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In the most recent ASQ Influential Voices post, Julia McIntosh takes a look at the costs and advantages of professionals attending conferences. I still remember appearing in high school and George Box referring to the primary value of conferences was speaking with colleagues in the hallway. This seemed very odd to me, as it seemed that the reason behind going to a meeting was to learn from the talks.
I likewise didn’t really understand the value in catching up with people in person. I could see it would be somewhat valuable but I didn’t genuinely understand the great things about personal communication. Virtually all of my conversation at that time was person to person. So I didn’t really see the huge loss of fidelity of any different communication (phone, email…).
At first conferences that I attended my key benefit was yet in sitting in classes and learning what persons had to say. I did also benefit from discussions with several other attendees. And I started to form human relationships with others which grew through the years. And over time the networking gains did exceed the learning from sessions benefits.
Part of this also occurs seeing that your knowledge boosts and you experience less to understand from the average speaker. George was certainly well past this step when I was talking to him. For me I always learned a lot from a number of the loudspeakers but as well found I was first learning notably less and skipping periods to talk to people I could learn more from was an increasing benefit. Still I have difficulty carrying out that and would concentration even more on networking at lunch, between sessions and in the evening.
The costs of attending conferences are easy for companies to calculate. The benefits they bring are very hard to calculate. I can see why companies often are extremely tight with budgets for conferences.
Egyptian carving of figures into a stone sarcophagus
A natural stone sarcophagus from ancient Egypt. I took this image after presenting a Deming 2 1/2 time seminar in Boston (at the Boston Great Arts Museum - see considerably more photos).
I think the benefits associated with getting people outside the building and letting them interact with others to learn and think about new ideas is very valuable. I do think it is much significantly less valuable in most firms than is should be because they have bad management devices that will be atrophied with poor practices that are going to be extremely challenging to improve even if many people have good ideas to try.
The organization really should focus on improving the control system so it isn’t such a barrier to improvement. But I believe most organizations instead find it easy to just estimate a poor go back on investments in conferences because those returning don’t actually make any improvements. Yet again, I think the cause of the failure to improve is extra about the bad operations system than the good thing about the conferences.
Of course, to some extent, the conferences ought to be focusing on how to boost given so various attendees organizations are crippled with an unhealthy management system. But often most people seem to be reluctant to acknowledge or discuss that. And those that point out problems often are seen as the condition (based on their actions - I can simply conclude blaming the messenger makes sense to some persons). And these factors are often even more pronounced in those the organization is willing to invest in (they are often more focused on building the bosses happy ınstead of something like improvement and change which often rubs people the wrong way).
For me the pitiful state of the air transportation system is another purpose to reduce conference attendance in the USA (almost all of the rest of the universe this doesn’t apply, though in some places you do have other transportation - some parts of Africa for example). The whole USA air transportation program is so customer hostile it ought to be avoided.
So many of the problems conferences have to overcome I think are not about the conference itself. The problems created by a poor management system (which will make applying what people learn difficult or unattainable), the annoying transportation system, the ability cost of the person not doing their work (especially if the management program has resulted in an overworked people previously), lodging and per diem costs…
The expense of the conference itself and the nature of the conference itself are items within the control of the conference providers.
Since those first few conferences I attended I have been disappointed in how they job. They seemed stuck back in methods from the 1950s. I've already gone on longer than I organized so I don’t want to keep going with the techniques conferences could be better designed for the modern age. But the basic concepts are that we have easy ways to talk before and after conferences.
The idea that a conference should be a 2 or 3 working day event in one location is what they have been. But is certainly that the way to serve the purpose of conferences at this time (or 20 years ago?). What is the purpose? What should attendees get out of them? How do we make sure they are more useful to attendees? There are several things about encouraging networking and extending the reach of the conference for months.
A super simple example is what the Madison Area Quality Improvement Network did with the Hunter Conference (named for my father) over twenty years ago. They informed you this plan on the first moment. They reminded you relating to this during the conference. In that case on the last evening they had you compose down what you were likely to apply from the meeting when you went back to work. Then you turned that in to them and they mailed it out to you in something like 3 months.
