Conferences are great. They’re a good way to make that fun face-to-face contact with your fellow professionals; to network, learn, and reflect. Sometimes they’re in really cool venues. Sometimes they involve alcohol. Often they involve cake.

Conferences are expensive. Well, someone has to pay for all that cake. And once you’ve paid the registration fee, you often have to find funds for travel and accommodation and subsistence (more cake). Not many people are in a position to fund conference attendance out of their own pockets, so who’s going to pay?

It’s always worth looking for bursaries and awards to attend conferences. Check out the conference website, any associations your’e a member of (such as CILIP, SLA, ARA). The lis-awards mailing list is useful (but definitely not comprehensive). There are some great tips on applying for conference awards from Laura Woods, Rachel Bickley, and Penny Andrews.

If you’re lucky, your employer might have some money available to support your professional development. I’ve been particularly lucky this year, getting funding from my employer to attend the SLA Conference and the CILIP Conference. For this, I had to write a business case detailing why I should attend. It’s very similar to writing an application for an award or bursary, with your employer being the awarding body.

It can be daunting to write a business case, especially when it’s one that involves being complimentary about yourself. It’s hard to overcome the tendency to modesty and self-deprecation, but if you’re going to convince your employer of the benefits of sending you to the conference, you have to convince yourself, too. (Once written it’s pretty daunting to post these celebrations of self on the internet, but that’s what I’m going to do, because I’m just so darn nice.)

I’ve tried in each of them to cover the following points (loosely inspired by this useful template letter):

  • what is the conference about?
  • who will I meet there?
  • why is it good for me to meet and network with those people?
  • what personal-professional connections will I make? what professional-professional (ie work-related) connections will I make?
  • what will I learn there?
  • how will this learning enhance my personal and professional development?
  • how will this learning enhance what i can offer my employer?
  • how will my employer’s reputation benefit from me attending the conference?
  • are there any practical benefits that will result?

I’m not saying that these are perfect examples, and looking over the list of points to cover I see that I haven’t always covered them all, but hopefully they are useful examples, and will help anyone who’s thinking of applying to their employer for support. (Details of colleagues have been redacted)

Application to attend the SLA Conference

I’d like to officially request to attend the SLA (Special Libraries Association) Conference in Boston, June 12-16.

I have had a contributed paper accepted, on the value of data sharing. This presentation will be based on a number of Jisc services and projects: LAMP, Copac, CCM, and the Archives Hub, and will focus on why libraries/institutions choose to share their data, the benefits of doing so, and the services Jisc provides that use this data. I will also be offering practical advice on working with library/archive/transaction data. I am required to submit a paper as well as the presentation. The paper may be ‘as long as necessary’, allowing me to go into as much detail as required about the topic, and will be made available after the conference on the SLA website.

The SLA Conference usually has over 2000 attendees from around the world, working in all areas of library and information management, including the academic sector. Attendees are often in senior roles in their organisation. Contributing this paper to the SLA Conference will allow me to promote Jisc services and projects to an international audience. While some UK academic librarians do attend, the SLA audience may not be the direct target market for Jisc services. However, it would build Jisc’s international exposure and reputation, and showcase Jisc innovation and expertise, potentially leading to enhanced future opportunities for partnership and collaboration.

I am currently serving on the Board of Directors of SLA, which is a prestigious leadership position of a large (over 7000 members) international organisation. This role means that I have a high level of personal visibility at Conference, and a large circle of contacts, who will be aware of my affiliation to Jisc. I will be attending Board of Directors meetings at the conference. These give me the opportunity to gain and improve skills around collaboration, committee work, finances, leadership, strategic planning, resource management, and objective setting. Through my Board of Directors work I will be coming into close contact and collaboration with members of prestigious organisations, including [organisations].

I will also have the chance to attend conference sessions, and improve my professional skills and knowledge. Sessions which have caught my eye include practical sessions on web design and UX (including a masterclass on Lean UX), introduction to developing a Competitive Intelligence function, transparency and open data, metaphoric-based customer research, a masterclass in grant writing, innovative outreach, masterclass in wargaming as an analytical tool, determining fees and ROI for information services, autocategorisation and human tagging, and the role of information professionals in supporting business development. I will live tweet the sessions I attend, to share with the wider community (I am usually one of the ‘top tweeters’ at conferences, with good visibility and interaction on the hashtag), and am also happy to share key takeaways with Jisc colleagues, as appropriate.

[Cost implications, timescale]

Application to attend the CILIP Conference

In the past, I’ve worked the Copac stand at the CILIP Conference, and found it to be an excellent event for keeping in touch with the UK library community. I’ve just asked about this year, and found that [colleagues] will be staffing the Jisc stand on behalf on Copac and CCM. I’d still like to attend, if possible. Even if I’m not there officially on behalf on Copac/CCM (ie behind the stand with a badge on), I am known among the community for working with Copac, and I often get approached at events informally with questions about the service, and other Mimas projects – I imagine that this will translate into other Jisc projects now!

For my own CPD, it’s an excellent place for professional visibility. I have a history of involvement with CILIP. I’m a Chartership mentor, was member of the Future Skills project board (, and have written for CILIP Update, including a bi-monthly column in 2012, and Facet Publishing. Attending CILIP events (and especially conference) helps to reinforce this positive impression of my professional involvement and commitment, and allows me to catch up with contacts made during these activities. This positive impression would reflect well on Jisc, as a professionally involved and supportive organisation with considerable specialist expertise. I’d also be happy to provide support on the stand, as required.

The CILIP Conference attracts attendees from many sectors, and allows me to hear research and development from, and make contacts with, people outside the academic sectors, who dominate many other events. Speakers and topics of particular interest include the keynotes from R David Lankes, Cory Doctorow, Shami Chakrabarti, Will Moy, and Erwin James; contact curation; small scale tailored online CPD; demonstrating value using usage statistics; stakeholder engagement; research data management; research access management; and digital futures.

[Cost implications, timescale]