I am suffering from conference fatigue – 2,500 miles in
one year is too much!
My management team and I find that while the conference is one
of the traditional learning opportunities that complement the
training course it can be an unrealistic option for quite a few
because of family commitments.
Acquiring knowledge is vital to personal and organisational
development. Yet staff are often in a constant struggle to keep up
to date with guidance, circulars, practice, legislation and policy
and frontline qualified staff may have a continuing professional
development (CPD) duty.
My organisation carried out a cost-benefit analysis looking at
the combined costs of attendance, transport, possible overnight
stay and staff time. This led to serious questions being asked
about conferences’ value.
While some conferences are news-breakers, or launch new
products, tools and protocols, only a few have high learning
content. The analysis also considered which conferences are
relevant to the goals of the organisation, which provide good
practice tools or processes for the service and which lead to
outcomes agreed with service users.
All staff within my team are offered a personal learning style
audit. Conducting such an audit with staff as part of their
induction plan allows better targeting of learning resources. This
has led to a set of alternative suggestions:
- A CPD agreed practice of using two hours a week as personal
learning time to enable reading, internet surfing, good practice
and policy reading.
- Fostering information exchange such as team reading lists,
service libraries with videos, audiotapes, e-mailing material or
the use of interactive websites.
- Timetabling consultant briefings; some consultancies provide
summaries of key issues, legislative changes or updates on policy
or good practice activity.
- Conference TV or webcasts are beginning to offer technological
solutions to learning need. Apart from networking benefits, the
principal product of conferences today is, realistically, the
ubiquitous handouts from PowerPoint presentations; we expect
conference attendees to talk them through with their
- The PowerPoint PC programme allows audio so creating a
commentary or real-time recording of virtual presentations is
- A most valuable aspect of good conferences is the buzz and
exchange in workshops, seminars, discussion groups, and question
and answer sessions with experts.
- The 21st century will see rapid learning and teaching process
changes. If social care prepares itself to be at the forefront of
these developments and grasps the opportunities, the advantages may
Meic Phillips is assistant director of EPIC Trust, a
care and support provider in London.