By Kawania H. Wooten CMP

Last week, I heard stories about the cancellation of a popular conference — Apparently, the conference organizer’s communication had ceased after the cancellation was announced and participants have no idea what’s going to happen next.

So, what’s a businessperson to do? There are numerous industry experts sharing feedback and wise counsel, so I am not going to cover that today. Instead, I am going to play a little “Monday Morning Quarterback” and provide you with some advice for minimizing challenges similar to this as you register for future professional conferences.

  • First and foremost, perform a “Reference Check. Before you register for a conference, have an honest conversation with someone you trust about the value of the conference. Does the conference provide the type of educational content you need? Are the past attendees the type of professionals you would like to meet and get to know? We have some great conference options in the events industry, but all of the conferences won’t be a good fit for you.
  • Perform a Financial Assessment of the Conference.  Before you decide if you can afford to attend a professional conference, calculate all of the expenses related to attending that conference. If you are unsure of the expenses you may incur, here is a potential list —

The Conference Registration Fee. Find out in advance if there is an early bird registration fee because you want to take advantage of that before the deadline.

Your Airline Ticket. This should also include your baggage fees.

Your Hotel Room Expenses. Your hotel room expenses should include the nightly room rate, room taxes, resort fees, and the gratuity to the maid.

Your Ground Transportation Expenses.  Ground transportation expenses should include the taxi, train and/or shuttle fare to and from the airport.  The ground transportation expenses should ALSO include the taxi and/or train fares to the conference location if you are not staying at the venue where the conference is taking place.  Don’t forget to include the driver gratuities.

Wi Fi. Some conferences offer complimentary Wi-Fi, and some conferences do not. Check beforehand because the daily fees can add up quickly.

Meals Not Covered by the Conference. If you don’t know which meals the conference will provide, contact the conference organizer to find out.

  • Wait for the Reveal of the Speaker Line-Up. The event industry has numerous subject matter experts with compelling stories to tell.  But, all of these stories may not pertain to you or your business.  So, I recommend waiting for the announcement of the conference speakers — Then, you can research their background/story and make an educated decision.
  • Check the Conference’s Cancellation Policy. Some conferences will refund your registration dollars minus a processing fee, and some won’t refund your money at all. You need to know this information prior to registering for the conference — especially if you aren’t 100% sure you are able to attend.
  • Avoid Paying for Your Registration in Cash. Instead of paying for your conference registration with a check or a debit card, consider paying with a credit card that offers you fraud protection.
  • Request to Break Up Your Registration Payments. Instead of paying for your conference registration in one full payment, request a payment plan instead. For most small business owners, cash is king, so submitting a full payment for a conference that is scheduled to take place more than six months out is not a wise financial move.
  • Consider Purchasing Travel Insurance. Attending a professional conference will more than likely cost you somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000 to attend.  Travel Insurance could cover the money you spent on your airfare and hotel room if the conference is cancelled (or if you have to cancel your participation).  Before you purchase travel insurance, check with your credit card company — Travel insurance may already be included if you pay for your air and hotel with your credit card.

No matter which conference you choose to attend, treat your expenses like an investment and choose wisely.


Kawania Wooten is the principal consultant at Howerton+Wooten Events, LLC.  Known to her friends and family as Kay, she uses artistic skills, her keen attention to the smallest details and her strong commitment to customer service as the hallmark of her business.  As the founder of the company, Kawania strives for professionalism, creativity and impeccable organization within every function planned by Howerton+Wooten Events.