There are BIS Regionals, ITAR Boot Camps, shows sponsored by the Society for International Affairs (SIA) and the International Compliance Professionals Association (ICPA), smaller seminars filled with speakers from various points of the export compliance spectrum, and a plethora of training seminars hosted by compliance consultants and government officials.

With shrinking budgets and an ever growing thirst for knowledge, how should an export compliance professional choose which seminars they should attend?

Seminars and conferences can be a great way to improve your export compliance know-how, but when factoring in current airline prices, hotel costs, and travel arrangements, not to mention the actual cost of the seminar or conference, attending a two day conference can rack up a bill of over $2000 dollars a person. In order to get the most bang for your buck, consider these points before you schedule your next educational outing:

Your Specific of Interest – I recently attended a small seminar that focused on the changes caused by Export Control Reform. The conference was mostly attended by compliance professionals from large aerospace and defense companies. I noticed a woman from a small firearm accessory company who looked absolutely bored out of her mind. With Export Control Reform not effecting gun accessories in the near future, this may have not been the best conference for this person to attend. Always make sure to thoroughly review the agenda and list of speakers before you decide on attending a conference. Make sure that the seminar fits the goals of your compliance department and has topics that may help you improve it. It may save your company the cost of a $2000 conference room nap.

What type of learner are you? – Personally, I learn from asking my own questions, and having them answered by someone with knowledge and experience on the topic. If you are the same as me, you may want to avoid large conferences with hundreds of attendees that show little hope of receiving any one-on-one attention. Many regional and training conferences have workshop sessions that allow you to converse with experts in small groups, and even speak to a government official about a specific concern.

Who in your company should attend? – If you have an individual in your company who is new to export compliance, throwing them into the fires of a large show like BIS Update or a BIS regional dealing with a very specific issue, such as encryption software, may not be the best idea. Conversely, there is little benefit to sending a seasoned veteran to a show that is covering topics that they could recite in their sleep. Not everyone in your compliance department is suited for every conference. For education seminars, consider the “Train the Trainer” method where one person goes to the conference, and returns to share their new found information with the rest of the group. Often, PowerPoint slides, agendas, and supporting materials are given out to attendees, and this information can be used just as effectively back in the office.

Remember, conferences and seminars are all important. Do some research and spend your limited budget on the conference that is just right for you.