conferences vs meetings

Conference vs Meeting: What’s the Difference?

Choosing an event type can make or break the experience. Learn the key differences & information to know when it comes to conferences vs meetings.
April 10, 2023

Both meetings and conferences are gatherings of guests, who are all in attendance to receive new information, share thoughts and ideas, as well as network with each other! Meetings and conferences can have a topic that is the main talking point of the event, and in which guests will typically have a shared interest. There are a few aspects between a meeting and conference that can make them different, and we’re going to explore those differences in this guide!

What is a conference? 

A professional conference is a more formal gathering of guests, with the main idea focused on discussion, thought sharing and networking. Conferences usually have a larger number of guests, so they are held in conference rooms at hotels or right within your company building (if you have the room). Conferences, depending on the topic, may have guests from different companies or organizations that are attending, so you can have the opportunity to meet all types of new people! Conferences are typically days long, with different topics being covered each day! Because of the length of a conference, they are planned months in advance, with guests being invited as soon as possible, so they are able to make travel arrangements.

What is a meeting? 

A professional meeting  is defined as a gathering of people to discuss any issue or a specific topic. For example, meetings can be as small as two people discussing a work performance, a book club session or even team building activities! Meetings are either in-person or virtually and are usually less formal than a conference, and are held in a casual setting. Meetings can sometimes be unplanned and called at the last minute. For example, there may be an issue that arises and an emergency meeting needs to be called. In comparison to a conference, meetings can last a few minutes to a few hours. Meetings are never day long-events, like a formal conference would be.

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Conferences vs meetings: A comparison 

There may be a few overlapping similarities between a conference and a meeting. This table will help you to better understand both types of events.

Basis For Comparison Conference Meeting
Definition Larger, more formal gathering of guests, exchange of ideas, shared interest in the topic of discussion, may be multiple topics, pre-planned Smaller gathering of guests, informal, specific purpose, address any issues at hand, may be pre-planned or not
Types Symposiums, round-table discussions, seminars, educational, scientific Problem solving, team building, consulting, informative
Examples Synthetic Bio-Based Therapies Summit - Boston, Massachusetts Addressing issues, team building, one-on-one, work performances, educational
Duration One day to a few days, occasionally even weeks A few minutes to hours, never days long
Aim Learn new skills, networking opportunities, share thoughts and ideas, healthy debates, present information Big event streams, TED Talks, music festivals gameplay
Origin From the French word “conférence” From the verbal noun “meet”
Scale Larger, hundreds of guests, several presenters Smaller, can be as small as one-on-one
Venue Hotels conference rooms, large rooms with a high guest capacity At home (virtually), offices, meeting rooms, cafeterias
Pre-Planning Mandatory May not be required

The 8 differences between conferences and meetings 

The differences between conferences and meetings are what truly set them apart from one another. Based on your event goals and what you hope to achieve from your event, you may feel more inclined to choose one event rather than the other. This section will explain the differences between the two and from there you can determine which event would work best for your company. 

1. Purpose


Meetings are less formal than conferences, and have a more laid back atmosphere. Meetings are designed to gather smaller groups of people, and can be used to plan tasks or discuss problems! Meetings are also for team building held either in-person or virtually and to update your team with any new procedures within the company. 


Conferences are larger gatherings of people who all have a shared interest in the topic at hand. Conferences are designed to have hundreds of people gathered at once, and must be planned in advance in order to run smoothly. Conferences can also bring along networking opportunities and set up for healthy debates between the attendees.

purpose of a meeting and a conference

2. Duration


Meetings are shorter in both days and time than conferences. Depending on what needs to be talked about during the meeting, the meeting can be as short as only a few minutes ! Meetings typically have an average run time of 30 minutes to an hour.


Conferences have a lot more to cover during the duration of the event. Therefore, the duration of a conference can last days! Conferences usually run between 1-3 days, with new topics being covered and discussed on each new day. On average, 72% of B2B marketers in the professional services industry host one-day conferences.

3. Scale


Meetings are smaller in scale, with usually less than 100 people attending the event. The room hosting the meeting can be on the smaller side, with tables and chairs for your guests. If the meeting is quick and casual, you may have your attendees standing while you explain the information leading the meeting.


Conferences are done on a much larger scale, with hundreds of attendees. The conference rooms are large, with enough room for everyone to spread out and have their own space. Tables and chairs should be provided, because the days are going to be long and informational.

4. Venue


Meetings can be held almost anywhere! If you have sensitive information that needs to be shared, choosing a private room would be best. If you need to have a lunch meeting with a colleague, then you can have your meeting right in your company cafeteria. Some people may still be working from home, so your meeting room will happen right within the employee’s home.


Conferences are usually held in conference rooms within hotels. These rooms are large, with enough rooms for tables and chairs. Conferences also may also require your guest to move around the room, so make sure that your guests have enough room to do so. Don’t forget any crucial conference materials, either! Communicate with your conference hosts that all items such as presentation materials, tv screens or microphones are provided.

5. Attendees


The attendees who join meetings are usually on the smaller side. Two people sitting and chatting about business is considered a meeting! There’s no true number of attendees to determine a meeting, it’s all about how many guests you need to communicate your information with.


Conferences can host a large number of guests, and even have several presenters! There may be different topics that are going to be covered during the conference, and you will want to have experts on the topic present to the guests. 

 attract attendees to your conference

6. Formality


Meetings are less formal than conferences, and can even have a more laid back and casual feel. Depending on the topic, your meeting can be slightly formal, but not as formal as a conference!


Conferences are more formal than meetings, as there may be people in attendance who you have never met before. This is a great way to meet new people, make a great first impression and make professional connections!

7. Agenda


Meetings can be called quickly and at the last minute, so there may not be an agenda. If your meeting is planned in advance, and you have many things to cover, you may want to create a meeting agenda. The meeting agenda helps the meeting host stay on track and cover every topic they need to!


Conferences, because of their size alone, are planned weeks or even months in advance. With the planning process, you should create a conference agenda. This agenda, like a meeting agenda, keeps everyone on track and focused, and will prevent you from forgetting anything.

8. Planning


Meetings can be arranged days before the event, or they can be called at the last minute. If your meeting is called last minute, there is no time to plan. If your meeting is not for a few days, you can plan your meeting in the way that works best for you!


Conferences take much planning, as the group of attendees is larger and the content is more in depth. You need to keep in mind that your guests are going to need breaks, refreshments and enough time to network with one another. The more planning you do for your conference, the smoother it will be!

how to plan a conference vs a meeting

Make every meeting and conference a success

Meetings and conferences are both types of events that your guests can learn and network themselves at! With 60% of business leaders believing that events are critical for company success, it’s important to choose the right type of event for your audience. Your event goals will determine which event to use: If you want to have a smaller, more intimate event, then you will want to host a meeting. If there is a call for an event of a certain topic, then you will want to choose a conference. Keep in mind that conferences need to be planned in advance and that planning takes time! Meetings can be called last minute, and they require no planning. Whichever type of event you choose, you can be sure your guests will leave the event with all of the important information you needed to relay to them.

Are you planning to organize a seminar or conference but struggling with the logistics? Let us help you! Hubilo's event platform can provide you with the tools and support you need to host a successful event. With our virtual, physical, and hybrid event options, you can be sure that your attendees will have a memorable experience. Contact us now to book a demo and see how we can assist you.

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