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Conferences, Workshops, and Retreats

Conferences, workshops, and retreats are special meetings to inform people and solicit input on specific policy issues, plans, or projects. In size and importance, they range from a subset of a larger meeting to a large multi-day event. Conferences, workshops, and retreats are special meetings to inform people and solicit input on specific policy issues, plans, or projects. In size and importance, they range from a subset of a larger meeting to a large multi-day event.

A conference is a highly-structured program of presentations and discussions. Conferences usually have an overall theme, with multiple related sessions throughout the day. They can have presentations or panel discussions followed by questions. Top officials or panels of recognized experts help boost interest in attendance. Conferences often have plenary sessions attended by all participants, followed by breakout sessions on various elements. Conferences are as short as half a day or as long as three days. The Kansas and Pennsylvania DOTs held all-day conferences on their long-range statewide transportation plans. Workshops dealt with specific issues of the plans.

A workshop is a task-oriented meeting organized around a particular topic or activity. Typically, it involves a relatively small group (20οΎ–40) and addresses aspects of a narrowly-defined topic. Workshops are usually one to three hours in duration for small groups to work on specific agenda. Because they are relatively short and task-focused, workshops can be part of a larger meeting, conference, or retreat. The Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Planning Commission includes workshops at the beginning of every meeting to provide information and discussion on specific topics to be handled later in the meeting.

Retreats are workshops held in non-traditional settings without distractions. A retreat is especially useful to work on personal conflict resolution and communication. Participants give their undivided attention to specific issues without interruptions for phone calls or everyday distractions. Like workshops, retreats are typically task-oriented and work on focused topics. Because of the complexity of an issue or topic, a retreat may require one full day and sometimes longer.

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More Information: www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/pittd/confwksp.htm



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