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Meeting expectations?

Posted 08/11/2010 by KatieJ

Attending a conference can be a costly business. As a journalist at least there is the consolation that I didn’t pay for the one I have just come back from. It wasn’t all bad – in fact there were some truly inspiring presentations on the agenda - but it could all have been so much better.

Why, for starters, can’t delegates have a handout of the presentation slides to read and annotate alongside each talk? Instead, we were handed a CD, apparently containing some but not all of the information presented, together with a small wad of paper on which to scribble notes – often at impossible speeds considering the pace of some talks.

Sadly, that was the least of the problems. Scheduled talks where the speakers didn’t turn up – admittedly, not the organiser’s fault, but couldn’t they pin up a notice before the various different tracks actually started? Luckily, I had arrived early and overheard the session chair discussing a change of plan so was able to sneak away to a different track before it got started.

Then there are some of the talks themselves. The same introductory material repeated time after time; entire presentations that one could just as easily have read on the internet – one from a speaker who have traveled halfway around the world for the chance to give a talk; or worse, long winded advertorials for companies that again could be found on a website, detracting from time spent discussing actual results.

The quality of most Powerpoint presentations, on the plus side, has undoubtedly gone up in recent years – there were only one or two where I was obliged to strain my eyes to read what was presented.

There is still the temptation, nevertheless, to cram too many talks in one session – I counted nine on the first day before lunch alone – although at least the refreshment break was on time.

Overall, the conference was definitely worthwhile, not just for the content but also for the chance to network and make new contacts. But as companies increasingly tighten up their expenditures, and more content and webinars become available online, conference organisers will need to work a lot harder to convince us that taking time out of the office for meetings is really money well spent.

Cath O’Driscoll – Deputy editor

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