The difference between conference and congress is not as clear as one might think. In fact, many MICE event organizers have difficulty explaining the differences between the two types of events. As we have hosted a number of conferences and congress throughout our FIBES years, we thought we would try to explain both of these principles and clarify the differences between conference and congress.
Description of the Congress
The International Association of Professional Congress Organizers (IAPCO) provides an important guide to terminology industry conventions. Let’s start by quoting a description given on its term search page:
“Regular gatherings on the basis of the representation of several hundred – or even thousands – of people belonging to the same profession, culture, religion or other groups often met to discuss a particular issue. Contribution to the presentation and discussion of the issue will be limited to members of the planning committee. Frequency: is usually established earlier and maybe for many years or years. The congress usually lasts a few days and has several sessions at the same time. ”
The congress usually brings in delegates who are trained in a particular field of study and in a foreign field. Delegates participate in the exchange of experiences and ideas and try to find solutions to problems as a result of a collaborative analysis of investigative research. Other formats used during the congress include sessions, interviews, round table discussions, and more. A common practice designed to write memory when the event is over.
Description of the Conference
Let us also refer to the IAPCO term dictionary, which describes the conference as:
“A participatory meeting for discussion, truthfulness, problem solving, and consultation. Compared to a congress, the conference tends to be smaller in scale and more selective in character – features that tend to facilitate the exchange of information. The word does not have a specific meaning in general. Although not naturally timed, conferences often have limited time and purpose. ”
Conferences can be held equally by individuals, agencies, or organizations, and are usually intended to educate attendees about the topic or forum. There are no clear rules on the frequency and length of events. The conference brings together professionals with a target audience: industry and media members, competitors, the general public, etc. Tasks available at the conference include timelines, poster presentations, social media events, meeting professional events, round table discussions, and more. Like congresses, congresses can operate nationally or attract delegates from international institutions.
The Difference between Congress OR Conference
So, did you fully understand the difference between a conference and a congress? It doesn’t always seem that way, after all. Many people use these terms in rotation, and some describe the congress as a kind of conference.
The first basic difference that can be drawn from both of the above definitions is that congresses tend to focus more on a particular sector of the industry or interest, and conferences tend to be closer to a broad range of subjects in a given field. This is the case with the upcoming EAIE 2017 conference which is approaching various courses around the international higher education system, compared to the EUROTOX 2016 congress which focuses specifically on “protecting the public and environmental health by understanding and interacting with toxins”. However, this is by no means a strict standard, as many conferences can focus more on the environment than on congresses.
Second, several online sources claim that congresses are designed to be smaller in size than conferences. This is certainly reflected in the number of delegates who attended the EuroEcho-Imaging 2015 congress (3,500) compared to the ECFS 2017 conference on cystic fibrosis (2.345), but not when looking at the number of delegates expected to attend the EAIE 2017 conference (5.000). Also, the difference between conference and congress is not always clear.
A third notable difference in the two definitions listed above is the frequency of events. Congresses are usually organized into regular events – either annually or several times a year -, and conferences can be a single program or a year of skipping. By now you have understood the pattern – this fact is not always true. FIBES reserves the right to host, for example, the 40th session of the ECFS 2017 conference and will soon host the 29th session of the EAIE 2017 conference.
The lines can easily be blurred between congress and the conference, and it is often up to the event organizers to decide whether to call their event a conference or congress. To clarify this point, we thought we would share with you this fun piece of art (on the right) that shows the thought process before deciding to name an event with a conference or congress.