Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Wise and worldly readers, short of a visit from the money fairy, is there a better way to handle conference travel?
But more seriously, I am only posting to tell you that The Replacements are on Fallon tonight (and Keith Richards is a guest for us old folks). Catch it on demand with breakfast or the Tubes.
I've pretty much given up on going to conferences—their expense in time and money far exceeded their value. (I think that the last one I went to was 3 or 4 years ago.)
The last day of a conference is a half day no matter how you schedule it—people leave mid-day to catch flights home to avoid staying another night. If you schedule a full last day, the second half has only about 20% attendance. By your reasoning, that means that the last day should be cut to a half day, which is then eliminated, and so on, until the entire conference is gone.
Arguing for cheaper venues reachable by low-cost flights is a more achievable target—one that will resonate even with the more richly funded organizers.
Better regional conferences is also theoretically achievable. Even better is for colleges to put on their own conferences—some of the best conferences I've been to have been summer conferences with dorm rooms for housing. The cost is usually about 1/3 of commercial venues.
Community colleges are at a disadvantage for creating such conferences, though, as few have dorm facilities that can be used for summer conferences.
I tend to dislike live video hookups because they are plagued with technical difficulties (through no fault of any IT personnel; I've done volunteer A/V work and experienced a lot of these inexplicable difficulties). Being able to watch and rewind video at your own rate and leisure gives you more freedom to explore as a listener and offers more flexibility for timing when you want to watch a seminar.
If you post the presentation online, and allow twitter/forum discussion for, say, the next day or two, then that would encourage presenters to be present and part of the discussion. Then you'd get to see presentations, comment and ask questions, all while being at your home office.
All this is not as good as being at the conference in person, but may capture much of the value of a conference while spending little to no money.
Smaller cities where meeting and event space may be more reasonably priced suffer different problems - they are often harder to get to and though the lodging cost may go down, the number of attendees and the available meeting space is more limited.
So, it's important to not forget about the structural constraints as well. It doesn't solve the money problem, but it does help explain why things are the way they are.
But there are often ways to make conference travel cheaper - I've often stayed at a non-conference venue, and even as not-a-grad student, I've split a hotel room with a colleague. I throw oatmeal and granola bars in my bag, so I usually only end up eating out at dinner time, or over a planned lunch meeting. And I put it in my yearly budget--and save receipts and such for tax purposes.
Last year, I saved a bunch of money by presenting and registering with the smaller affiliated conference in a specialized field that was holding its meeting concurrent to the AHA. The only thing I didn't have access to was the book exhibit (I borrowed a name badge one afternoon . . .so sue me) and the job center (thank god I had no need for it). Otherwise, I got what I needed out of the conference, could go to AHA panels and such, but my hotel costs and registration costs were markedly lower.
Finally, I've found that the most useful conferences tend to be smaller, more specialized ones. I'm skeptical that many people get anythign of real value out of the mega conferences. If I could only choose one conference a year, i go to the annual meeting in my field - usually around 600 people and in a pretty affordable city.
I went to a conference at a university where we stayed in dorms and ate in a pretty good cafeteria. Extremely economical and no distractions from the meeting. Limited to a modest group of a hundred or two, however.
Finally, here is a link to The Replacements on the Tubes, in case you haven't seen it yet:
I know from experience that travel is astonishingly cheap when you don't have to eat at restaurants and you don't have to pay (much) for accommodation.