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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Attending Conferences and Human Behaviour





I was chatting today with one of our conference registrants about larger versus smaller conferences.  I understand their concerns. 
They were concerned because our conference will have fewer than 1000 attenders.  Big conferences offer the offer to meet LOTS of people and by corollary, small conferences do not.

Clearly the reason that there are lots of people at large conferences is because lots of people think that bigger is better.  Better to be where all the people are.  

Size Matters”.  

In the medical laboratory arena, many of the conferences of interest exceed 20,000 attendees.  They are held in the few cities that facilities to host these events.  The conference rooms are designed to hold thousands beyond thousands.  While you may hear a “world famous” person speak as a key-note, the reality is that you will see them only on a large television screen.   

More annoyingly for the lesser sessions for people and presentations of interest, the room may hold a couple hundred seats, but if a couple thousand have similar interest, the odds are you either don’t get in, or you are stuffed at the back in the standing room only.  And as for connecting in the evenings, most people will be scattered through 5 or 6 or 10 hotels.  So you will probably eating lunches and dinners with the same folks you attended with.  

And here’s a reality check.  Meeting with speakers and having an opportunity to discuss some fine points, is NOT going to happen.  The reality is that there probably will be sufficient time for 2 or 4 people to ask a question from the floor, but odds are (by sheer numbers) is that your question will NOT be one that gets addressed.
You might get a chance to buy a copy of their presentation on tape (remember those?) or one disk, or by streaming video off their conference website, but that you could have done at home, without the cost of travel and attendance.

One thing that you can definitely do in a large conference is get your poster on a poster board, along with a couple other thousand.  You might even get few people to stop and read it, but probably not.  Most of the traffic in the poster area is other people with posters, who are checking out the competition, or are people who are bored and doing the “poster wander” which means they look at the board, and maybe stop for 7 seconds with a blank stare and walk on.  Some will ask a banal or convoluted question which is best translated is “your stuff is crap and my work is so much more insightful”.  

But on the positive side you did get a citation for your abstract.

Smaller conferences are by every measure better.  

Take our upcoming Program Office for Laboratory Quality Management Conference on “Medical Laboratory Quality in Challenging Times.  [see: http://conference.polqm.ca ]

The conference is being held in Vancouver BC, but NOT in the mega conference centre.  The Paetzold Education Centre is right sized for a few hundred  attendees.  We may not have any former Presidents like Bill or Barack, but the speakers, when it comes to laboratory quality are by every measure world class and expertly share tons of interesting, relevant, and skillfully crafted information.  And you can actually meet them and talk and discuss with them.  Probably get a chance to take a selfie and maybe get an autograph or two (!).  Might even find the opportunities of common interest to later pursue.  

Rather than being part of an audience, you actually have the opportunity to be part of the discussion and debate.

And when you present your poster, there is less competition and a lot more interest, and you still get your citation.

When the smoke clears and the conference is over, you have some new friends (maybe) some new colleagues (probably) and a whole bunch of new insights and ideas (absolute certainty).

Register Today.











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