The Pros and Cons of Conferences

[This is a guest post by Julia McIntosh of ASQ communications.]

At ASQ, this is the time of the year when we focus on our biggest annual event, the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement.  This year, the conference takes place May 4-6 in Nashville, Tennessee (and, yes, you can still register).

As is our tradition on this blog, in April we often reflect on the value of conferences, networking, and professional meetings of all types.

We all know that in recent years, some organizations have cut back on conferences and events—both in planning them and in sponsoring staff to attend. These days there are many alternatives to such events, including:

-Local events: These include conferences close to home or requiring minimal travel. Some professionals choose to forgo regional events altogether, attending gatherings only in their hometown.  For example, this might include being an active member of an ASQ section in one’s city.

-Electronic meetings: Whether done via Skype, Webex, Google Hangout, or even a wiki, these meetings allow people to participate at little cost without leaving their desk.  ASQ blogger Michael Noble made the case for digital meetings in this article.  One topical argument in favor of electronic meetings–especially in the context of standards development–is that attendees who can’t afford international travel or are from developing countries can participate in such events.

In the meantime, in-person events have the following advantages:

-Meeting a wide variety of people: You can, of course, make connections electronically, but in-person events have a way of bringing together those who might not normally find reason to speak. If you’re conducting business internationally, in-person meetings may be required so that nothing is “lost in translation,” such as body language, spoken nuances, etc.

-Social functions: There’s a lot of work that goes on during formal events and sessions, but arguably just as much can happen at unofficial or social functions, such as receptions, after-hours gatherings, lunches, and dinners.

– Networking: There’s an undoubtable advantage to networking in-person.  Networking is a major part of ASQ’s conference, and most such events, whether intended by the conference organizers or not.

Our question to the quality community is about the value of conferences, meetings, and in-person events. How do you decide which ones to attend? Do you stay close to home or is international travel desired or necessary? If you travel, do you go to learn, network, or both?

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