Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Some tips for Kaleidoscope 2009

I'm not going to post a whole lot about the content being delivered this year at the ODTUG Kaleidoscope conference June 21-25 in Monterey, CA (http://www.odtugkaleidoscope.com/), my fellow Oracle Ace's, Ed Roske, Tim Tow, and Glenn Schwartzberg have each devoted a substantial amount of time on their respective blogs to what is going to be presented at this years conference. Simply put, there is no other conference this year that will match the quality and quantity of content being presented. Check out the blogs and the Kaleidoscope website to get an idea.

Instead, I have decided to post something I believe a lot of people need help with this year in order to attend the conference, which is justifying the cost to their employers. I am hearing a lot of people say they doubt they will be able to get the funds to go this year due to the economy. Therefore, I thought I would put together a list of items you should talk about with your manager/employer to help you build your case why you should go.

1. First and foremost, I think it is important to frame this conference in its proper context. Unlike some other conferences where you spend your day wandering around a conference center from one exhibitor's booth to another collecting as many tee shirts, pens, and squishy things as you can find, or a conference where you go from one session to the next looking at marketing slides, Kaleidoscope is a developer's training conference. This is an important distinction and one you should really drive home with your manager. This is a hard core, "deep dive", hands on week of training. Dollar for dollar you cannot get a better deal on this much training. Even if your company has cut back on Travel and Entertainment expenses, they may still have money put aside for training and you should fight to get that money if you can. Getting your employer to break up your expenses for the trip between T&E and Training could help you get your trip approved.

2. Down play the location. With a name like Hyatt Regency Monterey Resort & Spa your boss will imagine you sitting by the pool, getting massages, and playing golf all week. Show them the schedule, last year I hardly saw the light of day. The sessions run from early in the morning to late in the day. This is not a “put your feet up and relax” conference. Make sure you get the point across.

3. Point out that breakfast and lunch are part of your conference pass. This means your daily cost for meals will be substantially lower than a regular trip where you expense three meals per day. There is also at least one scheduled evening event where food will be served. Sure, we all like to have a good time when we travel, but times are tough, so commit to your manager that you will be extremely reasonable on the nights when you have to buy your own meals.

4. Transportation (This is a big one)

Air - There's not too much you can do about your flights. If you have airline points saved up, this would be a good time to use them. I know you were planning to use them for vacation this year, but what's more important your career growth or flying to someplace you probably shouldn't be spending so much money on anyway? Do what I'm doing, take the family camping this year and use those points to offset the cost of your flight. Your manager will be impressed at your commitment.
If you don't have points, then normally the rule of thumb is buy tickets early to get the best rate, but these days there's no telling with fuel costs whether prices are going to go up or down. I recommend purchasing sooner rather than later. Shop around, use some different websites and find the best deal. Also consider layovers; yes, it is inconvenient but sometimes you can get a lower fare than a direct flight. The weather should be good, so you have less likelihood of having trouble making your connecting flights.

Ground transportation - Make arrangements to have someone drop you off and pick you up at the airport, and save on taxi or parking fees. Last year this was my biggest expense; my company paid more for me to get to and from the airport than my flight. That won't happen this year. On the other end, I confirmed with the Hyatt Regency Monterey Resort & Spa that they have an airport shuttle and get this there's no charge. So skip the taxi fare to and from the hotel. (I should probably mention I posted this on my blog to give them a heads up)

5. If all else fails, consider self-funding the trip. I know that's a tough pill to swallow; believe me I know because last year that's exactly what I did. I also know some people just can't swing it. Nevertheless, if you can manage it, you should. Remember that this is your career and no one is going to look out for you as much as you will so put a pencil to it and see if you can make it happen. As I said, last year I funded my trip to Kaleidoscope because I had already burned up my annual funds on Collaborate (that was a big mistake). I'm really glad I went to Kaleidoscope. The content was unbelievable and I learned more in that week than I had at all other conferences and user group meetings I had ever attended. I am not exaggerating. Therefore, if you can do it you should, using some of my tips above the cost shouldn't hit you too hard and you should be able to write off your trip as a business expense at the end of the year.

So those are my tips, feel free to comment if you have any other tips I might have missed. I hope to see you at the conference this year. I will be giving a few presentations along with a number of other professionals and experts. Remember that it’s the quality of the attendees, which really makes this a great conference. Attendee participation is very high at this conference and there is a wealth of knowledge in these rooms to be tapped. I hope to see you there.