Evolution of Professional Conferences – part 2

This is the second and final part of some personal perceptions about recent developments in the organisation of Professional Conferences. My interest arises mainly because of the increased access to up-to-date opinions which conferences offer, accelerating the understanding of developments which would otherwise not be noticed, due to the 24-hour time limit per day…

The Impact of porting Conferences to Online Delivery

Much of this is “obvious” but has often been blended out by the fact that during the early adopter phase, there are a lot of potential conference participants who simply don’t think that online events meet their need to meet “in the flesh”.

Reduced carbon footprint by avoiding travel, whether by road or air

For an international conference with hundreds of participants, this is very significant.

Saves participants’ time, expenses, risks (e.g. to infection)

Online events start on the minute, while physical events often take the whole day (or even nights depending on the travel requirements), during which the time cannot be used optimally.

Depending on the personal health situation, there can be many potential participants who do not want to meet large numbers of people and so they minimise their health risk by not coming or at least by avoiding public transport.

Reduced risks to the conference delivery

e.g. to short notice changes in travel and assembly restrictions. There are examples due to the pandemic where changes of regulation have been brought in very rapidly, some of them even on the day of announcement.

Increased participation of those who would not otherwise engage

A big benefit is the increased participation of those who would not otherwise engage, e.g. due to distance from the event, busy schedule etc. It is more viable for an individual to engage in a wide variety of conferences that would be possible by visiting physical events alone.

A related impact is the far greater catchment area for conferences, due to the online accessibility.

Trends – the “new normal”

Based on the experience and learning of 2020, much of which has been driven by the pandemic, some things are unlikely ever to “return to normal” and will take new and permanent directions. Here is a personal short list of the “new normal” as I see it for professional conferences.

Improved Working Processes

Many organisations are looking hard at their processes, to identify what processes have roadblocks in the form of off-line steps, with a view to eliminating them. An example is ordering processes for restaurants in Singapore.

Organisations are also looking for new improved ways to work, independent of the “new normal”. For example, there has been a big increase in remote proctoring, i.e. processes than enable the supervision of candidates to take their exam from anywhere, not just in a supervised hall. See the Project Management Institute https://www.pmi.org/certifications/certification-resources/process/online-proctored-testing for an example of this.

Another process example is the setting of exams. To avoid collusion the questions are presented in a different random order to each participant, to prevent them working synchronously with others during an exam, e.g. by WhatsApp.

These process improvements go far beyond remote replication of existing processes.

Acceptance AND familiarity with remote involvement

The telephone was invented nearly 150 years ago and it has become an everyday tool for about a century. The pandemic has driven the transition to everyday normality of working through the internet, whether for data transfer or conferences.

The Author

Dr Deasún Ó Conchúir, is an Effective Project & Program Consultant for B2B & cross-functional situations where holistic solutions cannot be obtained within a single organization.

To learn more about how he can help you to implement Project Solutions for your technical and business challenges, please call him on +41 79 692 4735 or email him at info@scatterwork.com.

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