How do you convince your employer to pay your way to a conference and justify the cost without being able to show something tangible in return?
There are a few ways to approach this.
The most obvious thing to focus on is what you’ll learn. The conference schedule is a key tool here—find talks that are directly applicable to your projects and use them to make the case that you will return from the event with actionable information that can be put to work straight away.
Next, talk about the people you will be able to meet and learn from. Influential speakers are useful here, but seeing what other companies are sending attendees can also help a great deal. “This is a great chance for me to find out how other companies are tackling problem X which we’re dealing with at the moment”.
Offer to give a presentation upon your return talking about the things you learned and suggesting improvements and techniques that you think the company should adopt.
Some conferences offer a “convince your boss” PDF file / form email to help address exactly this problem! Here’s one example from Conversion Conference: http://www.conversionconference.... and another from Usability Week: http://www.nngroup.com/events/co...