof of financial need. If you need to attend a particular conference but you just aren’t able to pay for a ticket, ask the organizers if they’re offering any sort of scholarship.

    Just remember…

    Even if you can arrange for free tickets to a conference or convention, you may still need to consider travel arrangements as well as a place to stay. Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does add a little legwork to your conference plans. I’m pretty fond of asking to stay on friends’ couches and carpooling to keep costs down, but I’ve been known to pay for the occasional airplane ticket if I managed to get free conference tickets.

    Hopefully, I’ll see you around the convention circuit.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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