How to plan a successful event conference

Symposium Vs. Conference - What’s the Difference?

Learn the difference between a symposium and a conference and how to plan them! Based on your event goals, you can plan the correct event for your company.
November 23, 2022

Symposiums and conferences can often be interchanged when talking about an educational and informational event. However, there are a few key differences between the two, and this guide will help you choose the correct format for your company and your event goals!

What Is A Conference?

Conferences are events typically on the larger size that cover a wide array of topics spanning over the course of a few days. Multiple themes and/or topics can be discussed, and because these topics can be so broad, conference organizers can create sessions held within the larger conference. Sessions held within the conference may include panels, workshops and presentations. The presenters for a conference can be multiple people, who have done extensive research on the information they are presenting.

What Is A Symposium?

In contrast to a conference, a symposium is smaller in size and is held over the course of just one day. All of the attendees are placed in one room or a lecture hall, while the presenters show their data. Symposiums also allow an exchange of thoughts and ideas between both presenters and attendees. Symposiums usually tend to focus on one central topic, as opposed to several general topics. The presenters during a symposium are usually experts in their field, and it may be only one person presenting throughout the course of the day.

Differences Between a Symposium & a Conference

While conferences and symposiums may seem similar on paper, there are some main differences that set them apart! Below are some key points that show the differences between a symposium and a conference. 


  • <span class="mid-size-title">Features</span>

As discussed above, symposiums tend to focus on one main topic to discuss over the day, rather than several topics. Symposiums are usually less formal than a conference, which opens the door for more discussion between attendees and the symposium host. More conversation eventually leads to more learning for everyone! The presenters are experts in their field, as they present their data, findings and published papers. 

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Organizing</span>

When it comes to organizing a symposium, you should follow a checklist in order to create a successful event! The first step would be to select your topic. What do you want your guests to learn about, and what do you want your presenters to share? There may be a group of presenters that have a new paper published or they may have new data to present. If this is the case, you can plan your symposium around those topics. From there, you will know exactly which presenters to invite! Next, consider your event budget. This will help event planners have a clear picture on how much to spend on the symposium. The next step is to draft a day-of-event timeline, adding in all breaks and networking opportunities. Once all of this is completed, you can then start to send out your invitations to your guests! Once the event is done, you can then send out thank yous and post-event surveys. Collecting data from the post-event surveys helps event organizers plan for future events and know what worked within the event and what didn’t work.

  •  <span class="mid-size-title">Size</span>

Typically, symposiums are much smaller than a conference. Smaller groups of people come together to learn about a certain topic, as opposed to a conference which can host hundreds of people. Fewer guests allow for an exchange of ideas, thoughts or even concerns between attendees and symposium presenters. If time allows, everyone who attends the symposium can have a chance to speak if they wish. If one of your event goals is to interact with your audience, then choosing a symposium would be the best event to choose.

Determining event size for a symposium
  • <span class="mid-size-title">Scope</span>

A symposium has a narrow focus on one topic, and the presenters are experts on that topic. Presenters may have done extensive research, searched through data or even wrote papers on the topic at hand! Once the presentations are completed, then the event can switch gears and turn into a panel discussion. Attendees can ask any questions they might have about the topic, and they may learn even more information. This is the best way for guests to learn about the topic while in the presence of the experts. At the end of the presentation, there should be time left for networking. Networking connects guests with one another who might not ordinarily get to connect with one another.

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Submissions</span>

Submissions for a symposium are done as a collective effort by the presenters. From there, the submissions get reviewed by a group of peers. The final step is to present these submissions to the group. 

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Duration</span>

The duration of a symposium usually lasts one day. It can begin in the morning, usually breaking for lunch in the middle of the day. As the day draws to a close, be sure to add time for networking. Once the networking time is over, the symposium can come to a close with some closing remarks from both the symposium presenters and event organizers.


  • <span class="mid-size-title">Features</span>

Conferences are broader in focus, as there are several topics that are discussed within a conference. There may even be multiple themes covered. Conferences are much larger than symposiums and span over the course of a few days. Conferences are more formal than symposiums, therefore there is no input or discussion from the attendees. There are many more people that can attend a conference, and they might even have an opportunity to be split up into smaller groups and have a smaller group discussion! 

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Organizing</span>

When it comes to organizing for a conference, you can closely follow the organizing strategy of a symposium! First, start by planning your conference strategy. Event organizers need to decide how many days the conference will be, how many speakers there will be and how many topics they will be covering. From there, you can then decide who your guest speakers will be. Once you have the guest speakers and the topics secured, you can then begin to formulate the guest list. Depending on the number of guests you are inviting, your venue should reflect that. You don’t want to choose a venue that is too small nor too big. As the conference draws closer, you will want to create a day-of event agenda. The agenda, especially because of the size of the event, will keep everyone organized on track! If you choose to, you can create a conference website which can be where guests register and RSVP for the event, as well as provide a countdown to the conference. This will help create a sense of urgency for guests to register or buy tickets. From there, you can then send out invitations, and once the event is over, you can send out thank you notes and post-event surveys. The surveys will help event organizers collect feedback in order to help create any future events.

