Having just gotten back from THE Domain Conference in Florida this week, I thought it would be good to share some reasons why I think being at a conference is so important. I think in business it is always smart to think strategically about any investment. Going to a conference is an investment in time of five or so days away from your core business, your family, and it will run you typically in the neighborhood of a couple thousand dollars to attend. Is it worth it? Again and again for me the answer has been a resounding yes. One of the greatest things about being at a conference, even a conference of people who make their living online, in the virtual space, is the fact that you get to connect with people face to face. I do business with all kinds of people but when I am doing any kind of serious business, I want to do it with an organization or a person I can trust. Let’s face it, the time and money involved in doing anything worthwhile is significant and when spending that type of capital you want to know you can trust in the people and places you invest in. Seeing people face to face gives you a much better feel for how they act, how competent they are, and it gives you an added sense of confidence in doing business with them. The same holds true for others thinking of using your services or buying from you. When people know you and you know them, you are much more likely to do business in my experience. Another real benefit from attending these conferences is the friendships you develop over time. How many times can you talk about domains or ecommerce and not have someone’s eyes glaze over when you mention the WHOIS or something similar? Not only is it refreshing to share time with people who “speak your language,” it is also rare to find new genuine friendships in life, and I can say that over the years I have developed some really great friendships that I would not have made had I not been at the conferences. When you are thinking through a significant decision, I think it is always important to seek others' advice. I think it is more important to make sure the advice you are seeking is coming from someone who is an expert in that area. There are times when asking a lawyer something is very wise, or consulting an accountant about tax implications of a deal, etc. makes a lot of sense. When I do this, it is typically just a cost of doing business. However, at the conference you have the opportunity to learn about things relevant to your business from industry experts during panels free of charge and included in your cost of admission. You can also ask follow-up questions, or you may run into people during the show and get some questions answered. Think to yourself how much would those consulting opportunities cost you out of pocket if you were to buy them on your own time? At the Domain Conference we just attended in Florida, I heard legal advice by expert lawyers, domain brokers share strategies, Brett Napoli share Wordpress development techniques and offer free consulting and advice on your website, and I could go on and on. The point being some of these things alone would cost you a lot of money. Subtract that from the cost of admission to a conference and the price tag doesn’t look that high. The business opportunities that come up for you on these trips in my experience more than pay for the price of admission many times over. We always do a good amount of new business by sponsoring these events. As an individual, I came across many opportunities that I would never have had if I were not at the conference. I asked one blogger to be a guest on our webinar series, they declined but another blogger asked me to guest post once a month and another presented an opportunity to do some joint work that would be beneficial to both of our companies. This does not count the many deals we were able to get moving that will result in real money for our company at the end of the day. So there were opportunities looked for and unlooked for that were realized just from being there this week, many which will result in a significant amount of real revenue being generated. Another great benefit for people who attend the conference is the sponsors' booths. Not only do you get to hear about new tools and tricks of the trade from the companies you do business with in the space, you get to learn about new companies coming into the space and how they may be able to benefit your business. You also get to meet real people from those companies, get their business cards, and get to know them so in the future if you ever need anything at one of those companies, you have someone you can talk with who knows you and you know them. This is really helpful. Last but not least, there are many deals for attendees. I got free coffee and soap from the .club booth, coupons for free and discounted domains, specials on pricing at many companies, and plenty of swag if you want it. One of the key things though, which I heard in one of the sessions, was the potential free or discounted use of premium domains by some of the new registries. This is known by insiders but not generally talked about. If you have a real business plan with the means to build something meaningful online, you may be able to work with the registry to get a great domain for your business at a better deal than a person not joining their programs would get. If you are interested, reach out to the registries. Want to know who to contact and talk to about your idea? They were all at the conference! Just another great reason to go. Honestly I could go on for many more pages on the benefits of attendance but I will cut it short with one last thought. For many people, the thought of going to a new place and not knowing many ,or any, people is intimidating. I still remember my first conference where I knew one or two people out of the hundreds that were there. Getting off the elevator and walking into the main conference alone was not super fun. Sure it is intimidating, but I find that people at these conferences are generally welcoming. I also will specifically call out the Neu family who ran the domain conference in Florida this year. I cannot express in words how welcome they make you feel. Barbara Neu is one of the most genuinely kind and welcoming people I have ever met, and she will literally bend over backwards to make sure that you feel welcome and are able to meet people during your first conference. If you are on the fence because you are a little worried about the social aspect of the conferences, make your first conference THE Domain Conference in Florida, and you won’t regret it. If you are going to be at Namescon or somewhere else and you don't know anyone, I will be there so reach out to me, and I will be happy to introduce myself to you and get you introduced to some others at the show, but by all means, find a conference and attend one.