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The value of OHS conferences and trade shows Featured

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The value of OHS conferences and trade shows

In May 2024, the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) held its national conference in Melbourne. Day One consisted of two long seminars; Two and Three had the more traditional speaker/lecture format. Coinciding, and with a dotted commercial connection to the conference, was a trade show and exhibition, the Work Health and Safety Show. Both events had guest speakers, but one required a paid ticket and the other did not. What also distinguished each was that the conference selects its speakers through a mix of referrals, research, networking and speaker bureaus. The trade show primarily used exhibitors with some invited guests.

From what I saw, several of the psychosocial hazards sessions in the trade show had hundreds of attendees, with many standing in the aisles. The conference had around 500 delegates and one session directly on managing psychosocial hazards. I felt bad for the AIHS until an organisational psychology colleague at the trade show pointed out to me that some of the information provided there was outdated and incorrect.

Another difference between the two events was the quality control of the conference. The trade show offered opportunities to talk, present and promote, but that’s all it did. The conference was more cautious, and it is fair to take its information as more valid, because it selected its speakers.

The conference speakers were not all perfect. One I saw was atrocious and totally misread the audience. Some, as is a perennial risk with OHS conferences, were overly commercial and promotional even though the content was authoritative and valid.

So, which event offered more value? It is an unfair comparison, probably. Previous conferences have offered a much greater range of speakers, topics and themes. In some ways, the AIHS conference was a shell of its former, pre-covid self, but that seems to be the circumstance for all contemporary conferences. The Trade Show exposed a few new products, although apps and software seemed to dominate the exhibitors. If you needed OHS software, the trade show was good, but if your business is already locked into a software product, many exhibitors were irrelevant. The Trade Show speakers were okay within their own context. One panel on the construction industry and mental health with Professor Helen Lingard was very good. Lingard expanded on the research behind the topic much more in the conference.

The information provided during the conference was much more authoritative, with some speakers sparkling. I found Tanya Pelja of BGIS excellent. She presented several OHS initiatives that are only just starting in many Australian companies. She told us what worked for them.

If you can afford it, OHS conferences can offer good content. Trade Shows can offer new OHS things, gadgets and apps. A balance is available, but you must maintain scepticism and critical thinking in both event types.

 

Kevin Jones https://safetyatworkblog.com/

Read 150 times Last modified on Tuesday, 04 June 2024 06:06
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