Which meeting are you organising?

by Editorial Team
8 minutes read

Meetings are an indispensable part of business life. There are different types of meetings depending on their business objectives and purposes. Some are meant to train attendees while others are called to discuss issues affecting people with a common background, interest, profession or trade.

A meeting type is therefore mainly determined by the purpose and, at times, by the number of attendees. Sometimes similar meetings by different groups of people are erroneously similarly named. Some meeting type names are sometimes interchangeably. Is a conference the same as a congress? Which meeting type suits which gathering and purpose? And does it matter which meeting name is used for which gathering?

Using the correct meeting descriptor is very important when it comes to marketing planned event to targeted attendees. If a meeting organiser correctly describes their event, this will assist would-be attendees in deciding whether or not to attend based on its potential to address their needs.

Here are the 10 most common types of meetings held by people of different backgrounds in pursuit of various business objectives;

  1. Conference

This is an event where expert presenters or speakers exchange views on a topic or topics with attendees or delegates. A conference is characterised by high attendee numbers that can run into thousands. This meeting type is usually held annually and high levels of interaction are a key factor. A conference usually has a theme to guide its proceedings.

Conferences enable people from the same profession, industry or other common interests to meet new people and network thereby enabling them to know new developments, books and trends in their industry, profession or fraternity. 

2. Confex

In Zimbabwe, it is now common practice to have conferences running concurrently with other business events such as exhibitions to create another event type called a confex. In the past, the term was not widely used although the pairing of exhibitions and conferences has been practised for many years now.

Confexes that readily come to mind include the Africa Infrastructure & Built Environment Conference (AfriConfex) & Exhibition, the SMEs International Expo, the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show and the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair. This type of event enables conference delegates to benefit from the proceedings of a meeting and visit and or participate in a show as an exhibitor.

3. Congress

A congress is a formal meeting or series of meetings to hold discussions between delegates, especially those from a political party, trade union, or within a specific industry or profession. In Zimbabwe, the term congress is more popular in politics than in business. However, some business membership organisations like the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry (CZI) style their annual meetings as congresses.

4. Convention

The britannica.com dictionary defines a convention as “a large meeting of people who come to a place for usually several days to talk about their shared work or other interests or to make decisions as a group.” It is more or less like a conference. But what is the exact difference between them?

The site socialtables.com explains that: “Conferences are mostly focused on exchanging information and education. Conventions are typically based around membership (either official or unofficial), and are used to set agendas for the coming year or to discuss issues of interest.” Put differently, almost anyone can attend a conference while conventions are meetings that cater to the needs of members of a specific group of people such as those belonging to a specific profession. 

In Zimbabwe, some of the professional bodies that correctly style their annual meetings as conventions include the Call Centre Association of Zimbabwe (CCAZ) and the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe (MAZ).

5. Masterclass

A masterclass is a once-off special event or meeting where an expert in art, academics and other endeavours presents on a given subject matter. It has its origins in music but over the years many masterclasses in various business aspects such as human resources or marketing are now being held.

It should be noted that a masterclass does not tackle an entire subject or issue. For example, the whole subject of say marketing cannot be fully addressed in a masterclass. For this reason, masterclasses deal with specific aspects of broad subjects. A marketing masterclass may focus on digital marketing only instead of tackling the whole of the marketing discipline.

Apart from disseminating insights to professionals or students, masterclasses are also used to build relations between businesses and customers. For example, in 2017, the ZITF Company, the organisers of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and other exhibitions introduced an exhibitors’ masterclass to assist exhibitors in making the most of their participation in its events.

6. Seminar

This is a focus group discussion on a given subject or issue involving a small group of up to 20 people, It uses lectures or group discussion formats to achieve the event’s objectives. The meeting type includes question and answer sessions and usually includes takeaway materials.

7. Summit

A summit is a business meeting where top leaders and experts in various fields gather to share and interact with other functionaries. It is also called a summit conference or meeting summit. The term is derived from the adjective summit which means top or apex. It is mostly used in politics and international relations where it is defined as an international meeting of heads of state or government, usually with considerable media exposure, tight security, and a pre-arranged agenda.A summit normally focuses on one major subject or issue.

8. Symposium

A symposium is a meeting that is organised so that experts in a given field can meet, present papers, and discuss issues and trends or make recommendations for a certain course of action. Symposia are similar to conferences save for the fact that the latter tend to be larger in size and wider in scope than the former, which are more focused on a particular subject or issue.

9. Webinar

This a business meeting in which the presentations and proceedings are delivered to attendees by audio and video using the internet via platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The term webinar is derived from the phrase web (internet)-based seminar. While webinars existed before, they were popularised by the need to hold meetings during the era of Covid 19 restrictive safety protocols which included the barring of international travel and the enforcement of social distancing. In 2022 the ZITF Company used the webinar format to hold its Exhibitor Masterclass.

The webinar enabled many conference, confex and convention organisers to host hybrid meetings which enabled them to abide by the Government’s stipulated maximum delegate numbers per event without leaving out any willing participant. Hybrid meetings enable event planners to reach more people including those who cannot attend business meetings in person.

10. Workshop

A workshop is a hands-on kind of seminar or symposium where which emphasises being practical. Workshops are characterised by both theory and practical approaches. For example, a workshop on how exhibitors’ stand staff should manage their exhibitions would include a stand structure where participants take turns to act as both stand staff and visitors in a simulation of a real exhibition situation. They run for a day or more.

Workshops present an opportunity for attendees to learn new skills practically.

The point of differentiating the various meeting types as you plan for your professional association or business sector’s meeting is to ensure that you use the correct terms to describe the events in your marketing communications to avoid embarrassment. The other reason is to fully inform would-be attendees about the nature of a meeting.

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More