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Conferences and awaydays...

Eddie Mair | 17:03 UK time, Wednesday, 5 December 2007

are they a waste of time? What's YOUR experience? Listen to our debate and let us know by clicking on comment...


  1. At 05:26 PM on 05 Dec 2007, DI Wyman wrote:

    Conferences and awaydays...

    ...are the reward for doing a great job!

    Likewise all 'freebies'.....but don't tell the bean counters.

  2. At 05:44 PM on 05 Dec 2007, Nick wrote:

    if a conference emerges as a result of the genuine passion of participants to network and learn, then of course it works. It has to be bottom-up, not top-down; has to mix enough creativity and fun with structure.

    I went to a brilliant conference a few weeks ago - be the change, westminster. The topic was climate change and everyone was simultaneously inspired and horrified by the latest science... which looks worse than the IPCC is really letting on, because feedback systems aren't adequately factored into the predictions yet. Now, that's a conference worth going to...

  3. At 05:53 PM on 05 Dec 2007, B Schimmelman wrote:

    As an attendee of 8 tradeshows/conferences this year I feel qualified to comment. The lady from the industry group needs to improve her communications skills a bit, but she did have a point. These events, which most of us who attend them on a regular basis dread like the plague, are a necessary evil and a networking forum that allows people in the same industry to touch base and to make new contacts. I've whittled down my tradeshow schedule to only 4 shows/conferences next year.

  4. At 05:54 PM on 05 Dec 2007, John Harvey wrote:

    Could we add 'meetings' to the list of absolute timewasters. I taught for 39 years, attended innumerable meetings, (which got more and longer as the century dribbled on). When I retired I tried desperately to think of one that had had any useful outcome - I couldn't manage it. (But some of them beat working- or 'the classroom experience', as we call it now)

  5. At 05:55 PM on 05 Dec 2007, Jim Ballantyne wrote:

    "No one will be hurt by an abortion";
    a strange point of view.
    What about the child that will be killed?

    One abortion with reason is perhaps understandable in one lifetime, two abortions with reasons relating to lifestyle, even with the child in mind, is abhorrent.

    What a dreadful set of thoughts expressed by this young lady.

    That these decisions are the hardest she has ever made is cold comfort, perhaps a more adventurous life would give greater opportunity than having sex with a partner without regard for the consequences.

    Our society needs a fresh look at its philosophy to overcome this shallow thinking and behaviour.

  6. At 05:55 PM on 05 Dec 2007, Simon Marchese wrote:

    For me conferences are about two things, conveying material and networking.

    If you had the choice between reading a paper on the internet or listening to the writer present it with the chance to question the content there and then, it is obvious to me which one is more effective. It is also about actually paying attention to the material while it is being presented. Have you ever read all the stuff in your "to read" folder?

    More and more organisations are formed of geographically dispersed teams who rarely meet. If anything, the "annual conference" is more important now than in years past. It's the only time I get to meet most of my colleagues and establish the trust required to work together remotely.

  7. At 05:56 PM on 05 Dec 2007, steve.emsley wrote:

    Did I really hear that the chief scientist David King has been forced out after saying that "Climate change is a more serious threat than terrorism ?" Of course it is.
    Its his job as a scientist to inform us of the risks that matter to all of us. He was doing his job, and doing it well. Listen to him, dont let the Government get away with sacking him.

  8. At 06:06 PM on 05 Dec 2007, Brenda Coyle wrote:

    As a retired teacher I can now say with no fear of repercussions ---- they are a non-cost-effective COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME, each one plumbing new depths of boredom and patronising power-pointing!

  9. At 06:38 PM on 05 Dec 2007, Damian Hutt wrote:

    Meetings/Away Days and Conferences are different. Away Days/Meetings are mostly internal organisation events communicating messages, very often that attendees find tedious. Conferences are for groups of people to learn and network with new and existing contacts and organsiations.

    Little or no research into what delegates need to hear about at a conference is the route of the problem - bottom up (as Nick, a previous contributor on this blog said) is essential. Speaking to your prospect delegates and getting a true understanding of what information, speakers and case studies will improve their business is the very essence of holding a productive conference. So many organisers or programme committees assume they know what delegates want to hear - and end up with a flimsy event.

    I'm studying delegate's Return On Investment from Conferences in a project called myROI (www.MyROI.org), working with the European Event ROI Institute in Norway. Have a look at what we are doing to drive.

    Damian Hutt, Education Chairman, Meeting Professionals International, UK Chapter.

  10. At 07:31 PM on 05 Dec 2007, Roger Alexander wrote:

    Conferences are a good way of networking as they keep out those disruptive innovators, like me, who can't afford to attend them.
    When I attended company funded conferences they were considered to be a perk, and a status marker.

  11. At 09:02 PM on 05 Dec 2007, Dr Ian Moore. UK Member; ROI Institute wrote:

    Business meetings and events should serve a purpose. That purpose should be to achieve a business impact; preferably with a cost benefit.

    If the meeting/event is professionally programmed and produced such that stakeholders (primarily the attendees) have attended something which has provided them with new or reinforced knowledge, skills, contacts or insights and have 'enjoyed' the event; then several plusses have been achieved.

    If, as a result of the meeting/event, actions or implementations occur which achieve a positive business impact such as increased sales, less downtime, a broader client base; further plusses are achieved.

    If the business impact - or proportion thereof - is demonstrably due to the event and measurable, ideally via standard values, then the financial benefits of the meeting/event can be weighed against its costs to provide a 'dollar value' of the Return-on-Investment.

    This approach has been used for many years in the field of HR/training and in the last few years has been introduced into the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) industry.

    Supported by MPI (Meetings Professionals International), the US-based ROI Institute utilises a standardised methodology which satisfies statasticians and accountants alike.

    2007 has seen the first meetings professionals native to Europe undergoing professional training to become Business Impact and ROI Practitioners.

    Perhaps Channel 4 should make a program on the subject.

  12. At 09:32 PM on 05 Dec 2007, Diana Barnes wrote:

    Re Dolly Parton's book initiative
    Yes, Dolly is wonderful to give away so many books in the USA, but here in Britain we have "Reading is Fundamental" giving away books, and the government funded national Bookstart programme, whereby packs containing books and information about reading and libraries are given to children at 8/9 months, 18 months and just before starting school at 4 yrs. See the Booktrust website for more information, but this is run in partnership with libraries who administer it and the assistance of Health Visitors, playgroups, nurseries and schools. Bookstart has been spreading since 1995, now covers 98% of the entire British Isles and has been copied in other countries, and has a proven impact on children's reading, listening and concentration, and , perhaps surprisingly, numeracy. Don't let your listeners think that we always need a Celebrity before anything gets done! And please can you pass this info on to Jenni Murray who is interviewing Dolly tomorrow (Thursday)?
    many thanks,
    Diana (a children's librarian and Bookstart fan)

  13. At 09:44 PM on 05 Dec 2007, D.Keen wrote:

    I spent 27 years with a multinational company participating in planning sessions, and similiar farces, throughout the world from Tokyo in the east to St. Francisco in the west. Including England, Wales, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Japan and the USA from New York, to Chicago to Rochester to Washington DC and on and on.
    I will never forget 10 days in the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva on one such multinational planning session, a total waste of business expensive of course and as one of the key note speakers I soon realised that after lunch was dream time for the majority of participants including the organisers. (Lunch was very good.)
    But the greatest fun of all was in Eastborne, England. Very large hotel overlooking the sea.
    Session opened Monday morning with hired consultant company announcing that if we participants were not enthusiastic we were free to leave. At the time I was a relatively, only relatively, young unattached man; a very attractive woman sitting next to me whispered "Should we leave before this crap starts?" Enough said. I followed her. We returned Friday morning for the closing session. Much hysteria from highly paid bunch of business consultants. (or whatever they were.)
    I do hope for the sake of my company pension that the company has ceased wasting millions on these so called consultants. In all my experience they had never of delivered the value they claimed and none every produced the results we often did in, internal company, small team planning sessions managed by the team!
    David Keen
    PS. One day in Australia I called on a board member of one of Australia's greatest companies. He was late, I sat waiting in his office and when he arrived he apologised with with words "Sorry David the MD has had the Children in; I had to stay and listen to the baby talk, it will cost us a fortune of course but it's the fashion and the MD is seduced."
    'The 'Children' he referred to were, of course, from a reknowed world wide consultancy.

