Survey Respondents Give 2022 Annual Meeting High Marks and Note Challenges of Hybrid Engagement 

Annual Meeting News
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Our 2022 Annual Meeting Participant Survey has garnered valuable insights into attendees’ responses to last year’s meeting and a window into the dynamics of hybrid programming for future meetings. As AFS continues to navigate the changing landscape of needs and opportunities in the present moment, the participant survey helps us gauge what worked well in 2022 and what may need revision for future meetings. AFS leadership and staff are committed to maintaining the gains in accessibility that we have made with the help of virtual and hybrid meetings, and to continuing to improve the quality of annual meeting experiences generally. 

There were 60 responses to our 2022 Annual Meeting Participant Survey. Overall, the vast majority of the respondents (88%) rated the meeting 8 out of 10 or above, on a scale where 10 is highest. Among these respondents, only a fraction reported joining the meeting virtually rather than in person, and no one reported joining the meeting through both modes. 

Respondents conveyed a strong sense of enthusiasm for specific sessions and programs and for the meeting as a whole in their general comments:

  • “The lecture by Andrea Kitta was fantastic! So was the Croning. I loved the sessions I was able to attend and will live off the energy from them for the next year.”
  • “From the honorifics announced during the Opening Ceremony to the last session I was able to attend Saturday morning, the diversity impressed me. Best Opening Reception ever!”

Friday was the best attended day of the annual meeting (90% of respondents attended), followed by Thursday (81.6% of respondents) and Saturday (73.3% of respondents), with Wednesday showing the lowest attendance (63.3% of respondents).

The majority of respondents spent an average of 60-70% of their time at the conference attending programming. They also spent 20-30% of their time socializing/networking on average, and 5-10% of their time seeing the area.

Respondents showed a clear inclination towards in-person programs and events over hybrid or virtual ones. The following aspects of the conference were rated as “very valuable” by respondents:

  • In-person networking: 76%
  • In-person forums: 75.8%
  • In-person workshops: 74%
  • In-person paper panels: 73% 
  • In-person plenaries: 69.4%
  • Recordings: 50.8%
  • Live-streamed plenary events: 50%
  • Hybrid paper panels: 48.3%
  • Hybrid forums: 34%
  • