The ROI of Attending a Conference

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Family fun at the NAPO Conference

This is a very exciting day here at Your Organizing Business, as I welcome my very first guest blogger! I met Elaine Shannon when we worked together on the National Board of Directors for Professional Organizers in Canada, and we have stayed in touch thanks to Twitter and other social networking sites. A seasoned conference-goer, Elaine has come by to tell us about the recent NAPO Conference, and to share a few tips to help you make the most of your next conference experience.


This April we packed our family of five into our truck and started the 28 hour trek to sunny Orlando Florida for the NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) 21st annual Conference. It was an interesting journey that included many surprises, adventures and some great family time.

Our stop in Boston to take the children to the Boston Aquarium was where we lost our 11 year old for 15 minutes…the longest 15 minutes of my life. He said that he was never lost and did not know what we were all freaked out about! Washington was where the truck lost its steering and we enjoyed a two day stop for repairs…thanks to our warranty it cost us only our time.  On the way home we decided that at 4:00 pm on a Friday we should cross the GW Bridge in New York, well…all I can say is that 90 minutes to drive 10 miles is not my idea of a lovely Friday evening commute.

This was the unplanned family stuff that creates memories.

In contrast to the unplanned family stuff, preparing for Conference was something that was thought out very carefully in advance.  After attending at least 20 conferences in the past five years, I have learned a few things about the Return on Investment of attending any conference. Like anything in life, it pays to have an agenda, going to any event blindly and not having a reason for being there is a gross waste of time and money. So here are four great reasons for attending a conference:

  • To network with peers
  • To further your education
  • To make business connections
  • To learn about new products and services

Elaine Shannon at the Ziploc boothOne of the highlights of a great conference is getting to see new products. Ziploc has come out with a whole line of storage products for large items. If you check out their site you can watch Bob Izumi (yes the fishing guy) using Ziploc to de-clutter his fishing gear. Who would have thought!

For this conference I had these three objectives:

Learn more about social media and how I can use this in my business. I got this in the session with Rich Brooks. The big take away for me was finding out about This handy application has opened the door to two new local relationships that would not have otherwise happened.

Reconnect with my peers that live in other parts of the world. I always love to get the perspective from people who live outside the North American bubble. Wendy Davie, an organizer pal from New Zealand who tells it like it is, was one of those people. In a conference with over 800 people in attendance, I relish any face to face time that happens, and Wendy and I got to have some great chat time.

The last objective was to make connections with future affiliates for our recently launched Home Organizing Videos. This was easier said than done. For many people this is seen as a form of competition; I see it as a way for people to earn passive income. But that is a whole other subject and I am sure that it will earn its own blog post.

Investigate the conference ahead of time; Who will be attending? Who are the vendors attending the expo? What are the sessions and who is teaching them? Who you will be sitting with at each meal?

Next time you are contemplating attending a conference, know your specific objectives and make a plan to achieve those objectives.

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Elaine is a coach, a teacher, a follower of breadcrumbs, and a believer of possibilities. She loves to connect with people who are looking for a better way to use their valuable time. Since 2003 Elaine has been connecting with audiences locally, nationally and internationally.

Join the Conversation


  1. Avatar elaineshannon on June 3, 2009 at 4:33 am

    Thanks for the opportunity to guest blog.

  2. Avatar Janet Barclay on June 3, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Elaine, thank YOU for sharing your experience with my readers!

    As I look forward to the Forum on Virtual Assistance in Niagara Falls this week, I have a piece of advice to add:

    When you’re planning your schedule, be sure to keep plenty of time open before the conference for shopping for clothes or other things you might need, reviewing any workshop materials you receive in advance, and other unexpected things. And if possible, allow yourself at least a day or two to get back into the swing of things when you return, depending how long you were away.

  3. Elaine Shannon Elaine Shannon on May 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I was just on twitter and there I am on your twitter feed sharing tips on conference.

    Thanks for sharing this post it brings back many happy memories. xo Elaine

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on May 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Elaine! Your tips are just as valid today as when you wrote them five years ago (where does the time go?!?) and I know you’re missed in the organizing world.

  4. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on January 29, 2024 at 10:47 am

    Cost of attending an in-person conference: a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the conference, where it is held, where and how long you stay, etc. Benefit: priceless. It can be hard to tell at the time, but looking back, there’s no question that the investment of money, time, and energy in the conferences I have attended has paid off in terms of education, connections made, professional development; inspiration; and new ideas!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 29, 2024 at 12:43 pm

      I couldn’t agree more.

