A conference is a meeting of two or more experts to discuss and exchange opinions or new information about a particular topic.
Conferences can be used as a form of group decision-making, although discussion, not always decisions, are the main purpose of conferences.
The first known use of "conference" appears in 1527, meaning "a meeting of two or more persons for discussing matters of common concern". It came from the word "confer", which means "to compare views or take counsel". However the idea of a conference far predates the word. Arguably, as long as there have been people, there have been meetings and discussions between people. Evidence of ancient forms of conference can be seen in archaeological ruins of common areas where people would gather to discuss shared interests such as "hunting plans, wartime activities, negotiations for peace or the organisation of tribal celebrations".
Since the 1960s, conferences have become a lucrative sector of the tourism industry and have evolved into hundred billion Pound per year industry on a global scale. The growth around the world, including in Great Britain, Germany, Philippines, United States and Australia, has led to conferences themselves becoming an industry with buyers, suppliers, marketing, branding and conference facilities.
Modern conferences can be held to discuss a variety of topics, from politics, to science or sport. Many conferences are held on a regular periodic basis, such as annually, biannually (twice per year), or biennially (every other year).
With the development of communications technology, conference holders have the choice of replacing the physical meeting space with a telephonic or virtual form of meeting. This has resulted in terms such as a conference call or video conference.
Conferences can have various formats, topics and intentions.