This is merely a tiny thing. And something done before the internet is in widespread employ. If the intent of your conference is to improve management you must think about what will carry out that. A huge issue on why management conferences don’t accomplish that is people fail to actually do anything when they go back. Thus if your intent is to boost management you might want to address that.
You shouldn’t think within the barriers of what it is conferences can conduct (how nice can the conference facility be, can the speaker be heard…) in a couple days. First figure out what the meeting is suppose to provide attendees in that case improve your worth proposition.
When I used to think about this 20, 15 and 10 years ago the options to innovate using latest technology and thinking differently approximately the worthiness conferences provide cause tons of idea how they could be much better. I don’t know how most I remember, but it virtually just flowed from thinking about purpose, understanding programs and organizational tendencies, thinking about how people learn and modification, thinking about how to improve organizations and how to use technology to maximize the benefit while not paying much attention to the old watch of what a conference was suppose to come to be results in a good amount of ideas. THEREFORE I doubt it will be hard to rethink of whatever I got thought of back then and new concept would raise the possibilities.
I think some conferences have taken a few sensible methods to look beyond the barrier of the 3 days of the conference. And I am sure the organizers would tell you all sorts of gibberish about how they are. Based on my experiences from that time long ago (over a period of a decade) they changed almost nothing in actuality regardless if they claimed to stay thinking differently (“beyond your box,” etc.). And maybe I am wrong plus they really have all sorts of great things they're doing to meet customer needs in progressive ways.
I believe facilitating networking is done considerably better by more conferences today than 20 years ago. But I am not very impressed with the progress made over twenty years (and before that the improvement from the 50 years before that had to be highly lame, offered what I found at the time).
The usage of group activities has improved a lot I believe in break out sessions. That may be the best area of advancement, but still it should be continually improved a lot more.
Another thing that's pretty lame in regards to the conference part itself is definitely how speakers tend to be selected. For keynote audio speakers their is sometimes some center on the ability to engage an viewers and communicate great concepts effectively. But for others there is often no give attention to that at all. Given a big area of the merchandise of the conference is me sitting in a couch and taking in a presentation (or engaging in some group activity as directed) by the speaker, conferences ought to be very focused on the speakers ability to engage an audience.
And while keynote speakers often have charisma and polished display styles I quite often found their content very lacking. I think conference organizers sometimes err greatly on the side of slick presenters over presenters with content with much value. Now plenty of keynote speakers have both and they are wonderful, but that is how it should continually be, and too often they don’t have ideas which may have much benefit to an individual paying any focus on the field (in my experience).
If I were in charge of conferences I certainly will be talking to attendees about what they wished to accomplish by attending. Then speaking with them over the year about whether it shipped. And discussing what roadblocks they identified to accomplishing what they intended to. And through the years experimenting on what to achieve better results.
The focus for me should be on helping people increase the administration of their organization (for supervision improvement conferences). If attendees merely want to speak about stuff like “networking” or learning about this new idea, I would pay attention but I'd push to get goals that are related to improvement in their work, not just things they could feel are more suitable to expect from a conference.
Evolving what constitutes a conference would take time. You should change the expectations of attendees also. Fundamentally I don’t see substantially evidence that people dependable for conferences have already been doing a very good task of breaking free of the constraints of the mindset 50 years ago of what conferences were.
Some things have been done which are great; it might be as straightforward as posting presentations (or snippets of presentations online). That can contribute to the goals for a conference (especially for professional associations where there is broader perspective to promoting good procedures among many others than just the attendees).
The other (non control improvement focused conferences I attended) were software production conferences. They were not that many different but the thoughts about how exactly to evolve them happen to be a lttle bit different. What the meeting wishes to supply attendees has to be figured out. There are common things like networking, exposure to new tools and concepts, listening to people’s encounters trying tools and ideas… But then rather than the persons going home and enhancing the management system the aims would likely be going residence and delivering functioning program more quickly or developing more robust software package or… For the software development program manager designs there is a lot of overlap with the operations improvement aims (and some of the program development conferences have a fair amount in that area).
Obviously those impacted by poor software development management systems want the bad impacts in them to go away. A number of the talks on tactics on how to boost software development on centered on technical solutions that are not so much about management systems. But an good sum of the talk is normally a blend of technical and administration system concerns and how exactly to improve both.