Not another conference

Conferences, workshops and trainings are a great way of  advertising, meeting new people, gaining new information and insight on various topics. They are an even greater method of promoting tourism, because a majority of the time these activities are out of town.

In my world, we have had and have myriads of conferences, workshops, trainings and different kinds of fora that deal with issues to do with sustainability, environment, climate change, wetlands, renewable energy, biodiversity, water… the list goes on and on. I have attended a few of these and though a majority of the time I am working, I mostly enjoy them.

However, a trend I’ve noticed over time, is that there are some people who attend literally every training being organised. One of my former colleagues calls them, ‘serial conference attendants’. How effective are these events to the ‘attendants’ and the organisations that they represent?

Albert Einstein, one of my most favourite people, once said, ‘The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing’.

So here goes my questioning:

i. At the end of every conference, training or workshop there are action points. Is there any follow up structure to find out whether the participants made use of the knowledge obtained? Where is the proof of action that has taken place on the ground as a result of the various events?

ii. In an era of 4G internet, webinars and online courses, why must we meet physically so frequently to discuss issues that have previously been discussed… then come up with solutions that had once been suggested but never implemented?

iii. Instead of all the expenses (per diem, flights, accomodation) associated with such meetings, why can’t these funds go towards active action like investing in innovative sustainable solutions such as large scale use of biogas or something? Has anyone done a cost benefit analysis of conferences, workshops and trainings?