26 January 2018

Corporate Conferences

A few months ago, I attended a conference in Brussels. It was the first conference I have attended ever since leaving academia, and so there were things that were quite new to me. I must say the way the corporate world conducts conferences is quite different from the way conferences are conducted in academia, and there were some very interesting things to note.

First of all, there is a different mindset when it comes to authorship. In academic and non-academic conferences, speakers have an affiliation. In academic conferences, speakers are affiliated with the university or research institute that they work in, while in corporate conferences, they are affiliated with the company they work for. However, the relationship these authors have to their affiliations is hugely different. In corporate conferences, it typically does not matter who presents the work. I could imagine myself presenting in a conference a few years from now, but I could also easily tell my colleague to present on my behalf and the presentation would still work. However, in academic conferences, the material that is being presented is tied heavily to the author, or the person who did the research, and not to the affiliation. In other words, whereas an affiliation can change but the overall theme can remain the same in an academic presentation, the presenter can change but the overall theme can remain the same in a corporate presentation.

The scale is also different. Just talk about catering. The food that is served is of a higher quality in corporate conferences than in academic conferences. There are also more sophisticated gadgets. Heck, in the conference I just attended, they even had a dedicated app for the conference, which I could then download in my phone. This app provided updates, notified me with changes to the schedule, and allowed participants to communicate with each other. I haven't seen an academic conference as technologically savvy as that.

Of course the price is also different. As a graduate student back in the days, I remember complaining that a conference fee of 250 USD was rather expensive. In corporate conferences, that amount is peanuts. There is simply more money involved. Then again, there are also companies that have more money available to use to their employees in order for them to attend.

Anyway, it was interesting for me to compare these differences. And I quite like it too.

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