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Make the Case to Attend SXSW EDU: How to Convince Your Boss


The tenth annual SXSW EDU Conference & Festival will return to Austin, March 9-12, 2020. The event features an exceptional program with more than 400 sessions and an estimated 1,200+ speakers, electrifying competitions, a dynamic expo, and endless networking opportunities. The 2020 event is shaping up to be the best yet, and not one you’ll want to miss. Now, you just need to make the case to convince your boss to let you go!

Step 1: Become Familiar with the Schedule and Speakers

In order to convince your boss to approve, or even fund, your trip to SXSW EDU you should begin by familiarizing yourself with the programming schedule and speakers. The program is organized by seventeen thematic tracks that are intended to illuminate overarching topic areas. As you review, think about which areas align with your personal and professional objectives.

There are a number of ways, in addition to sorting by track, to browse through the schedule including by day, format, and tag. Check out the Schedule Help page on our website for more on this.

Explore the 2020 SXSW EDU Schedule

Step 2: Determine Your Top 3 Reasons for Attending

In order to make a compelling argument for attending the Conference & Festival, you should identify your reasons for attending. These should be personal and align with your professional goals, support your work, and benefit your organization.

Here are a few examples:

  • Access to cutting-edge research
  • Earn your required CPE (Continued professional education) credits
  • Network with industry leaders

Alongside each reason, we recommend writing a sentence elaborating on why for each reason.

Step 3: Build a Sample Schedule

Once you’ve had some time to review the breadth of programming at SXSW EDU and think about ‘your why,’ start identifying the specific sessions and events that you would most benefit from attending.

The SXSW EDU Schedule has a built-in feature that allows you to share your personal agenda. Anything that you favorite will be included in this list and you do not have to be registered yet to start utilizing this tool.

Sign in to start favoriting items in the schedule. Select “My Favorites” to view the list and make sure the “Share my Schedule” box on the right-hand side is checked. Then select the “My Schedule Link” to get your personalized link for sharing. Once you feel confident about the preliminary schedule you’ve built include that link in your official request. We recommend identifying 3-5 key sessions in your formal letter of request.

Step 4: Tally Anticipated Cost

There are going to be costs associated with your attendance that your boss is going to need to consider as part of your request. In anticipation of this, determine what those numbers are likely to be and bake them into your letter. We recommend highlighting opportunities to save in your letter so that they know you are making the case for this with a frugal mindset to save the organization money.

  • Registration Badge (Save $110 when you purchase before January 17.)
  • Hotel (Book through SXSW Housing & Travel for the best rates and locations.)
  • Airfare (Book your flight early and on a Tuesday when fares are low.)
  • Food (Some of the networking events include complimentary coffee, snacks, and food.)

Check out our blog 6 Ways to Attend SXSW EDU on a Budget for costs-cutting tips.

Browse Tips for a Budget

Step 5: Craft an Absentee Plan

Help make the case to your boss by crafting a plan to ensure that things will run seamlessly while you are out of the office. Start by writing a list of your primary responsibilities on March 9-12, 2020, as well as any needed travel days. After you’ve documented these items, determine who on your team can oversee these tasks while you are out. Will you need to bring in a substitute? If so, put plans in place to make that happen. Lastly, include a communications plan for notifying the necessary individuals of what needs to happen while you are at the conference.

Step 6: Send a Formal Request Letter

Now that you have thought through why you want to attend, the cost, and a plan for your time out of the office, it’s time to pull it all together. The final step to convincing your boss is to write and send a formal letter of request. Keep your manager’s perspective in mind as you write, sending an employee to a conference is a notable investment so you may have to sell it to them.

You can download a template online or use the SXSW EDU template to format your letter.

Hundreds of Sessions and Events Announced

SXSW EDU 2019 attendees. Photo by Tico Mendoza.

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