Sunday, 25 June 2017


Just returned from a three-day industry conference held in one of the most known hotels located less than 100 kilometres from Warsaw. I go to such events two to four times a year and each such stay and observations made there prompt some thoughts on what conferences are actually for.

So having been present to more than ten conferences over the recent three years, I have reached a conclusion conferencing is a huge business and a marvellous machine for transferring money from some organisations to others, under the guise of noble ends.

The ones who benefit most in this business are:
- companies which specialise in staging such events,
- companies which deal with hosting and running such events (hotels, catering companies, marketing co-ordinators, etc.).

Nevertheless, the business keeps going since it is fuelled by expending “no-one’s money” which are the easiest to be spent – attendance in such conferences is hardly ever paid from private purses; participation fees are paid from corporate training budgets which, if not spent, will go to waste and would likely be taken away next year.

Based on what I have witnessed, there are main five reasons to attend conferences.

1. To show off / blow one’s own trumpet / make an appearance – this pertains to speakers who, by delivering workshops or speeches or participating in discussion panels can easily keep a high profile, underscore their position in a specific milieu, or boast of their recent achievements. If people see you, you do exist. If someone invites you, your existence is more noticeable.

2. To spend budgets – corporations send employees to conferences to prove they care for their development, staff take part in conferences to show they want to broaden their knowledge.

3. To facilitate exchange of knowledge – I do not want to detract from the main reasons why theoretically people attend conferences, yet if you are familiar with topics broached, you often witness industry experts reinventing the wheel, while what you learn are some uncanny titbits you can use later on to impress your interlocutors.

4. Sponsoring – companies which decide to co-fund conferences seize an excellent opportunity to boost their visibility among potential business partners and given they are clustered in one place, this can be accomplished effectively and quite on the cheap.

5. Networking – is unquestionably the biggest value added brought by conferences. Once you gather several, also notable, people ,in one place you give them opportunity to exchange business cards, engage in small talks and serious conversations and share knowledge, experiences, ideas and views in rather informal atmosphere. Looks like the whole setting is worth it.

All things considered, I am asking myself whether it is worth to attend such events to fish out a few titbits and talk to one or two noteworthy professionals. Mindful or all drawbacks and benefits, I would still say yes. I look at agendas of such events to check out whether lectures and panels touch upon the topics I need to be versed in to perform my job better and because of budget constraints I take heed of expenses related to such events (participation fees + accommodation + travel expenses) to pick out most worthwhile events. Looking forward to more of them.

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