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Annual Meeting Session Attendance Data Offers Some Surprises

Wednesday, June 14, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jesse A. Fivecoate
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Most AFS annual meeting regulars—staff and attendees alike—have theories about how scheduling impacts attendance at sessions. Last year, at the 2016 AFS/ISFNR Joint Meeting in Miami, we systematically collected session attendance data for the first time. The results may surprise you:

Average audiences are small across the board: The average audience overall was 17; 78% of sessions had smaller-than-average audiences; only 4 of 153 sessions had more than 40 people in attendance.

Time of day affects audience size, but not as much as, or in the way that, you might expect: Average attendance was lowest in the 8:00 am sessions at 15, but it was 17 at 2:00 pm sessions, and 19 at 10:15 am sessions. One of the largest audiences of the 2016 meeting was for an 8:00 am session.

Average attendance generally holds steady throughout the meeting: Though Thursday was better attended than any other day, the time slot with the highest average attendance was actually on Wednesday, and Saturday’s best-attended slot exceeded Friday afternoon’s.

Annual meeting sessions are not the biggest annual meeting attraction: The total attendance in sessions at any given time ranged from 25% to 47% of the total number of people registered for the meeting. In other words, at any given time more than half—and sometimes as many as three-quarters—of annual meeting registrants were not in sessions.

The primary reason that we don’t see this as a problem is because you tell us that you don’t. In the post-annual meeting surveys that we conduct each year, attendees report very high levels of overall satisfaction with the meeting, including its size and scope.

A significant part of that satisfaction comes from the opportunities the meeting offers them to take care of many kinds of professional (and personal) business at once, in addition to making or listening to program presentations: touching base with former colleagues or meeting new ones, investigating and buying new books in the field, interviewing or being interviewed for a variety of academic and public job opportunities, pitching a book idea to a publisher, having lunch with a prospective student or a new acquaintance, or exploring what our host city has to offer.

So in this respect at least, though we will always work to improve our annual meeting, it appears to be doing well what it is designed to do.


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