Reader panel report on seminars, trade shows and conferencesWritten by Michelle Gault 14 September 2001
As company health and safety departments plan for the next fiscal year, professional development is an important item on many priority lists. Government agencies and safety associations invest months of planning, and a lot of money, to attract health and safety professionals to their out-of-office seminars, trade shows and conferences, but it's hard to know which of these events will be worth the time and money.
We surveyed the members of the COS reader panel, and here's what our 197 respondents had to say:
On average, how many out-of-office events do you attend per year for the purpose of gathering information to assist you in your work in occupational health and safety?
The large majority of our survey respondents, 75 percent, say they attend between one and five OSH-related events a year. Fifteen percent attend five to 10, and only four percent attend more than 10. The other six percent attend none at all.
Which of the following will you have attended by the end of 2001?
The first event we listed was the Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA) annual health and safety conference and trade show, because it is the largest show of its kind in Canada. Twenty-nine percent of our survey respondents say they attend the IAPA show. The Canadian Society of Safety Engineering's annual conference, a show with a much smaller and more targeted audience and a considerably smaller trade show component (but a good selection of focused information sessions) attracts 19 percent of our respondents.
The survey indicates that our panelists prefer events that focus on their own particular jurisdiction and industry. Thirty-two percent say they will attend an annual conference held by their provincial/ territorial safety council by the end of this year; 43 percent will attend a workers' compensation-related event; and 52 percent will attend a conference geared specifically to their industry.
In what capacity do you attend these events?
The main reason for attending professional development conferences and trade shows, according to 88 percent of our respondents, is "to remain current on oh&s trends."
Panelists also told us what level of decision-making power they have when they attend these events (they all indicated some level of authority):
Authority to influence oh&s policy with information gathered 53%
Authority to change oh&s policy with information gathered 42%
Influence on product/service purchasing decisions 50%
Authority to purchase products/services 32%
In your opinion, what is the single best way to obtain information at these events?
Attending round-table/panel discussions 27%
Attending sessions and taking notes 40%
Attending sessions and having a follow-up discussion with the speaker 38%
Browsing on the tradeshow floor 33%
Is it worthwhile for you to:
a) Attend local oh&s events that focus on your own jurisdiction?
b) Attend large-scale events of a national or international scope?
Again, the close-to-home, focused events are more popular. Eighty-four percent of our respondents say they value the smaller, local events. Still, a significant number ? 59 percent ? like to attend the big national or international shows. Some mentioned having attended some of the big U.S. shows, such as the National Safety Council's Congress and Exposition, the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, and the American Society of Safety Engineering's annual conference (these and several other events are listed at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety's Web site, www.ccohs.ca).
Unfortunately, all of these OSH events across the continent aren't quite reaching everyone ? like the reader who says most large-scale events don't focus enough on health care; or the gentleman who says there is limited professional development opportunity in Yukon. But shows are big business ? which means they'll probably get bigger.
Comments from our panelists:
"The value of national and international events is being able to recognize and prepare for trends in our own province that have started in other jurisdictions."
"Often a worthwhile subject is diminished by the inability of the presenter to communicate effectively."
"Travel and accommodation costs usually rule out large-scale events."
"Attending trade shows and conferences every year would be overkill. Seminars are better, but more expensive."
"Some large-scale events are too large, and have many overlaps. Smaller, local events can be more focused and easier to attend or decline."
"Seminars, trade shows and conferences are an excellent opportunity to network with colleagues and obtain safety-related information."
"One of the most important reasons I attend conferences and seminars is to recharge my enthusiasm battery.
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