How to organize an event symposium
  • <span class="mid-size-title">Size</span>

Conferences are much larger than a symposium and can host hundreds of guests. Conferences can be held either in-person or virtually, and if the conference is virtual, you have the ability to host even more guests! 

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Scope</span>

Conferences have a much broader focus, with presenters speaking about a multitude of subjects! Because there are so many guests who can attend a conference, you also have the ability to break up into smaller groups. These sessions can be mini panels, breakout rooms or Q&A sessions. This allows guests to ask any questions or learn even more about the subjects at hand. They can also work together to brainstorm any new ideas that once the big group reconvenes, they can share those ideas with everyone. 

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Submissions</span>

When it comes to submissions, conference presenters can submit their findings on an individual basis. They can then be reviewed in isolation by a team of experts. Once the submissions have been submitted and reviewed, then the presenters can present their findings to the group of attendees!

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Duration</span>

A conference, as mentioned above, is much longer than a symposium. Conferences have the ability to last for days, as opposed to a symposium which is only a one day event. 

Similarities Between A Symposium And A Conference

Symposiums and conferences, while they are different, they do have a few similarities! Both of them are gatherings of people and they are designed to present information to the attendees. Both types of events are scholarly in nature, with the attendees taking something away when the event is over. There are people who present information to the group, whether they are experts on the subject or not. Both symposiums and conferences should have time for networking, as you never know who you might make a connection with! 

How To Network At A Symposium Or A Conference

How to network at an event conference

Both symposiums and conferences should have a time for networking, as it is the best way to make connections for both your personal and professional life! In order to have a successful networking session, keep these tips in mind:

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Have Goals Set In Place</span>

As you enter the symposium or conference, you should have both personal and professional goals in mind. When it comes to networking, you should try to set a goal to meet a certain amount of new people. The number doesn’t have to be large, but you should be putting yourself out there to meet new people. The connections you make at these events can help you in both your personal and professional life. At the end of the event, you should have met your goal of new people you wanted to meet. Be sure you don’t spend too much time talking to one person; while the conversation might be great, spreading yourself out and making connections is the main idea of the networking time. 

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Go Prepared</span>

Networking is all about connecting and meeting new people, and you want to keep those connections long after the event is over. By coming to the networking time prepared, you can be sure that you will be able to keep in touch with everyone you meet! By having business cards or immediate access to your LinkedIn page, you can connect immediately with whoever you’re speaking to. Also, the use of name tags is helpful for everyone, as you can put your name as well as the company you work for, which makes it easy to introduce yourself!

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Be Approachable</span>

While networking can be a little nerve wracking, being approachable and friendly will take you far! Try to avoid using your phone too much, as it makes you look busy or uninterested in what is happening around you. If you see someone standing alone, take the initiative to walk up to them and strike up a conversation. You never know who that person may be and the connections you can receive from talking to them!

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Be Ready With Conversation Starters</span>

Sometimes, by no fault of anybody, the conversation seems to get stuck. You’ve talked about your name, what you do and where you live. However, once those conversations are done, you may not know where to go from there. Some questions to ask may include “What are you hoping to get out of this conference or symposium?” or “What speakers are you looking forward to the most?” These questions allow you to get a better insight into who you’re talking to and what they are looking to take away from the event.

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Use Social Media</span>

While you’re at the conference or symposium, use social media to your advantage! You can tweet using an event hashtag to gain exposure. You can also post any pictures you took, using the hashtag, as well as tag any people you may have met. You can also post any positive feedback about the event to your own social media and have all of your friends and followers see what you have to say about the event.

  • <span class="mid-size-title">Follow Up With New Connections</span>

There’s a chance you may meet many new people at your conference or symposium. If this happens to you, that’s great. You made connections with new people and now comes the time to stay connected with them. Once the event is over, whichever way you connect with people, send them a follow up message. Be sure to thank them for taking the time to talk with you at the event, and let them know they can reach out any time if there is anything you can do for them.

<span class="mid-size-title">Conclusion</span>

Whether you choose to host a symposium or a conference, your attendees are going to benefit from the information passed along to them! Based on your event goals, you may want your presenters to interact with the attendees, and the guest list might be smaller. If this is the case, a symposium would be the event to host. If there are too many topics you wish to cover in just one day, then hosting a multi-day conference is the way to go. Whatever event you choose, your presenters and your attendees will receive the information needed to have a successful event. The networking that can be done at a symposium or a conference can bring connections that will last a lifetime.


Hubilo is the event professional’s event platform for live, hybrid, and virtual events. Founded over 5 years ago to revolutionize engagement at in-person events, the company makes it easy to bring people together anywhere, anytime. Hubilo’s powerful engagement features, personal client experience team, and custom branding tools have helped create over 12K events and counting. Headquartered in Bangalore and San Francisco, Hubilo’s nearly 400 employees are dedicated to co-creating the world’s most important events: yours.

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