I'm a student about to start my master studies and I'm starting to have opportunities to take part in a symposium and a conference.

I have an accepted article at the conference and was therefore allowed to register for the conference. This involved paying (not on me) the registration fee etc.

I don't have an article for the symposium but the symposium interests me a lot. The chairs offered student support i.e. (partially) waive the registration fee for some students even if the student doesn't have an accepted article (although preference is given to those that do).

It turns out I wasn't granted this support. However, I'm still allowed to attend the talks without registering.

So, if I don't need to be registered to attend talks: what does it exactly mean to be registered for a symposium and/or conference? From which activities am I excluded by not registering and for which ones am I not excluded?

The symposium is abroad but I will be there around that time by coincidence. Is it worth staying there for a couple of extra days considering the activities I'm eligible for?

  • Have you tried asking the organizers?
    – Superbest
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 17:23
  • I could but it shows that I don't really know (i.e. don't have experience) what a symposium is.
    – Auberon
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 17:26
  • @Superbest are you implying that the ex-/included activities are specific to the meeting instead of fixed for each meeting as I imply in my question? Is this a common practice or might they be granting me a favor?
    – Auberon
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 17:37
  • 1
    There must be someone organizing this symposium, and they must have decided among themselves what activities there will be and who can attend them. You would get a much better answer by emailing them (or the help/questions email provided on the symposium's website), since it is their job to clarify these things. Otherwise, users of this site can only guess and tell you generalities - every event has its own rules, and the rules are the final word regardless of common practice.
    – Superbest
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


The terms "conference", "workshop", "symposium" might have specific meanings in some specific contexts, but in generall, they are rather interchangeable terms.

Registration fees are typically intended to cover the cost of the conference, and maybe to make some profit for the organization running it. In any case, part of the fee will cover the costs directly attributed to the person attending, and other parts go towards general costs.

Even if one is not causing any specific costs, it is often frowned upon to attend any part of a conference without being registered, unless this has been cleared with the organizers.

In your case, this happened, and the question is what exactly you might attend. The rule of thumb is that if there is a cost-component per delegate, stay away from it: Coffee breaks, lunch, conference dinner, conference excursion would be typical examples. Also, do not take a conference bag.

For most conferences, the rest will be talks (in various incarnations), and maybe poster sessions. If you find something else on the schedule, you should ask the conference organizers directly.

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