To me, this type of conference, like IPSERA, are far better value for money in terms of learning than the more traditional commercial conferences. They provide a somewhat unique mix of academics and practitioners who want to understand what is really happening in procurement and perceived best practice, there is much more depth in the sessions and rarely 'selling'.
If you've been carrying out any research, the conferences are a great opportunity to share what you've found out and have constructive critique (you could of course consider submitting a copy of your potential paper for me if you would like to have it considered in the Procurement themed special edition of Public Money and Management). If you're a practitioner you have a platform for showcasing what you've been trying and gain the benefit of constructive suggestions. Of course delivering a paper isn't necessary - you can learn masses as a delegate. Personally I find the real benefit lies in the discussion which take place following the delivery of each paper.
As I said, it is a few years since I've been able to attend one of these conferences, however, based on my experience (which may be out of date), I think organisers can improve the effectiveness of the conferences if they:
- Post online the abstracts and programme in sufficient time for delegates to best plan their time;
- Give the option of soft and hard copies of papers to delegates;
- Provide access to conference papers well in advance of the conference so that delegates have the choice of reading and digesting the papers;
- Make wider use of Twitter as conversations and even posting questions which arise from pre-reading papers, prior to the conference;
- Provide an opportunity for remote participation, say through Google Hangouts and webinars;
- Make use of YouTube for the selected dissemination of some of the sessions.
I don't know whether or not I will be able to attend but at least we've a year's notice.
Good luck to Paul Davis and the conference organisers.