You may be surprised by the title and ask yourselves what the conferences have to do with marathons. Well, they have so much in common.
Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to attend various teachers’ professionals gatherings: trainings, panels, courses, conferences and seminars. And regardless of the content, which inevitably varies and is more or less interesting (it depends on personal preferences and inclinations in my opinion), they function on the same principal. Running from one presentation to another,spending hours in the morning and afternoons, listening to numerous speeches, watching presentations, listening to discussions, asking and answering questions. Ok. don’t let me be unfair, there are a few breaks in between the sessions and even a lunch break. Yet, when you come to think about it, the breaks are 4 or 5 time shorter than the rest of the programme.
I know, the teams that organise professional events of this sort would say: “It’s the budget”. and they are probably right.Without any doubt I am sure that they are trying to squeeze everything in within the budget they have at disposal.Yet, I am convinced that those professional events need re-organizing so that the visitors, presenters and guests could have some more free time to put themselves together .and be fresh for each session, workshop, roundtable or panel discussion. After all,the quantity does not ensure the quality. The number of participants from worldwide, the number of presentation does not ensure the success of any professional event. Less is more, as the saying goes. On the other hand, most of the people are eager to meet their colleagues. With large number of people who meet once or even never again, the connections and networks between colleagues can hardly be established. You can get connected with a few of them but not all of them. So, what is the point of organizing megalomania and omnipotent events? None.
Is it really necessary to answer this question? Ok, let me put it this way. Imagine how would you feel if you were running a marathon. If you were well trained and a pro, you will reach the finish. Still, the question remains: How would you feel? Dead tired, I am positive. Now, imagine those who are not professionals and still want to participate in the marathon. They will finish it after, more or less, 500m, I am sure.
The same goes with the conferences. Therefore, no wonder that some of the sessions, workshops or panel discussions are not attended in large number of participants, missing this way some, maybe, great presentations or speakers. Not to mention meeting them in person for informal chit-chat. People just need some rest from an enormous amount of information they receive (in case they are listening 😀 ) Isn’t that a pitty, putting it all together? And as for the rules of presenting and the presentation timing or contents of the presentation. Well, that is currently a different issue that I might right about some other time.
Besides those, imagine all the participants who need travel to other countries even continents, change flights, try to find their own feet in a totally new country where they need to look constantly into the map to find their hotel that they had to book in advance and pay for it. It means, dear participants, arrive on the scene two days ahead.in order to get used to the new environment, get to know the surrounding and the city, ask the passers-by for the directions ( if you are lucky enough to come across the locals who speak English decently well, with all due respect) so that you could get to the conference on time. Did I leave something out? If I did, do add. Oh, yes, all those costs are on you, unless you have a sponsor.
What can be done?
Dear hard-working teams, I know that you are doing your best to make everything function perfectly, professionally and worldly, yet consider these suggestions as well.
Cut down on the number of presentations that run around the same topic. Choose the most interesting ones and the one that focus more on practice than theory. We can all read the theory,that’s what the papers are for.
Instead of working on increasing the number of participants, that will, more or less talk about and run around the same issues, give the participants more free time to socialize and get to know each other better and in person. That is the best way to get to know somebody better, not only professionally but personally as well. Thus the firmer connections will be established. That seems to be a forgotten rule. It is a common knowledge that we are living in the age of technology and that most of the communication is run via different social network, yet I am a firm believer that personal contact is more effective. You can look people in the eyes, watch their body language, be more relaxed in communications, get even better feedback without saying a word. We already are professionals yet we are humans as well, who need to wind down, be ourselves and present as such.
Also,instead of giving people instructions how to reach to your town, organise a team that will meet the participants at the bus stations or airports, so that they can truly feel welcomed into your country. Let them feel at home from the moment they step onto your country’s ground, After all, empathy is half the success if not more.
To finish off, these are the ideas that I have come up with upon reflecting on the numerous events I have attended, as I have already mentioned earlier.In case you have any additional suggestions considering conference marathons, feel free to add.