I secured a speaking slot at a fairly significant conference (more than 500 attendants). My previous manager was happy to cover flights and accommodation so I could speak at some conferences. The employer branding people were delighted as well.

More recently, my new boss has planned a lot of work in the coming weeks. They are against my missing one day at work. This direct boss approves vacations and budget ( travel expenses ). How do I convince the new boss, this conference is more important than one day at work ?

I've made the argument that:

  • it is good for branding and potential talented hires.
  • the company didn't have to spend money on sponsorship. Most conferences have attributed sponsored speaking slots. I saved money. The travel expense is a bargain compared to the sponsorship fee.
  • the speakers have already been announced. What do I look like if my slot is removed?
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    You need to sell the value add of you going compared to the value of your working that day. Unfortunately, if you can't convince your boss that your attending a conference will give longer term gains (especially if he or she is focusing on short term goals), then you have little chance of changing their mind. – Jane S Nov 2 '15 at 21:37
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    If it isn't important enough thay you'd be willing to take a day off, it probsbly isn't important enough for you to win this support. Can you have someone else present your material? – keshlam Nov 2 '15 at 21:55
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    The situation sucks, but having to cancel after being selected would be worse in my opinion than taking PTO or working extra hours to offset. – mcknz Nov 2 '15 at 23:38
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    Your new boss is clearly an idiot. However presumably the company previously gave permission for you to speak at the conference under their affiliation? Why do you even need to get permission again? Just go as planned and if your boss won't sign off the expenses either threaten to raise it with their boss (this frightens insecure people) or just use it as an amusing reason as to why you're looking to leave for potential employers. Don't waste your time justifying it. – TheMathemagician Nov 3 '15 at 18:05
  • @TheMathemagician , the company was more than happy to let me go. But she is the one who approves the travel expenses. Finally someone who says out loud the reality. – Raychenon Nov 3 '15 at 18:40

When I joined the group I work with, I joined with the expectation that I would have opportunities to speak at conferences that would benefit my career and reputation, and I would be expected to take those opportunities. If a new boss was against my speaking, I would be looking for a new employer immediately, as a lost opportunity to speak would undermine my career goals.

If you are not speaking to further your career, why should you care? Your job is to keep your boss happy. So long as your long-run career interests align with your boss's short term interests, you should not care.

If you do care, and now I assume you do, it's likely to be about more than just the interests of the firm you work for. So you sell your new boss on the idea. Make the same case that you've made above and that you've made before.

  • Affect on Promotions and Human Resources strategy
  • Lost value that other firms have put a price on
  • Embarrassment for the firm and yourself by losing your speaking slot

You want to bring all the reasons that you have to give this talk to bear. Think of as many other reasons as you can think of.

So additionally, you need to tell your new boss how important these conferences are to you personally. If your boss appreciates having you as an employee, that additional reason may also help them decide in your favor. Write them up in an email, and send them to your boss so that they have a chance to think about it instead of giving you a knee-jerk no.

In the end, be prepared to learn that their priorities have changed. If your boss remains unsold, you now have some important career shaping decisions to make.

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    How does this help the OP convince his boss to send him to the conference? – GreenMatt Nov 2 '15 at 22:06
  • My goal is NOT be a "yes-man" who keeps the boss happy. I do care and I recently caught the speaker virus. This Chinese proverb describes the situation "同床异梦": lit. "to share the same bed with different dreams (idiom); ostensible partners with different agendas" – Raychenon Nov 2 '15 at 22:18
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    I agree, although I think that making a case to the new boss is more likely to be effective in a face-to-face than in an email (or at least with a face-to-face follow-up). One thing that the OP may want to bring up is the fact that BOTH their name and the company name would be associated with a cancellation after the speakers have been published, that is embarrassing for everyone involved. – teego1967 Nov 2 '15 at 22:20
  • @teego1967: Speakers cancel for various reasons from time to time. While the OP would have to be careful doing this, he could tell the conference that his manager/employer wouldn't let him attend and speak. This could make it more difficult to find employees ... – GreenMatt Nov 2 '15 at 22:26
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    @GreenMatt better to say "a conflict" was the reason for the cancellation. Blaming the boss just makes it look like bad planning on the OPs part. – mcknz Nov 3 '15 at 1:05

How do I convince the new boss, this conference is more important than one day at work ?

Enlist the aid of your former boss and the branding people. They can help explain the value to the company of your conference speaking engagement.

If that doesn't work, you could

  • Offer to make up the day of missed work
  • Offer to pay the flight and accommodation expenses, and use a personal or vacation day

Your new boss might take you up on your offers, so be prepared to follow through with the time/expense. But your boss might use your offers to understand how important this is to you, and how much you value the speaking opportunity, and consequently pay your way.

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    If you do end up having to fund it yourself (paying costs + spending PTO), it's probably good to remove the company affiliation from your talk if you still can. At that point you're going as an individual, so (a) why help them if they wouldn't sponsor your attendance and (b) why risk appearing to speak for them when you don't? – Monica Cellio Nov 3 '15 at 21:34
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    I would absolutely not offer to work more or pay for it myself, if my expectation and my firm's expectation was, when booking the engagement, that the firm was paying for it. The only way I'd pay for it myself would be if I had left them. – Aaron Hall Nov 3 '15 at 21:49

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