What are the differences and characteristics of events such as workshops, meetings and conferences?
Sometimes happens that a customer contacts us asking for information/quotes on the organization of a corporate event but they are confused – or simply does not yet know exactly – what type of event they want to build together with us.
Maybe it happens in your company too.
The first thing you need to know is that this is completely normal.
Confusing workshops, meetings and conferences as other types of events is quite frequent. And it is certainly not the customer’s fault.
Often in common language or on the web, these terms are used inappropriately causing some confusion by our clients or simply readers. For this reason, Gaya Events has decided to write a clear article to easily analyze the main features of congress, meetings and workshops trying to draw a picture of the differences that distinguish one from the other.
Corporate events: what is a congress
Let’s start with a small, necessary clarification. On TV or in the newspapers, you will certainly have heard of party congresses. You should know that every political party periodically organizes congresses during which it elects its leaders and discusses the programmatic guidelines for the future.
But a party congress is not a corporate congress.
For a company or organization, a congress represents an official event at which a group of people and managers with the same cultural and professional interests and / or who come together to discuss and deliberate on problems of common interest. It is therefore neither an internal event within a company nor a moment open to the public but an occasion in which topics of common interest to a specific sector are discussed.
A company that organizes a conference (or a congress) therefore, presumably will invite, in addition to its management, external experts and other institutional personalities to deal with specific topics of great relevance and that will have decisive developments for its market.
To give a concrete example, we can think a pharmaceutical industry organizes a congress relating to the regulation on the sale of drugs and, for this reason, invitations from managers of the Ministry of Health to illustrate the measures, but also external experts and even competitors to deepen, thanks to their contributions, issues concerning the application of these rules, benefits and risks for the sector and to “design” together possible future developments and consequent actions. Conferences are often confused with conventions. These are similar typologies, but a convention is a spot event while the congress (and yes, like the political ones) has a periodic frequency.
It means that annually, or according to a pre-established calendar, who organizes a congress defines in advance a title for the event and develops it according to a pre-established path.
Another difference is, often, in the event’s duration. While the conventions usually have a maximum duration of one day, the conferences are longer and more structured and can last two or three days according to a precise calendar already established.
In the congress, as in the conference, it is precisely the organization of the topics, the interventions and the calendar of the main and collateral activities that make the difference because it is precisely a comparison that does not end within a few hours. A congress is usually not open to the public but is by invitation only, however, the aim is also to communicate the outcome of the conference, which is why we invite the press to which specific moments are reserved on the side lines of the event to interview the participants and report it in the media.
Corporate events: what is a meeting
A meeting is nothing more than an event in which a group of people with similar interests discuss and explore themes of common interest. Compared to a congress that deals with a specific theme, the meetings are usually larger (non-generalist) and allow you to deal with themes from different perspectives. Indeed, the strength of a meeting lies precisely in the possibility of dealing with similar topics but through different points of view and interests.
Compared to a congress where the participants (even if it is hundreds of people) intervene and participate only by invitation, the meeting is open. This does not mean that anyone can freely present themselves at the registration desk because to organize a meeting it is essential to think of a system, online or on paper, of prior registration so that the organizers know exactly who and how many will participate.
While a congress is open to the interventions of all the participants, a meeting follows a ladder in which the speakers take turns on the stage and the participants can deal with them separately, providing a space for questions at the end of each intervention rather than in round tables or specific working groups.
Corporate events: what is a workshop?
With the workshop, we have to “forget” the crowds of hundreds of people who can characterize conferences and meetings because we are facing a more restricted event.
In this case, the participants are identified according to a more rigorous selection process precisely because the aim of the workshop is that of a practical moment where interaction between the participants becomes essential.
This means that there are no spectators but participants who become active protagonists of the workshop by participating in the discussions, comparing and sharing their ideas.
We have seen the main characteristics of workshops, meetings and conferences. As we pointed out at the beginning of the article, the differences among these three types are sometimes subtle and therefore a company may choose to organize a meeting with some characteristics or typical moments of a congress or vice versa.
The point is that these are moments of confrontation where words cannot remain chatter in the wind. The purpose of all three is to reach conclusions that, in some way, will guide future actions, both at a strategic and operational level, that the companies and organizations involved will undertake.
Needless to be picky, because there is a common denominator for all these events that is the organization. Planning a congress, meeting or workshop professionally is exactly what is needed to ensure that you can manage complex and structured events meeting the specific needs of the company or organization. Because, as we have already said in other articles, even before establishing how to manage a corporate event, it is important to clearly understand what you want to achieve from it. It is not just about any economic returns or visibility, the reasons for organizing an event can be manifold. Defining them is the first step towards success.