The Positive Effects of Attending International Conferences in Person


Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, many companies started using the web meeting and shifted to keep using it as a regular meeting. It has a great advantage on the hosting side especially when the number of participants is large because there is no need to secure a place. As a participant, it is also a great advantage to be able to participate easily in the case of external meetings without incurring travel time or transportation costs. In a survey conducted in February 2024, nearly half of respondents answered that they prefer the web conference rather than face to face.

If this trend continues, you may think that all meetings will be in the web-based format in the future. However, holding international conferences in a web-based format is not as an option as it is for important conferences. This is because many people understand that it makes sense to conduct meetings face-to-face. If it is only a consultation meeting, it is quite conceivable to hold it in a web format. On the other hand, if the conference involves a decision or negotiation, it is common to conduct it face-to-face unless it is clear that an agreement will be reached at the time of the meeting. While about half of the respondents prefer web conferences, a high percentage of respondents feel it inconvenient.

Humans have the ability to communicate nonverbally, and words are not the only way to convey thoughts, as described in the book “Nonverbal Communication” by Marjorie F. Vagas, written in 1987. After reading this book, you will understand from what aspects it is effective to hold international conferences face-to-face. At the same time, this is also the biggest weakness of web conferences, so I would like to touch on some of the movements, vivid eyes, and silence that can be seen when the person you are talking to loses interest written in this book.

First of all, let’s imagine that you are interacting with an outside person in the course of your work. At this time, if the person holding the pen starts to spin the pen, worry about the clock, or shake the needy, you will understand that the he is not satisfied with the content of the conversation even if you do not say any words.

Next, regarding the vivid eyes, if you stare someone for a long time, you can attract her or you can defeat the other person by glaring. Also, depending on how much you can stare at the other person when you have a conversation, you can imagine the other person’s personality without words. In general, the longer the frequency and duration, the more extroverted the person is, and the opposite is said to be an introvert.

Lastly, regarding silence, you can sense the psychological state of the other party by taking a pause, such as during negotiations. Silence has a meaning in itself, whether it’s just discouragement, seeking a solution from you, or encouraging you to move on to the next topic. While imagining how we got there and the ideals that the other party in the negotiation would have in mind, we may deliberately remain silent and engage in nonverbal communication.

When you talk to someone face-to-face or are present, you can observe their movements, gaze, and breathing, which allows them to communicate nonverbally. On a political level, it is important to be able to communicate well in this nonverbal manner when holding important meetings and negotiations with foreign countries. In addition to the fact that they do not understand each other’s language, it is precisely because they intend to connect with each other for the benefit of their own countries that they are required to use their whole body to express themselves and negotiate.

Our research institute participated in the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held from the end of October to the beginning of November last year (2023). The first international conference was held in 1995, and at that time more than 150 countries had already participated, and since that time there has been a need for measures at the national level to address climate change. As climate change becomes more serious with each passing year, the number of countries participating in the COP has increased, and last year 197 countries gathered on the ground. At an international conference of this size, only one member of the country has the right to speak, and no other audience member is directly involved in the development of a new treaty. Even so, the reason for actually going to the venue is that the amount of information that can be obtained there is overwhelming. Last year’s COP was extended by one day, but I think that those who actually were actually at the site could have guessed it to some extent just by the atmosphere. If you just listened to the meeting online, you would not see the large number of people demonstrating outside the venue, and it would be difficult to sense the silence in the hall, the volume of the applause, and the tone of the speakers’ voices. In addition to grasping the situation on the ground, it is also possible to interact with participants at international conferences by visiting the site. You may interact with people who are interested in the same topic but have different opinions that you may not hear in your own country, which broadens your perspective and knowledge. At the COP, despite the fact that our research institute is a small organization, its activities are based on innovative ideas that differ from general opinions, and the chairman praised it. This is one of the best examples that was obtained by visiting the venue in person.

Pax Japonica, which is an activity of our research organization, reports on its activities to its sister organization, IISIA, once a quarter. In the past, there have been online activities, but we have heard that it is better to explain face-to-face.

We would like to participate in international conferences face-to-face and fully enjoy the benefits that can be obtained by attending them, and we would like to make more people aware of our activities by providing information through seminars from our research organization.

Thank you for reading,

Yuki Kondo