Organising conferences can help solve an immediate problem, provide advocacy, help people improve in practice, make it possible for a dispersed group of people to network, and much more. Done right, they excite participants and ensure they leave wanting more -- more contact with other people who are in their field or share their concerns, more ideas, or more ways to do their work. Well-run conferences are able to put in motion currents which may greatly influence a field or an issue, so it's well worth the effort to organise them well.
A conference can be many different kinds of events. One health coalition realised some time ago that levels of childhood asthma were approaching epidemic levels in certain areas, so they decided to organise a statewide conference to address the issue. The coalition chose a coordinator and conference committee, booked a convention centre (capable of holding 1250 people) and reserved rooms in hotels nearby.
The coordinator and committee found a number of asthma authorities who were eager to give workshops and presentations, and a leading expert to present the keynote speech in exchange for expenses. They send out publicity for the conference to membership of the coalition as well as via professional organisations, mailings to clinics and hospitals, newsletters, ads, media stories, and relevant websites. This brought in about 800 people -- nurses, physicians, social workers, as well as, concerned citizens -- over the three-day conference, an excellent success. By the end, the Coalition felt that not only had the conference done well, but it had helped broaden everyone's knowledge, as well as, encourage research and activism on childhood asthma prevention.
On the other hand, conferences needn't be large scale to be effective. A small women's health collaborative, oriented towards helping low-income women learn more about health issues, came to understand that most of the women they dealt with knew very little about the dangers and prevention of breast cancer. Therefore, they decided to convene a conference on the issue.
Seven women out of the collaborative volunteered to serve on the conference committee, even though none had so much as been to a conference. (Also on the committee was a coalition coordinator, who did have experience.) Since one of the women knew a local reporter, the reporter wrote a story on the conference and the womens' effort -- this led a local retreat centre to volunteer its space for their use. Similarly a local hospital's breast cancer specialist volunteered for a workshop, and was able to recruit a social worker she knew at the hospital for another workshop. Then the committee asked a leading breast-cancer activist to attend, and she agreed also.
Overall this conference attracted almost 60 women from the community and health workers, taking part in activities which educated them on the issue and recruited them to pass the knowledge on further. Even better, the organisers found the event produced a great deal of bonding between the women, all from different backgrounds. The women who attended the breast cancer specialist's workshop ended up speaking to her hospital colleagues about doing outreach in their neighborhood, a local banker and two members of the conference committee ended up meeting over dinner to strategise about financing further activities, and everyone felt the effort had really had a chance to make a difference.
What makes a successful conference?
Conferences require plenty of work. Planning must begin months or sometimes years in advance. So it's crucial to ask yourself whether you and your organisation have the resources (financial and personal) and the time and energy to organise one. At the same time, you should also consider whether you can hire professional conference organiser or company who would be better handling the job, as well as, whether you can achieve the goals you've set for the conference via some other way. Only if the answers to these questions point towards doing a conference should you go ahead.
Professional conference organisers Corporate Challenge shared detailed article of benefits and tips to get the most from organising an event or conference.
The reason for this is conferences are defined by organisation. Though small and large conferences may have very different organisational needs, almost any conference springs from the framework of systems and people on which it is built. Any conference needs to be planned, for instance: someone must determine its timing, location, content, and overall form. It also must inform the intended audience of its own existence, and convince them (or at least convince enough of them) to attend. Any conference must also attract fascinating presenters, no matter whether they're coming from the office next door or from somewhere around the world. For participants to have a good experience, the conference must be run well -- and for the next one to be better, the conference must be evaluated and followed up.
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