In today’s global economy it is possible to use digital technology to share information or for face-to-face conversations with colleagues or clients almost anywhere on the planet.
This can cut down dramatically on business overheads, improve efficiency and at the same time demonstrate corporate social responsibility for the planet and the environment by cutting down on the air miles.
Yet this does not seem to have diminished the appetite for business people, academics or politicians to congregate at a physical location to exchange ideas or learn more about a particular topic.
But is attending business conferences really necessary?
Small business owners are busy people and fitting in a few days away from the office or works can be a challenge but while the information gleaned from a topic-specific conference may be available in other ways there are other potential benefits that can be gained from the human interaction at a conference venue.
Live meetings can reveal other and perhaps better new ways of conducting a business and when the possibilities and benefits of collaboration, even with competitors, are becoming more apparent a conference offers a chance to interact with and form alliances with other businesses in your sector.
It may also offer opportunities for connection with new suppliers and discovering innovative new products and services.
No matter how knowledgeable an individual owner may be about their sector, running a business can be an isolating experience and it is easy to miss new trends or ideas when immersed in the day-to-day activities of an operation, so the conference may also provide a welcome opportunity to take time out for some strategic thinking.
A good example of this is the annual conference being held in Manchester tomorrow (March 22) for members of Pro-Manchester, an organisation for businesses in the Greater Manchester area and one that is likely to be a key influencer for the prospects of a Northern Powerhouse. This year’s topic is the Challenges of Digital Disruption, something that is likely to affect many businesses thanks to the activities of virtual companies like Uber, Google, Amazon and others.
It is helpful also to bounce ideas off other people in the same or similar fields to refine an idea and work out what may be practicable.
For regular conference attendees, there is also the possibility that over time they may come to be regarded as experts in their field, leading to gaining a reputation and to invitations to speak at subsequent events, all of which can add value to the business the attendee is in.
Conferences are great places for making connections, often in the so-called “coffee machine” or “hallway” conversation.
All of the above boils down to one invaluable benefit of the conference, aside from its stated purpose of gaining up to date information on a specific topic – and this is networking.