Events finding their audience, or the other way around?

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Just a few weeks back, the University of Turku was celebrating 80 years of Faculty of Medicine through various events and seminars. Coincidentally on the same week landed also a separate event titled ‘The need for competence is growing – where can we find Experts?’. The specified target audience for it was ‘the University community and strategic partners’. Out of interest I ended up going, and noticed something that inspired this blog post. 

The event was basically a discussion forum, where the discourse was built around the challenges and opportunities of matching university education to the interests of partners and companies looking for fresh hires. In other words, what is being, should or could be done to facilitate the employment of the graduating university students outside of the default option of academia. 

Great discussions, but something was missing…

The discussion was refreshingly honest and straight, with the industrial partner representatives explaining their interests and wishes in simple and straightforward terms. The university side responded accordingly, either by reminding of an already existing channels where applicable, or acknowledging the room for improvement where not. All in all, many interesting viewpoints were raised and a lot of practical advice shared, especially for those currently considering their options past approaching dissertation. 

However, there was one notable point of improvement for the event itself. As one of my colleagues put it during our conversation: ‘Good event, except that the people that really should be here are missing.’ Based on the description before it should be obvious this was in reference to the students, aka the future Experts.

I spotted very few students among the audience, even though they would be the ones to clearly benefit the most from the discussion. After all, this was a chance to hear how to get employed by an industrial or governmental entity, explained representatives of said entities directly. TYY had their representative present, which was excellent, but otherwise the relative lack of youngsters was unfortunate. 

Keeping an open mind

Roughly a year ago I wrote a blog about spontaneous networking and its benefits, which I was again reminded of by this occurrence. However, my intent is not to reprimand anybody for not being there. It wasn’t entirely obvious in advance where the main focus of the discussions would be, which I was fairly surprised by. Much about the event’s description didn’t exactly cater to students either, so I definitely don’t blame anyone else for not realizing this either.

Additionally, academic student and researcher life is already chock-full of seminars, events, lectures, and other gatherings, so pruning out those that don’t seem particularly pressing to oneself is not only natural but necessary. Instead, what I wish with this blog post is to remind of the importance of keeping an open mind during the aforementioned pruning.

It’s hard to judge the contents of a discussion in advance, especially when the background and forum are also variables. Sometimes it might be worth the effort to check out even those events that might not catch your attention at first. At best you might learn something important or meet just the person you needed to, even if you didn’t know it yet. At worst you helped show that there’s interest in the topic, maybe helping the event to get a repeat later and give somebody else that chance down the line. 

Sampo Koivunen

Research coordinator