What Are the 3 Clear Differences Between a Meeting and a Conference?
The words meeting and conference are often used interchangeably in error. The truth is that there are clear yet subtle key differences between the two terms that truly matter and dictate a different approach.
Think back to your school days or your child’s school days. If a teacher asked for a meeting, it was important but informal. Teacher meetings usually happened in the classroom. However, if they scheduled a conference, there was a more serious, formal matter being discussed. A conference typically occurred in a conference room, separate from the informal classroom. This teacher/classroom metaphor works well for this article.
To clear up any confusion on this often misunderstood definition, here are 3 differences between a meeting a conference.
3 Differences Between Meetings and Conferences
1. Crowd Size Matters
The number in the crowd determines your purpose.
Meetings may have a large number of people attending them, but the overall crowd will likely contain a hybrid of different people with different backgrounds.
There will be those “in the know” about the subject of the meeting and those who have no idea what is being said but want to learn. There may also be a keynote, expert or special attendees speaking on a specific subject. Therefore a meeting tends to refer to a larger group of people convening together with a shared purpose.
At a conference, though, everyone attending is familiar with the subject. Even if they are new to a conference following, they know what they’re getting into (to some degree). Although conferences tend to attract more newbies, the point of the gathering is clear. A conference typically has an overall exchange of information or a consultation with experts in the field.
2. Location Matters
The venue will often determine whether a gathering is a meeting or a conference.
In fact, locations will differ based on the type of gathering. Meetings can be held in informal places, such as the host’s home or a local restaurant. They are also commonly held in a traditional Meeting Room where the atmosphere tends to be professional but informal.
A meeting may include decorations and refreshments provided for overall ambiance. Or, in contrast, the host may provide the bare minimum of provisions or retain the venue to ensure that the guests are taken care of.
Conferences, however, are much more formal. Meetings can take place anywhere. Where conferences typically happen in mid-to-upper class hotels or other large venues. Refreshments are almost always served (or available). Conferences are typically themed events. And conference decor is more often very professional and high-end.
3. Approach Matters
The style of the invite says a lot about the gathering itself.
When you compare meetings and conferences, the approach matters. Meeting attendees can find out details through word of mouth invites. In contrast, conferences are prearranged, planned, and designed around specific causes. Conferences also include a careful selection of invitees.
Meetings invitations can be as simple as creating a simple social media e-vite. Those invited can bring interested guests. Also, meetings and conferences may both have a maximum number of people allowed in the venue. Capacity will matter for both meetings and conferences.
Good meetings follow a pre-planned agenda. On the other hand, conferences have scheduled sessions that are planned in advance. Conference attendees may wait all year to prepare and attend an event. And some conferences are high-ticket price exclusive events where attendees may have to produce a ticket or wear a name badge that shows their access rights to be at the event. Many conference hosts retain people to check the guests in using the invite list and the guest’s valid form of identification.
Don’t Make a Faux Pas Planning Your Next Gathering
Before you plan a gathering, run through this little guide to decide whether you’re planning a meeting or a conference. You can apply the 3 criteria above to consider whether you’re planning a meeting or a conference. Will you be informally hosting a casual but professional meeting? Or will your event be formal and rigidly attended through invite-only? The way you word your event may make a difference in the attendance that you see!
Please share your thoughts and comments
What has your experience been with meetings and conferences? Do you have tips to share regarding planning either one? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!