    • Elaine Shannon Elaine Shannon on February 6, 2024 at 10:28 pm

      I loved the years of attending PO conferences, so happy to see this post is still helpful

  5. Linda Samuels Linda Samuels on January 29, 2024 at 11:49 am

    I love the traveling stories that accompany Elaine’s post. That part can be as much of an adventure as the conference itself can be. It’s all in the attitude- and maintaining a positive one will go a long way to enhancing your experience.

    I agree with Janet that the ideas Elaine shared are still relevant today. And Hazel’s comment about the benefits of attending conferences is also something I agree with wholeheartedly. It is an investment of time, money, and energy. But what is gained in terms is “priceless.”

    In the more recent past, while I still attend conferences, they have often been virtual. Much of that has been pandemic-influenced. And while I’ve gotten a lot from those, being together in person IS a different experience. I’m grateful for both.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 29, 2024 at 12:46 pm

      You might remember that when I went to NAPO 2014 in Arizona, I gave myself one day to visit the Grand Canyon and one to visit Phoenix and Scottsdale. Although not technically part of the conference, they are definitely a big part of my memories of it.

    • Elaine Shannon Elaine Shannon on February 6, 2024 at 10:31 pm

      My kids loved that road trip and still mention it. I loved seeing all my PO friends. Linda I got to attend an in person tourism summit in the fall. I loved it. It felt good to learn and connect in person.

  6. Avatar Sabrina Quairoli on January 29, 2024 at 12:06 pm

    I love that she mentioned the reasons for going to a conference. These days, some conferences are in person, and some are online. I am enjoying the online conferences these days because I can go at my own pace and learn without taking too many notes. I can easily get overwhelmed with an in-person conference.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 29, 2024 at 12:47 pm

      I suspect I no longer have the stamina for a multi-day in-person conference, but they were so worth it, for the reasons Hazel mentioned.

    • Elaine Shannon Elaine Shannon on February 6, 2024 at 10:34 pm

      Sabrina, I call it a gift of the pandemic. The flexibility and variety of virtual conferences and our openness to them has been a blessing, especially for those of us who are sensory sensitive. Enjoying a learning experience from home at your own pace is a joy.

  7. Avatar Seana Turner on January 29, 2024 at 3:45 pm

    Recent years there hasn’t been an EXPO, which was always one of my favorite parts. We always had one at our NERCPO conference, and I loved seeing the new products and ideas for sure.

    In-person conferences are a bit of a marathon, but they do bring professionals together in a special way. Sharing meals and hanging out knits people together, and definitely is a pathway toward deeper sharing of challenges and solutions.

    I missed the Orlando conference, but that certainly is my kind of location. Maybe they will return to Florida someday!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 30, 2024 at 12:34 pm

      I love expos and checking out new products! We had one at a Halton-Peel chapter meeting and it was so fun – I only remember inviting a shredding company and Mabel’s Labels, but I know there were quite a few.

      Longfellow said, “A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.” That’s something you don’t get from a virtual conference, and adds to your ROI even if the educational sessions don’t tickle your fancy!

  8. Julie Bestry Julie Bestry on January 31, 2024 at 1:56 am

    I remember that post, and I remember that conference and getting to meet Elaine! I can’t believe that was 15 years ago. I’m still using some of those Zip-Loc bags for storage!

    I attended 19 NAPO conferences in a row, and was registered for the one in 2020 that didn’t happen due to COVID. I attended the virtual version in 2021, but have not returned to attending pretty much anything indoors in public yet. However, I agree with everything Shannon said. I’ve made lifelong friends and stellar business relationships (with vendors and colleagues) over the decades of attending conferences, including NAPO and a few regional ones held by MARCPO and NAPO-GA. From professional development to camaraderie to inspiration, nothing beats a conference, and I look forward to getting back to attending once it feels safe for me. Thanks for this blast from the past!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on February 1, 2024 at 11:24 am

      I’ve heard of quite a few people who haven’t yet returned to large gatherings, and some probably never will. It makes me sad to think of those who’ve never had the experience and won’t realize what they’re missing.

      I appreciate you sharing your own conference experiences in your comment, on your blog, and in your guest post “NAPO 2010 through the Eyes of a Seasoned Conference-Goer” which appears at the bottom of this page. Virtual hugs to you!

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