A conference is generally understood as a meeting of several people to discuss a particular topic. It is often confused with a convention, colloquia or symposium. While a conference differs from the other terms of size and purpose, the term can be used to cover the general concept. A convention is larger than a conference, it is a gathering of delegates representing several groups.
At a conference, innovative ideas are thrown about and new information is exchanged among experts.
TYPES OF CONFERENCE
Academic conference: This is a gathering of scientists or academicians, where research findings are presented or a workshop is conducted.
Business Conference: A business conference is held for people working in the same company or industry. They come together to discuss new trends and opportunities pertaining to the business.
Trade Conference: Trade conference takes place on a larger scale. Besides businessmen, there are members of the public who come to network with vendors and made new connections. Such a conference consists of workshops and white paper presentations.
Athletic Conference: It is a competitive grouping of teams, often geographical.
Authors’ conference: Authors’ conference or writers’ conference is a type of conference where writers gather to review their written works and suggest improvements.
Conference Call: This type of conference is done using telecommunications, it is a call with more than two participants at the same time.
News Conference: News conference is an announcement to the press (print, radio, television) with the expectation of questions about the announced matter.
Un-conference: This differs from the traditional conference since it avoids the high cost, top-down organizational hierarchy, and sponsored presentations. All attendees are equally knowledgeable about the topic and the discussion follows an open mode, usually without a single speaker addressing the gathering.
Most conferences have one or more keynote speakers who will deliver the keynote speech. These are common at academic and business conferences. The speakers eminent personalities in the related field and their presence is meant to attract more people to attend the conference.
FORMS OF CONFERENCE
There are various forms of conferences and they include;
Symposium: Symposium is a casual gathering and it involves refreshment and entertainment.
Seminar: The seminar is organized to discuss a particular topic. They are usually educational in nature and attendees are expected to gain new knowledge or skills at the end of the seminar.
Workshop: Workshop is more of a hands-on experience for the participant with demonstrations and activities, the amount of time one speaker addresses the group is limited.
Round Table Conference: Round table conference is a get-together of peers to exchange thoughts and opinions on a certain topic, usually political or commercial. There are a limited number of participants who sit at a round table so that each one can face all others.
REASONS WHY PEOPLE ATTEND CONFERENCE
- One of the big reasons for going to a conference is to meet with likeminded people and industry peers. The conference brings together people from different geographical areas who share common discipline or field and they are a great way to meet new people in one’s field. At a conference, you will be able to get together with people from a wide range of backgrounds of whom you may not encounter at your home, workplace or institution. As you build a professional network, the conference can become a good place for meeting people in your field that you have not connected within a while.
- To Expand Your Knowledge and Find Solutions to Problems: you will hear a lot about things in your field that will be new to you. These could be a new technique, new types of equipment, unpublished data or learn from thought. Leaders that you may not have previously heard of or seen, you will get to keep onto the research of some of the biggest names in your field, in addition to some of the newest faces in it. The conference gives you the opportunity to talk to these people one-on-one about what they are working on, and they may even give you advice on how to enhance your work. You have the opportunity to ask presenters questions about their work and the rationale behind it, which you cannot do when reading journal articles.
- To Present and Work to Others: This is one of the more obvious reasons for attending conferences. You get the chance to present your work, it is a good practice to talk about what you do with a variety of people from similar related and/or completely different areas of study. Presenting will make you more confident about the work that you do and gives you a new perspective about your work as people may ask questions that make you think about your project differently. At a conference, you have the opportunity to get feedback on your work from people who have never seen it before and may provide new insight.
- For People to Meet You: It may not seem like a notable thing but conferences are also a good way for people to meet you. Regardless if you are the CEO of a multinational company or you are presenting for the first time, you may meet someone at a meal in the exhibit hall or wherever and within a few minutes. You can make a connection with someone that could dramatically impact your personal career. This is especially important when you are looking for collaborators, job ideas, or in some fields you may even be looking for committee members. Conferences are another way to get your name and your work field of study, especially if fortunate to be invited as a speaker.
- Learn Beyond Your Field Interest: this is a twofold benefit of attending conferences, since not only you may learn things outside your field about other areas of research in your discipline, but conference attendance also has many sessions for professional development and career advice. when you go to a conference the attendees are united by a single broad topic but they have many different sub-fields of study and many projects will be multidisciplinary and of course, there are other benefits to attending conferences such as finding a new job, recruiting skilled people for a position, getting out of the office for a few days and use the time to visit a new city, gain continuing education credits via attendance, etc.
Generally, conference attendance dramatically enhances both your professional and personal development as well as providing you with tools and skills which you cannot be taught in-house or online. The focused nature of learning at a conference allows you to dig deeper with the understanding of your topic of interest.
Points to Consider as Checklist when Planning Conference
For the smooth running of a conference, good planning must be carried out in advance. All important aspects of the conference must be covered so it is better to maintain a checklist. A backup plan to handle emergencies is always mandatory. The planning works better when individuals in the planning and administrative committee have a clear role and responsibility assigned.
Firstly, the purpose of the conference must be clearly understood. The budget needs to be defined while some companies have sufficiently large conference rooms in a hotel that accommodation costs might be offered at a discounted rate. One needs to negotiate for the lowest price at several venues that meet the specification of the conference.
Secondly, once the date, time and venue of the conference are fixed the availability of all presenters, vendors, attendees and special guests needs to be confirmed. Registration forms have to be sent out and as the response comes in they must be recorded to get the confirmed number of attendees. This is needed to take care of the logistics for the conference such as flight bookings, accommodation and car pick-ups for important attendees like the keynote speaker and special guests. Based on the theme of the conference the invites, agendas, and brochures have to be designed. Sponsors’ names and logos must be included in these leaflets for advertising.
Rules to Consider When Choosing a Venue for a Conference
There so many rules to put into consideration while choosing a venue for a conference, they include the following;
- Is there Wi-Fi connectivity and technical infrastructure to support the number of attendees? This includes audio-visual facilities, projectors and communication equipment like phones, speakers and microphones.
- Does the building have air-conditioning or heating, depending on the climate and season?
- Is a separate meeting room required? What about infrastructure for speakers like a dais and stand?
- Does the venue have catering facilities? Snacks and meals will be needed and a private room is preferred.
- Is there ample provision for car parking? Is there security on the premises?
Before the actual event, a detailed program schedule has to be ready, this includes the order of activities, list of speakers and breaks for refreshments as well as meals. Volunteers must be assigned to help and guide attendees during the conference. The schedule and other important details have to be shared with these volunteers and they must be trained in advance to handle questions. A lot of things are needed during the conference, such as basic stationery supplies, names tags for confirmed attendees and seating arrangements. At the main entrance to the venue, a registration table that would need to be set up with a receipt book for collecting participation fees. The arrangement must be made to provide water, tea, and coffee throughout the duration of the conference.
As each of these points is being taken care of in preparation for the conference, the budget has to be continuously tracked and expenses have to be managed accordingly. Tracking of the master plan also needs to be done on an ongoing basis. In this way, the conference will progress smoothly and will appear well-planned to all.