I'm posting stuff like this on Facebook these days, but I think this came out really well so I'm putting it here too. Follow me on Facebook (or follow on Twitter) if you want to read more stuff like this.
"How do you decide what conferences are worth going to?"
Lawrence He just asked. Great question.
1) What's your objectives?
--> If you're running a company already, do you want sales? Leads? New hiring? Financing? Connect with the press/influencers? You should clarify what you want first and foremost. (Sounds obvious but most people don't do it.)
--> If you're NOT running a company, it gets trickier. I recommend ARBITRARILY setting a mission. I didn't need anything from SumoCon -- it was vacation/fun for me -- but I wanted to see if there was anyone really admirable/amazing, and get to know that person, + say hello to my Austin friends.
--> If you're just getting to know a field, want to increase "luck surface area", etc, you should still pick some arbitrary targets because you'll then be more likely to hit them.
2) DO THE MATH!!!!
--> If you're running a company, you already know (or should!) the value of a lead, what you're willing to pay to recruit new team members, the value of a sale, etc.
--> Things like press/influencer connections are harder to value, but you should at least take a stab at it.
--> Then DO STATISTICS. Cost of a conference is ticket+travel+opportunity cost away from other work. Add all that up and you have the full cost. Estimate your percentage chance of success. Then make sure the #'s work.
--> Example: One new enterprise sale is worth $20,000 profit to your business. A conference costs $1000 for the ticket, $1000 for travel, and let's say $2000 in opportunity cost. So total costs are $4k. If you have a greater than 20% chance of making a $20k profit sale, it's profitable to go. (Do check your other opportunity cost and other projects, though!)
--> You can do this subjectively, too. Cash permitting, I'll invest up to $10,000 to meet, get to know, etc, people of the caliber of Greg Nance, Ivan Mazour, Stepan Parunashvili, etc. My full cost for this conference was around $2000 to $3000 including ticket, housing, flights, opportunity cost. If there's a 30%+ chance of meeting a single amazing person, it's worth it by internal valuing (again, checking against opportunity cost and what else is going on too).
3) One or two people you already love there + it'll be fun/vacation puts it over the top.
--> Some conferences are "work" and some are "fun/vacation" -- the latter is obviously better. I already had a few friends in Austin that I knew I could at least say hello to, frankly it was worth coming just to say hello, say thanks, and spend a few hours with Zach Obront. So it was a no-brainer to do this one.
--> You should apply very strict math and guarantee the floor if the conference will drain you / "feel like hard work"... but if it's fun/recharging you can be very liberal and just 80/20 the math quickly and then just go. Noah Kagan always puts on a hell of a show in anything he does, so I figured this would be fun/vacation no matter what, so it was a no-brainer.
Strong analysis + defining target objectives + math = getting what you want.
The objectives/math thing can also lead to some surprising results: I've occasionally flown across the world, sometimes at significant expense, for a reasonable chance at large gains, and I have had them pay off before. If the next 5 conferences I go to produce zero results (unlikely), I'll still be net-ahead lifetime.
Most very successful startup founders I know wind up following the analysis/objectives/math into some counterintuitive opportunities that lead them going up in the world quickly.
Great question Lawrence He, thanks for asking. Hope that helps some.
August 11th, 2011. Chiba, Japan.
A mix of confusion and awe as I step off the platform.
I must have made a mistake. But maybe a good mistake.
Birds caw and cicadas click gently, filling the warm afternoon air with sounds of nature. The train platform is open to the air and on the other side of the tracks is a high fence. Beyond it, a bicycle and walking path leading to a park.
Children are running around and playing in the park, but surprisingly quietly. Very Japanese.
Let us revisit the question on opportunity cost posted a few days back.
Suppose you won a free ticket to see an Eric Clapton concert tonight. You can't resell it. Bob Dylan is performing on the same night and his concert is the only other activity you are considering. A Dylan ticket costs $40 and on any given day you would be willing to pay as much as $50 to see him perform. (In other words, if Dylan tickets sold for more than $50, you would pass on the opportunity to see him even if you had nothing else to do.) There is no other cost of seeing either performer.
There were only three people who responded to this question. Two chose $0 and the other chose $40. All of them got it wrong!
Here's the solution from the book: