As I write this, I am preparing to speak and attend the Fall MAILCOM conference ( Previously this year, I have spoken at and attended the National Postal Forum, Spring MAILCOM, and a couple of conferences. I and others have found that the "secret weapon" to being a successful manager in our industry is to attend conferences and draw deeply from the potential value they bring.

Getting the approval to attend important conferences like MAILCOM and National Postal Forum has always been challenging - even more so under the current economic conditions. But actively participating in conferences is a key to success for you as a professional in the mail industry, and it is important to the success of your organization. So how can you obtain approval to attend conferences?

Keys to Getting Approval to Attend Conferences
Approval often comes down to the ROI to your organization - are the benefits worth the costs? Before discussing benefits, let's start with the costs. There are ways to lower the cost to attend. First, if you are a Mail Systems Management Association (MSMA) member, you qualify for a MSMA discount for the MAILCOM conference. Both MAILCOM and National Postal Forum offer a discount for early registration.

Second, you can shop around for the least expensive transportation method. Attendees will often double up on rooms to cut that cost. I know of a number of attendees that will offer to pay some or all of the travel costs out of their pockets. People that do that look at it as an investment in their careers - and it shows your management chain how committed you are to developing yourself and adding value to your organization.

The biggest key to getting approval is to explain the return (benefits) to you and your organization. Here are some benefits that you can tailor to your own situation:

1) Learning ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency. You will learn updated information on how to minimize postage and shipping costs, and you will also learn ideas to improve the efficiency of your operations. I have seen my organization and others save thousands and even millions of dollars via learning and implementing work share postal discounts, shape-based pricing, targeted mailing, cleaner addressing and reduction of undeliverable mail, intelligent/selective inserting, full-service intelligent mail discounts, applying QR 2D bar codes, implementing six sigma and lean principles - the list goes on and on.

2) Learning Best Practices and Ideas for Process Improvements. You will learn the best practices of the country's leading high-performance organizations from the industry's top experts, peers, and vendors in the exhibit hall. You will also hear ideas about process improvements that can drive improved efficiency, effectiveness, and quality. You will learn how to improve quality and have more sustainable operations and eliminate waste. Included can be practical tips related to billing, work flow, job design, process analysis, and ergonomics.

3) Learn about the latest technology and automation and other tools. MAILCOM and National Postal Forum are great sources to hear about the latest relevant technology from the speakers, peers, and vendors. I and others have seen significant cost savings and improved operations from wise investments in equipment and software. Here is the chance to see what might be of value to your organization. You can visit the exhibit hall and expand your list of vendor and supplier contacts for current and future reference.

4) Build a strong network and support group. MAILCOM and National Postal Forum provide an opportunity to meet the industry's top leaders and experts first hand. One of the great features of these conferences is how approachable the speakers are. Also, there are many opportunities to network with peers from around the country - and then to build your own professional support group.

5) Become inspired to succeed. The keynote and seminar speakers will inspire you to push even harder to help your organization to be more successful. MAILCOM and National Postal Forum are noted for their wide selection of seminars, including those aimed at our personal and leadership development.

6) Add more value to your key stakeholders. The investors of your organization will benefit from the cost savings and efficiencies that you adopt. In addition, you can learn ways to add more value to your customers and improve customer satisfaction and favorability.

MAILCOM and National Postal Forum also offer a number of sessions geared to leadership and management best practices, as well as proven ways to provide more positive work environments for your employees that will drive improved morale, motivation, and performance.

7) Improve your credibility within the industry and your organization. You will learn important information that will benefit you personally - and your organization. As you go home and apply what you know, you will gain greater respect and recognition. In addition, you can earn one or two professional certificates while at MAILCOM and National Postal Forum. And, at MAILCOM you can take advantage of the opportunity to earn the professional certifications sponsored by MSMA, including the MDC: Mailpiece Design Consultant; CMDSM: Certified Mail Distribution System Manager; or CMDSS: Certified Mail Distribution Systems Suppliers. Note: for more information about these programs, visit  

8) Become a teacher, inspire others, and build a stronger team. With all the learning, networking, and inspiration you receive, you will be equipped to go back home and inspire and teach others. This will be rewarding to you - and your team!

One final tip: if you do attend MAILCOM and National Postal Forum, make sure you prepare a written report and share with your boss and team. Also do a verbal presentation of the key highlights from your report and let your excitement about what you gained at the conference show through.

Good luck as you pursue getting approval to join me at future conferences like MAILCOM and National Postal Forum!

Wes Friesen, MBA, CMDSM, EMCM, MDC, ICP, CCM,CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Billing, Credit and Special Attention Operations for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 825,000 customers. Wes is also the Marketing Director for Mail Systems Management Association ( He teaches university classes and is a featured speaker at national Conferences like National Postal Forum, MAILCOM, and others. Wes manages the Billing, Credit and Special Attention teams with the able assistance of supervisors Garret Saiki, Allison Rowden, Jessica Eberhardt, Heidi Fouts and Tom Laszlo. Wes can be contacted at Check out his personal web-site for free information (