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More than Just an Event - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Conferences, forums, seminars, and workshops are no longer special events but have now become an integrated industry with their own stars, criteria, and marketing tools. Such events have become a milestone and an important source of value, being described as first-rate events. Observers can see that today Saudi Arabia is a very attractive venue for specialist and public conferences that attract elite speakers from different countries and various fields to the extent that such events are now being held throughout the year attracting large turnouts. Perhaps one of the signs of the considerable change that has taken place in Saudi Arabia is the development of these conferences in terms of quality, quantity, and attendance, as well as in the public acceptance and acclimatization to them. Everybody still remembers the controversy that would arise whenever the Jeddah Economic Forum would meet; this Forum was the first organization to invite world class speakers [to Saudi Arabia] to discuss internationally important issues, inviting speakers of both sexes to address mixed audiences in a striking and modern manner, and this was thanks to all those who engaged in dialogue, debate, protest and objection.

Today the Jeddah Forum has become something normal, and this is evident in the fact that attendance of such events have become normal, and therefore the discussion of critical topics and the attendance of political and economical speakers including women – whether they are Saudi Arabian, Arab, Western or Asian – appearing on the podium and in front of mixed audiences during medical, economic, educational or other conferences is something that has become normal, contrary to Forums held in the past.

Society’s ability to accept change and adapt is connected to the repetition of an event until it becomes part and parcel of everybody’s daily life. This challenge previously existed with regards to girls’ education as well as the issue of broadcast television. Girls’ education was discussed by the Ministry of Education, and following this the issue of judicial reform was [the challenge], and most recently the issue of [gender] mixing in general.

Conferences are a means of attracting and promoting ideas and initiatives, as well as developing economic communication and promoting the climate of creativity. However all of this is conditional upon the availability of preconditions for this success, such as halls, hotels, entry visas, facilities, competitive prices, sponsors, and adequate funding.

All of this, as well as other elements, contribute to making such events extremely effective and attractive, as well as securing valuable outcomes. They can serve as launch pads for many projects and ideas, thereby securing new investment and job opportunities instead of these events remaining promotional facades where people gather for two or three days to meet and then depart [without achieving anything].

This in itself shows the difference between an ordinary event and an exceptional one. Successful hosts of such events like Britain, Germany, the US, Singapore, India, and China transform their events into cultural, financial, and even media attractions, and these are of great value to their countries, bringing undeniable success.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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