It is not fake news that there are fake conferences being announced. They can assume a name connection with larger organisations to lure a large group of gullible academics and students who are looking for short cuts to speak at international conferences or have their dissertations published at such conferences. Predatory in nature, such illegitimate conferences are created purely for profit and are jeopardising attendance and performance of legitimate ones.
Noor Ahmad Hamid, regional director Asia Pacific of ICCA, who spoke at the recent Union of International Associations (UIA) Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, warned the industry to beware of predatory conferences. They offer poor quality content, the lack of quality camouflaged by glitzy websites that imitate genuine, credible conferences, thus duping unsuspecting delegates to pay registration fees.
While ICCA had come across various ‘questionable conferences’ by dubious organisers and had alerted its members, Hamid observed that there is no authoritative body to monitor predatory conferences and therefore scant information is available to assess how extensive their impact is. Some tips to identify such fake conferences are to check missing contact information or several conferences scheduled on the same date in various locations. Standard, basic information is often missing on the event websites.
Jeffers Miruka, president of the African Society of Association Executives, said: “The minute the organisers knew that they had been discovered, they shut down their operations. However, organisers of the legitimate conference were affected. The turn-out at their conference was poor as damage had already been done.” One such agriculture conference scheduled in July this year had a website very similar to the legitimate conference but used a different URL and venue. Registration fees were also collected from interested parties. Miruka added that such conferences have poor quality presentations and people who pay to attend such conferences are disappointed.
Cyril Ritchie, UIA president, stated that he had received invitations to attend UN Conferences in the past but the email return addresses were never an official one.
In a competitive world of large conventions and conferences and the constant endeavour to retain the loyalty of attendees as well as attracting new delegates, the meetings industry is likely to be adversely affected if the rot is not stemmed soon. The large associations, the UN, industry-specific bodies, as well as ICCA, SITE, IAPCO and others with similar resources and member bases, must spread the awareness among members as well as the academic, research and trade community, about the incidence of such pretenders and to outline check lists to identify ways and means of spotting the fake conference announcement.
Countries may also look at regulatory procedure of meetings, especially those that are maiden ventures. Venues may be asked to gather more detailed information about the organisers and also be vigilant if their venues have been announced without any RFP being processed by them.
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