Who pays for STC Conference?

Subject: Who pays for STC Conference?
From: Jean Weber <jean_weber -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 8 Mar 1997 23:01:27 -0500

Tom Johnson asked for some ammunition to convince his employer to pay his
way to the STC Conference, and several people answered, from the points of
view of value to the attendee personally and value-for-money to the
employee's company.

Suzy Hosie goes a step further and asks if the conference is so valuable,
and your employer won't pay for you to go, why not consider paying for it

I confess I had a chuckle at Tom's figure of US$1246, only because for me
to attend the conference costs around US$2000-$2500 more than that, mostly
in airfares from Australia. Yet, like Suzy, I consider the conference
sufficiently valuable that I pay for it myself (no choice; I'm

I suggest that anyone wanting their employer to pay, first look at how you
can demonstrate that what you'll learn is equivalent to (or less than) the
cost of x training courses (that cost $X) on topics of value to the
company. Remember, the goal is to show what's in it for the company, not
just what's in it for you.

For example, what on the conference program fits into your department's or
company's strategic plan. (What? No strategic plan? Tell them you'll attend
JoAnn Hackos' sessions and learn how to produce one!) If you know (or
suspect) that your company is (or should be) looking at some new technique
or technology in the next year or so, you can point out one or more of the

(a) If we're going to do x, someone will need training and/or will spend a
lot of time learning how to do it; this will cost the company money. I can
learn enough at the conference to shorten that learning curve and thus save
more money than the conference costs.

(b) If we're looking at how we're going to do x -- no decision yet -- I can
find out enough from the experts at the conference to save time and/or
money in making the decision. Again, probably saving more than the cost of
the conference.

(c) If I'm relatively new at tech writing, I'll learn more faster at the
conference than through taking courses or just being thrown in the deep end
at the job (which also takes up someone else's time -- and company money --
to supervise, mentor, or correct me).

(d) If I'm relatively senior, I'll learn lots about planning, estimating,
management, etc etc and thus save the company money by being more efficient
and/or not having to be sent on expensive training courses.

I'm sure you can think of others. Just tailor them to the company's needs
and compare them to costs of acquiring those skills/knowledge in other

(Of course, if you work for a company like Kathleen Padova's, which doesn't
like paying for any conferences, "even if it is the only means of obtaining
the necessary information to maintain the skill level required to keep your
job," you have a serious problem!)

As a fallback position, ask if they'll pay part of the cost if you pay
part. This demonstrates your commitment and belief in the value of the

And as a last resort, ask whether the company will consider you as being on
work time (that is, you don't have to take leave) if you pay for the costs

(And don't forget someone's advice that if the programmers get to take
skills-upgrades courses, then you should too. Just don't make it sound
defensive, or like you're complaining. Just point out the parallels.)

Finally, in planning ahead for next year, take the advice someone gave to
try to get on the program. I believe the STC has some advice for wannabe
presenters on how to write a winning proposal. (This will be my second year
on the program. It is good evidence to the Australian Tax Office that this
is a work-related trip and hence at least partially tax-deductible, which
helps a bit with the cost. I believe the US IRS has somewhat different
rules on what's allowed as tax deductions, especially for employees, but
it's worth looking into.)

Jean Weber
Technical Writing, Editing and Publishing Consultant
Sydney, Australia
jean_weber -at- compuserve -dot- com

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