What is a conference?

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If you’ve been invited to attend a conference but have never been to one before, you might be wondering what’s in store. Here we look at exactly what a conference is and the difference between that and other forms of business meetings:

A conference is a meeting of a number of people who come together to discuss a specific topic. Sometimes it is confused with a convention or symposium. A convention is generally a much larger affair with groups of people from different organisations or fields of expertise. A conference is a place for people in a particular sector to come together and share new ideas. There are different types of conference:

Business – a conference for a business is normally held for people working in the same organisation or industry and is an event for the sharing of innovative ideas related to that field. For help with planning such an event, think about Conference Management Companies Dublin such as http://davisevents.ie/

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Academic – a conference in the academic field is a gathering of academics and scientists who use the event to share research and run workshops for example.

Trade – a trade conference is larger than the other types of conference and as well as tradespeople, members of the public can also attend. They attend to meet sellers and expand their network of contacts. A trade conference includes what is known as white paper presentations and demonstrating workshops of new products for example.

Unconference – this is basically an informal conference that isn’t as organised and doesn’t include key speakers or presentations. It is usually a gathering of people of equal knowledge and expertise who engage in an open discussion.

Conferences will often have speakers who are the top in their field and these are known as key note speakers. Their talk is normally the highlight of the event and are a main feature of academic and business conferences. Here is some more terminology that you might come across:

Seminar – these are normally held for attendees to gain new knowledge and learn something new related to their sector so are mostly educational in nature. They will focus on a particular subject or topic.

Round-table – this is an event organised for a smaller group of people who can fit around a table facing each other to discuss a topic. They are normally held for colleagues to share ideas and opinions on commercial, political or sensitive issues.

Workshop – this is a more engaging event with the possibility of a hands-on experience. There will most likely be demonstrations and a short presentation by the speaker but mainly for the attendees to get actively involved.

Symposium – this is a laidback casual get together which most likely includes some form of entertainment and refreshments.

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To get the most of your experience, here are some tips:

  • Get briefed and know exactly what sessions you want to attend that relate most to your position.
  • Take notes as there’s always a lot to take in. After a long day, the details might become sketchy if you haven’t made notes.
  • Don’t be afraid to network with new people or reconnect with people you’ve worked with before. It’s a great opportunity to connect with the key note speakers too.
  • Share what you’ve learned with your colleagues.

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