Reflecting on in person conferences in 2022

Last week I attended my first in person conference this side of COVID and I think it is fair to make a couple of observations regarding the experience. Overall, it seemed like COVID never happened and it was business as usual since it was a purely physical event with no streaming option. That of all topics it was a conference about sustainability (in public procurement) is an irony not lost on me.

My 2019 take on conferences (here) remains pretty much unchanged. For conveying knowledge the opportunity cost they impose is simply uncompetitive with events done online (or at least with an online component), and that is even before having any discussion about the sustainability of this option.

There are a couple of advantages for in person events vis a vis online only ones though. The first is the obvious networking or pressing of the flesh with your fellow conference participants. For me, it meant seeing some people in person I had not the chance to do so in close to three years and whose presence I sorely missed.

The second advantage I have to hand it to my wife as she's he one who came up with it. If you attend an online event, the knowledge is transmitted in a single direction only (mostly) and there is less back and forward with the audience, especially in Q&A. In addition, after an online event we immediately go about our lives and are likely not to have the time to digest the session and certainly not the opportunity to enhance our knowledge or understanding by immediately talking with those around us or the speakers themselves. That happened to me with one of the questions I posed which I could then follow up during the coffee break thus ending with both of me and speaker parting with a better knowledge all around than if our interactions had ended with his reply to my original question.