conference congress simposium

Congress, seminar, symposium, one-day event…Who is who and differences between them

Congress, convention, conference, seminar,symposium… many of these terms often come up in our day to day vocabulary, yet few people know exactly who is who in events tourism.

We have therefore decided to produce this brief guide or glossary of terms related with the world of MICE, as although they may sound the same, there are considerable differences between terms such as congress or seminar, congress or convention, so in the following lines we are going to take a look at each one of them.  

Picture: Mikael Kristenson en Unsplash

What is a congress?

A congress is a meeting bewteen members of a group, usually a professional one, arriving from different places in order to debate and present matters relating to their activity. The word “congress” is usually associated with a periodic event, although it is true that such a description  is not a necessary condition, but it is a very common one.   

What is a seminar?

A seminar is a closed meeting with the focus on a particular field of study of an academic nature.It involves therefore, a previously decided area of study where two clearly defined roles exist: the role of specialist whose function is that of the educator and a lay public in the subject whose role is that of learner.  

What is the difference between a seminar and a congress?

A seminar is a specialised meeting where one of the parties has superior knowledge of a subject than the other, who attends in order to learn. A congress is, however, a meeting of equals belonging to a professional group.  

Let us move on and add a further element to the map. We are going to talk about the symposium.

What is a symposium? 

A symposium is an occasional event where a group of experts present and develop a specific topic before a public audience. This group of experts expounds their proposal as a series of brief talks or presentations which as a whole form part of a global theme.

What is the difference between a symposium and a congress?

To begin with, the symposium is a single event, in one place and only on one date; the congress is generally held sporadically and more often than not annually. 

In addition, the symposium always addresses a single particular matter over a series of talks, while the congress may address various topics following a common thread which is the professional activity of the attendees.

What is the difference between a symposuim and a seminar?

As far as the symposium is concerned, the speakers demonstrate their expertise to a public which does not necessarily belong to their sector but who may, in one way or another, be interested in acquiring that knowledge. The seminar, however, is not only a small-scale private act but also one where the audience intends to acquire the knowledge imparted there in order to offer it as a service at a later date. 

Let us now add another element : the one-day event

What is a one-day event?

A one-day event  is a period of time ( a day or several- multi-day ) which includes the presentation and celebration of various activities such as seminars, symposiums, leisure or gastronomic activities…

A wide range of activities can be included in a one-day event but they must be united by a common thread, usually connected to the professional activity or interests of the visitors.

What is the difference between a symposium,congress and a one-day event?

The one-day event is a collection of activities which may contain symposiums and even congresses. These two are individual acts within a main central act, the one-day event, which encompasses everything.    

Let us now add a further element: the conference.

What is a conference?

A conference is an occasional event where one or two speakers deliver a public dissertation on a particular subject, usually connected with a professional area. Alternatively, it may also refer to a large scale occasional meeting of a professional group to debate a specific matter. 

What is the difference between a symposium and a conference?

When we speak of a public dissertation, there is little difference between a symposium and a conference. The symposium may be directed to a public which generally does not belong to a professional sector, but who may however find the information which is offered to be useful.  

As far as the conference is concerned, it is usually associated with a homogenous professional group with reference to both the speakers and the attendees.

The difference between conference, congress and seminar

If a conference and a congress are meetings of professionals from the same sector where subjects related with their professional activity are dealt with, then the conference would be of an occasional nature whereas the congress is periodic. 

Moreover, of these three, only one, the seminar, has a didactic purpose where one of the parties acts as tutor and the other as learner. Both the conference and the congress alike assume that the attendees belong to the same professional group, therefore presupposing a meeting of colleagues on an equal footing.  

Let us now add another variable : The convention.

What is a convention?

A convention is an occasional meeting and generally of a private nature in which there is a clear definition of attainable goals for the attendees. That is to say, the information shared here is not the objective  but rather the necessary element to reach a greater end, which may be for example coming to an agreement on a particular matter or taking a joint decision.    

What is the difference between a convention and a congress ?

Both involve meetings of a common collective, such as a professional group. However, the purpose of the convention is to reach a common previously stated goal which therefore determines the success of the same. A congress,on the other hand, is only a round table where valuable information is shared. 

So there we have it, if you had doubts about the differences between all these activities which until now appeared to be synonymous, (conference, one-day event, convention, congress…)  now you can recognise the differences between each of them when you are planning your corporate event.