Why do people attend conference? Benefits of attending Conferences
I had a chat with a friend of mine who works in market research many years ago and he turned to me and asked, "Why are people attending conferences?”
For a moment, it made me pause to think. This is the ultimate question as a conference organizer. I was unaware and ignorant of the key answer(s) to this question when I first reached the "conference domain". That said, I am a believer that 10 years later there is no definitive answer that applies to everybody. As a junior conference planner, the fundamental reasons why people attend conferences have not been demonstrated to me explicitly. Over time, I experienced this, seeing the social and educational advantages that conferences offer to participants, speakers and sponsors. No two conferences are the same again, and a conference should not be confused with a trade show or other forms of events.
As an organization, this post is to share our personal top reasons as to why people are attending conferences and how conferences in the modern age we live in can help attendees, especially given how much free information is readily available to us and how important time is.
So what are the main reasons people attend conferences?
- To get feedback on an early version of work
Presenting at a conference can be nervous, and you may be tempted to fall back on the same presentation you're always giving because you know it's safe. But if you do this, one great benefit of conferences will be missed by you: the opportunity to get feedback from experts on your work's early versions. You can use your presentation time to discuss your most recent experiment's preliminary results, and the feedback you receive from your audience can help you anticipate comments from reviewers when you try to get it published. Alternatively, you can show your well-established research, and then at the end, you can throw out some ideas for future projects and get input on them. A conference offers the opportunity to see a whole room full of world leaders in your particular field, so there is no greater chance of getting your research before these people and having them discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
- To network
To get to know other people in your profession is one of the biggest benefits of attending a conference. For collaboration, networking is obviously very important, but having a large network often helps you in other ways. You may need expert advice in another area, or you may want to ask someone to come and talk to your organization, and this is simpler if you have a network to reach out to. Having support from people who are at a similar stage in their careers to you and who can empathize with the problems and struggles you are experiencing at work is also helpful.
- To hear about the latest research
If you want to know the latest results in your field before they are even posted in journals, then the place to be is a conference most scientists are going to present preliminary findings or work not yet reported at a conference. You should not, of course, consider any statement you hear at a conference to be true until you are able to look for yourself through the methods and conclusions, but this is a great opportunity to get a glimpse of what other people are working on. For your own study, these ideas can be a great inspiration.
- To visit a new place and have fun
Finally, it should not be overlooked that it is good fun to attend a conference! While a conference is more than a leisure event definitively, it can still be enjoyable. Traveling to a new location is a big part of a conference's attraction, meaning you can see a different city, eat new food, and see some local landmarks or tourist attractions. You may even try to learn a bit of a new language.
As part of a conference, you will also have the opportunity to attend social functions, such as dinners, trips, or parties. These events can sometimes be formal or dull, but they are relaxed, friendly, very often. You can enjoy the company of others with the opportunity to meet other academics with similar interests to you, and you may even make some good friends.
- To engage in high-level debates and refine ideas
To grow your ideas, there are few things better than a good spirited debate. Hearing and engaging in lively conference discussions can provide you with new ideas, help refine your established theories, and perhaps even change your mind on some key issues in your profession.
- To add in CV
It's certainly something to attend a conference that should go on your curriculum vitae, particularly if you've given a talk or poster presentation. This shows potential employers and grant-awarding bodies that you are interested in your profession and are actively involved in engaging with other academics. If you've done it, yell it out!