Monday, April 13, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Conferences

This blog post is in response to April 2015 ASQ Influential Voices topic "The Pros and Cons of Conferences".

This month's question is to the quality community about the value of conferences, meetings, and in-person events. How do you decide which ones to attend? Do you stay close to home or is international travel desired or necessary? If you travel, do you go to learn, network, or both?

First let me share my personal experience organizing/attending conferences, meetings, and in-person events over the last 30 plus years.

  • AT&T Bell Labs Quality Management Retreat, New Jersey (summer 1985) - Lead Organizer:
          A two-day retreat with International Switching Systems Business Unit management 
          with Dr. Joseph Juran in attendance. Focus was sharing quality improvement plans 
          across various divisions through various teams. Great success in sharing major 
          initiatives across entire business unit to develop synergy and encourage 
          networking.
  • AT&T Bell Labs Switching Systems Business Unit Recognition Event (fall 1992) - Lead Organizer:
          Around 6,000 employees from three countries (Netherlands, U.K., and USA) gathered 
          for a 1/2 day Recognition event in Illinois. There were lot of logistical challenges, 
          however, the cultural issue of giving and receiving Recognition was driven 
         home across the entire work force under one roof.

  • ASQ 50th Annual Quality Congress, Chicago (AQC,  now World Conference for Quality and Improvement) (May 1996) - Chair, Host Committee
          After 3 years of benchmarking of previous AQCs, our core team of 12 Member 
          Leaders from 6 ASQ Sections in Illinois area organized world-class experience 
         for over 3,000 attendees from around the world. A small army of 300 ASQ 
          member volunteers made all the gusts feel at home. Our team had a simple vision 
         "serve all guests as your personal guests" and it worked well. To date many ASQ 
          members rave about what an experience they had at the 50th AQC including 
          International Dances and Chicago Police Department Bag Pipers welcoming guests at 
          Tuesday night dinner banquet. These ASQ Section Leaders then started a       
         Northern Illinois Quality Conference (NIQC) in 1998 through 2012.       

  • ASQ Northern Illinois Quality Conferences (NIQC) - Vice Chair Technical Program and Recognition (1998-2012):
          For 15 years, four ASQ Sections (Chicago, Fox Valley, Illiana, and Northern Illinois) 
          organized a high-value conference with workshops to serve members and non-
          members from the Mid-West area. There was tremendous teamwork among 
          sections and the conferences were well managed both financially and 
         technically. All NIQCs were in black (a record for any ASQ conferences) and serve  
         the community for long time providing great networking opportunities.
  • ASQ Peru International Quality Congress - Chair Technical Program (2011, 2013, 2015):
          In Lima, Peru starting in 2011, every two years an International Quality Congress is 
          held attracting over 180 attendees from industry and academia. This high-value 
          congresses provide excellent opportunity to learn from global thought 
          leaders and offer networking opportunities to quality professionals.

Let me summarize Pros and Cons for organizing conferences, meetings, and in-person events.

Pros:
  • Face-to-face Knowledge Sharing 
  • Professional Networking opportunities
  • Fostering teamwork among volunteer organizers
  • Serve members and non-members though value addition

Cons:
  • Logistics management challenges
  • Fiscal management challenges
  • Understanding attendee expectations for value-added events
  • Project management challenges
Personally, I attend many face-to-face events globally as well as leverage technology (Google Hangouts and Webinars) for free knowledge transfer to engineering students and quality professionals in India. For more information see the following links at:

http://iit.org/blog/2015/03/15/free-knowledge-transfer-using-technology/


I look forward to learning from your experiences.

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