We’ve all gotten these ubiquitous solicitations from business conference promoters and like me some of you click on the link to dig deeper into the promises. I have attended too many of these business conferences; initially as a participant and later a speaker. Based on my experience I share a five point checklist that may save you some bucks and, and more importantly, time.

Item 1 – Resort Conferences. These are high-end affairs replete with celebrity speakers debating which breakfast cereal Elon Musk prefers. As a rule these usually do not offer good value considering the four figure cost but they do provide excellent cover for a getaway without burning a hall pass.

Item 2 – Breakout Sessions. The breakout session format is one of my favorites.  It offers excellent learning opportunities by providing a range of topics as well as enabling more direct interaction with experienced practitioners. Breakout formats also can result in beneficial long-term learning relationships.  

Item 3 – Flavor of the Year. These conferences spring up in reaction to media-fueled popularity of a subject like Bitcoin.  But considering how new the space usually is, it is unlikely that any substantial body of knowledge has accumulated.

Item 4 – Sponsor Overload. Speaking of self-promotion, if speakers from the conference sponsor(s) represent more than 30% of the agenda then it’s likely just a marketing platform. If so, you should probably pass. The math for this type of conference is compelling:  speakers @zero cost + sponsorship fees + registration fees = big profit.

Item 5 – Social Events. My last piece of advice is to avoid the welcome or closing party.  Nobody with functioning frontal lobe goes to these social networking events because they are usually attended by the sponsor employees that didn’t get out of office fast enough that afternoon.