  14. At 10:13 PM on 05 Dec 2007, madmary wrote:

    Dr Ian Moore, are you for real? "downtime" etc etc?


  15. At 12:02 AM on 06 Dec 2007, Dr Ian Moore wrote:

    Dear Madmary

    I am for real. David Keen and other contributors have painted a very clear picture of how utterly useless or negative many meetings and events have been in the past.

    They (meetings and events) do have the potential to offer real benefits to both the attendees and the guys who pay the bills; but only if they're thoughtfully planned and carried out so that everyone gains.

    The ROI bit is an add-on to 'personal satisfaction of attendees' and 'serious subsequent positive business impact' for the funding sources; to demonstrate financially that good meetings/events are very well worth holding - and by how much.

    This is a multi-billion Pound industry and taken very seriously, especially by the businesses that spend that kind of money.

    You are right to be cynical based on past experience but please keep an open mind that changes introducing more effective planning, execution and measurement might just be good for all concerned.

    Why hold a rubbish meeting or event which people want to fall asleep in or run away from and which does little or no good when you could hold one that is focused on satisfied attendees who leave thinking positively about it and which makes life for them and their business better?

  16. At 12:38 AM on 06 Dec 2007, Dr Hackenbush wrote:

    I went on a staff ‘away day’, for just a small team of people, and it was definitely a good thing to connect with those people, understand their roles more fully, and not just be stuck at a computer screen all the time. There was an initial presentation that bordered on boring lecture, but the rest of the time was actually productive. I wouldn’t want to do it every day, but that’s the point - you do it every now and again. I also think that it depends on how solitary your normal workplace role is. Mine feels like it is, so this was a welcome change.

  17. At 12:21 PM on 06 Dec 2007, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    I'd dearly like to get rid of this term, "Attendees" The ending -ee signifies that the person is the object of some kind of activity, rather than the subject. How did we get into this linguistic mess? When I see "Attendee" it makes me think of someone attended to by, perhaps, a district nurse, or an ambulance crew.

    BTW, I tried 4 times to post to the Glass Box for Wednesday, only to discover that the first posting arrived OK. Apologies for any inconvenience cause should subsequent postings be displayed.

  18. At 03:48 PM on 06 Dec 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Well, I regularly attend conferences and tradeshows, as well as presenting at seminars. If a conference is well prepared, and those who are attending are going with the right "mind-set", it can be extremely useful, as well as very good at fostering good relations between co-workers. Alternatively, they can be dire if people are forced to go, or things are poorly organised. It all comes down to preparation and willingness to participate. As with almost everything in life, there are good and bad examples. You can't just generalize to say that conferences are bad, or tele-conferencing is good...

  19. At 03:50 PM on 06 Dec 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Well, I regularly attend conferences and tradeshows, as well as presenting at seminars. If a conference is well prepared, and those who are attending are going with the right "mind-set", it can be extremely useful, as well as very good at fostering good relations between co-workers. Alternatively, they can be dire if people are forced to go, or things are poorly organised. It all comes down to preparation and willingness to participate. As with almost everything in life, there are good and bad examples. You can't just generalize to say that conferences are bad, or tele-conferencing is good...

  20. At 05:36 PM on 06 Dec 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Vyle Hernia @17, here here!

    It leads me to wonder about the status of committees, too.


  21. At 04:38 PM on 16 Dec 2007, Richard Durkan wrote:

    Is there anywhere I can listen to original PM report on awaydays, pse?

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