Professional Conventions

Professional Conventions yesterday today tomorrow by Sharu S. Rangnekar

Professional Conventions are occasions where persons interested in a profession get-together annually or bi-annually with the following purposes in mind:

  • Exchange of information and experiences,
  • Meeting old friends,
  • Sightseeing,

Obviously the first is mentioned prominently but the other two are always "the hidden agenda".

Conventions Yesterday:

I started attending Conventions more than 50 years ago.  Initially the Conventions were organized for getting the latest information and get-together of friends and fellow professionals. The emphasis was on to trying to get the maximum participation and the success of Convention was measured in terms of number of delegates attending the Convention.  To make the maximum participation possible, the delegation fees were kept as low as possible.  The expenses were minimized by trying to conduct the Conventions in institutes (e.g. NITIE, Mumbai) or public sector organizations (BHEL, Trichy) offering low cost of the venue as well as the food.

Efforts were made to invite outstanding speakers to make the Conventions attractive to the delegates, since many of them came to listen to the eminent speakers.

Conventions Today:

Over a period, the nature of Conventions has changed.  Many of the delegates are nominated and sometimes are not even the members of the profession. So the interest in listening to speakers has waned.  There are other avenues like journals and books which give information about the latest knowledge and experiences in the profession.

The delegates are getting addicted to air-conditioning facilities and sumptuous food.  So the Conventions have moved to five-star hotels which are highly expensive for the venue and the food.  The organizers have found that to meet the high cost of holding convention, they would require sponsors who would give donations.

Role of Sponsors

Initially the sponsors were those who were in the forefront of the professional activity e.g. Tatas for industrial engineering, SAIL or BHEL for personnel and training, etc., However, over a period the sponsors considered this as a part of their "charity budget" or "promotional budget"  and consequently were not particularly interested in the professional activities.  Some of them decided as who should be the speakers at the Conventions and tried to maximize their promotional value through banners, advertising material and other avenues in the Convention.  Thus, the requirement of prominent persons in the profession was reduced and satisfying the sponsors became more important.  In fact many Conventions do not give the names of the speakers who will be addressing the Convention in their brochures since that activity is on the back-burner.  Whether the speakers will come out with  new ideas and knowledge is not an important factor.  If he is acceptable to the sponsors and he is available without much cost (or at no cost), what he says does not matter very much.

Trends for Tomorrow:

With this trend Conventions of tomorrow will have a different focus.  Speakers at the Conventions would be those who want their names to help in their CVs.  In many Conventions hardly any time is given to speakers and sometimes the papers are included in the Convention proceedings without their presentation in the Convention.  The general quality of the papers is such that most of the delegates are not interested in listening to them and the Convention hall looks like waiting room at a railway station where people are getting in and going out constantly spoiling the impact of presentations.  The delegates are more concerned about the quality of air-conditioning and the menus at the lunches than the intellectual inputs.  They are also interested in quality of bags and other presentation articles which are included in the kit.  Many times the delegates throw away the lectures notes and the presentation material enclosed as a part of a kit to reduce the excess baggage in traveling.

Being nominated as a delegate has become a part of executive perquisites and selecting an attractive venue has become essential to get large number of delegates.  The success is measured by the surplus generated in the Convention.

Thus the convention is being converted from an intellectual event to a commercial event.

 

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