It seems everywhere you turn there is another conference, symposium or summit available that can connect you to information, friends, peers, suppliers, innovation and good times. But when you realise there is not an endless pot of money nor a calendar full of free days to attend all, you must contemplate the benefits of attending one or more …..or the opportunity costs in not attending.
I remember my first conference opportunity… it was announced like a reward for the hard work I had done and I remember thinking I can’t believe I get to be away from the office, be paid for my time not to work and have my meals and accommodation paid for. It certainly was a reward in my eyes. I remember walking away from that conference with a clearer vision for the organisation, met new friends, discovered some things about myself I didn’t know prior and had a great time as well. I suppose I remember it well because it was my first conference but it did make an impact on me as an ambitious career starter wanting to make it as an event manager and saw first hand what impact a good event can have. I saw in real life how the combination of a well orchestrated event can provide outcomes beyond those that were driven by the company but all complementing each other to make the outcomes more impactful.
I suppose this helped to create the event manager I have been for 31 years since that event and continue to be. A well curated conference can provide a multitude of benefits for all attendees and you wouldn’t realise that some of the smallest things done behind the scenes matter the most.
As an industry professional there is an important consideration behind which event you choose to attend. Firstly, you need to understand what you want to get from a conference to ensure you pick the right one for you or your staff to attend and then have your own goals to ensure the time is best spent. Time is our most expensive commodity and we need to use it wisely with the aim to help us save time short-term and long-term.
How do you know which is the right conference to attend?
This can depend if you are representing yourself or an organisation but still has the same evaluation process. Look at the following elements to ensure it’s the best fit for you and your team.
Who attends this event? By understanding the mix of people who attend the event, it may show if the content will be relevant to you as well, also the networking opportunities you might have. Think about your aims in regards to the people you want to connect with, are they going to be there? Do you need to be seen there if your colleagues or competitors are there? Can extra objectives be met by connecting with the organisation running the event, the attendees or the speakers?
It seems strange to add location to the checklist but there are many areas where the location can assist your objectives. If saving time is important, can you combine with other work trips? Or visit some competitors for a competitor review? Visit suppliers or clients? or even combine with a short break. Time is precious but breaks are just as important for your health. If staff morale is important, the location can make a big difference. I remember my second conference was the once that convinced me I was in the right job as it was a disaster and I knew I could make a difference in the events I ran. The location was in a city location, a room with 4 walls with no windows, and all meals served in the room that attendees were already in… there was no escape and mentally did not prepare anyone for good outcomes. You could see no one was motivated to network either… they just wanted it to be over. Your staff wont get anything from conferences like this, they’ve ended before they have started.
Speaking of morale, combining staff development opportunities with conference attendance enables them to celebrate as a team for work done, network with others and be rewarded by being recognised as a key staff member to attend the event on behalf of the organisation. The added bonus is what they bring back to the workplace from the event that can bring improvements and opportunities.
The most common rule of thumb when it comes to purchases is ‘you get what we pay for’ but this is not necessarily the case when it comes to conferences. This is due to varying degrees of sponsorship and event management skills by the organiser combined with where the expenses are centred based on location and content. Good conference catering can range from $60-$100 per day per person and that’s before the venue costs, audio visual equipment, lighting, presenters, the coordination of the event, gifts for presenters, and many more little costs associated with pulling an event together. So the general rule of thumb for conferences is to look for your own evaluation of value for money, when considering what you want to get from the conference.
Perhaps the most important aspect of any event is the content you will walk away with. Often content given at events is exclusive to attendees or you get the first access of the content by attending. Event organisers have their own objective when it comes to the content they want to deliver and knowing this is very important to see if it’s going to be what you want. Sometimes the name of the event can give it away…
Conference: A meeting of people with a shared interest, often held to exchange information on a particular topic or theme.
Symposium: An academic conference or meeting, usually focused on a particular theme or subject, and featuring a series of presentations or lectures by experts in the field.
Summit: A conference or meeting, usually involving government officials, business professionals and leaders, to discuss important issues and make decisions about the future of an industry.
Convention: A large gathering of people who share a common interest or profession, often featuring presentations, workshops, and exhibitions.
Forum: A discussion group or meeting, usually focused on a specific topic or issue.
Colloquium: An academic conference or seminar, usually focused on a specific field of study or research.
Workshop: A practical training session or group activity, often focused on developing specific skills or knowledge.
Seminar: A small group discussion or lecture, usually led by an expert in a particular field, focused on a specific topic or issue.
Roundtable: A structured discussion or debate involving a small group of experts or stakeholders, often focused on a specific issue or problem.
What if you don’t attend?
You need to also consider what opportunities might be lost by not attending. Sometimes it could be negligible and sometimes it could be massive opportunities missed. Reflecting on all the above elements it’s important to look at cost vs reward for anything in business but also for professional development and conference opportunities as well. In summary the benefits of attending conferences are;
obtaining crucial industry information relevant for participants of the industry
hearing from key decision makers of policy and potential changes that may impact an industry
networking with other colleagues, suppliers and industry stakeholders
reward staff and from what they learn empower them to help take organisations forward
save time by combining with other opportunities including time away from the office which is very important as well!
Hope to see you at some of the industry events this year.