Organizations hold conferences and we shall deal with an analysis of the tasks associated with the management of conferences. We may define conferences as 'An event used by any organization to meet and exchange views, convey a message, open a debate or give publicity to some area of opinion on a specific issue
Although not generally limited in time, conferences are usually of short duration with specific objectives.' (What is a Conference?) Certain things are made clear by this definition, and it clarifies that some factors are crucial for conferences. The first of them is that any conference has to be organized with specific aims. The second point springs from the first, and that is these objectives can be met only if people are brought together at one place. If these aims are not achieved, then it may be said that a conference is probably not the best solution, and that the organization should look into other methods of fulfilling the same task.
The possibilities may be to hold a workshop, a training day, a seminar, or some other method of educating the people concerned. Holding of conferences are sometimes reflected in the missions and goals of organizations as 'to raise the profile of the organization through participation in conferences, events and symposia. It could also be 'to identify and introduce activities, including fairs and conferences, to generate income in support and promotion of the professional role and work of and its members.' (Why Hold a Conference?) When the organization has similar statements directly written down, or is clearly articulated by the management, it is important that the conferences are properly organized, reach the target audience and bring in a profit, or at least do not incur a loss.
Why Hold a Conference?
There are many reasons that can exist for holding a conference, and they may be to communicate information either internally to the members of the organizations or to outsiders in the form of individuals or groups. In these conferences, the main task is only to pass on information, or messages. Sometimes, the passing on of information may not be only one way, but may be to share information and that may be even from outsiders. This may be even for the purpose of gathering expertise on particular and important topics. When the individuals are together in a rather informal situation, it is easier for them to talk, and thus either provide, or pass on information to others. Other conferences are held just to provide some additional weight to the organization holding the conference, or even influence the people attending the conference. (Why Hold a Conference?)
Quite often, the aim of the organization in holding the conference may be more than any of the individual, or the sum total of all the reasons that have been mentioned. This may be seen in certain conferences that are celebrated to commemorate the celebration of their successful fulfilling of certain tasks, or completion of certain number of years of active functioning. The most important for any conference is to first decide the reason why the conference is being held, and for the organizer to first decide why he is holding the conference. As an example let us look at the situation where the conferences are being held for special types of students, and these may be from outside the country. The objectives of such a conference may be to increase awareness of the students about the services of the organization, and to find out the demands that are being expected from the organization by the students; to find out the reality of some issues that may have been presented to the organization by some students; and to finally determine the correct methods of solving the requirements of these students from abroad.
One can make a reasonable assumption that the best solution to solve the problem would be to hold a place where the students could directly discuss the problems with the people who would be ultimately solving their problems within the organization, like career advisors. This could be done at a conference where even the senior executives of the organization could be present. Again, when the event is planned, one has first to be sure that a conference is the best possible method of solving the problem, and meeting the objectives of the organization. There is a lot of work in organizing a conference, and one of the most important tasks is to decide whether a conference is really required. (Why Hold a Conference?)
The organization of student conferences provides a useful interaction, one to one between the students and their teachers. One example that is being taken here is how conferences are organized for students to solve their creative writing problems. These conferences increase the confidence of the students and help a new writer to feel that he is at home within the large number of academics around him. At the same time, to the teacher, it provides a feedback on the entire process of learning that the student has gone through in the classroom. The procedure that is being discussed here had been originally developed by David Taylor, the Director of the Writing Center at Moravian College. The first step required to be taken by the teacher is to create an atmosphere of trust, and this is done by treating the student like an honored guest. The teacher and the student should work side by side than having the teacher isolated by a huge desk. The second point comes from the initial clarifications that are given by the teachers about the aims of the conference and getting the response of the students to his talk.
There should be sincere efforts to make the students talk and that is required to avoid any miscommunication between the teacher and the students. The roles of all the participants in the conference should be made explicit, and it should be made clear as to who is going to do what. Student conferences are meant for exploration by the students, and this begins with the students and the guides first reading the assignments silently or loudly. Then they should look at the possible improvements that can be made by discussing what is working and what is not working. The greatest efforts should be made to get as much contributions from the students as is possible. When the students are not able or willing to give any answers, only then the guide should offer solutions. A quotation from Donald Murray is relevant in this context: "I believe it is vital for the writer to learn how to read a draft and evaluate it. My conference pattern incorporates response theory: the instructor responds to the student's response and to the student's suggestions for improvement." (Conferencing with Student Writers)
The fourth step is of consolidating on the discussions and if it is possible it should be done through agreement. At the same time, some students feel that they would like to carry home some comments by the guide to carry home and refer at later dates. This requirement can also be solved by providing the students a summary of the conference. The final point to remember is that conferences are continuous exercises and plans have to be made for the next conference at the end of the present conference. The high points of the running conference also should be noted for future use. (Conferencing with Student Writers)
There are different ways of starting off a discussion with students and the comments at the beginning should be to find out about the feelings of the student regarding the paper, and whether the student is finding it possible to do it well. The immediate follow up should be to find out the situation of the then working draft. It is important for the instructor to always keep the student talking. All comments by the instructors should be guided to that purpose through follow up questions and asking for examples. When the student is not being able to concentrate on the main guidelines, then it should be pointed out to him, through questions like "What's the main point that you wanted to make here?" Or asking him if he was speaking to his friend, what would be the description of the important points. It is important to understand that the objective of all conferences is to prepare the students for more writing, and this should be encouraged through prodding with questions like "Anything else in your mind about this situation?," or by saying "What would be the comment of your friend about this?" (Conferencing with Student Writers)
He may even be asked as to whether he has anything in his mind that he would like to write. The final point in teaching is to improve coherence of the fresh writer, and this is best brought out in him by asking him about points in his writing which are not related to his main idea, or even…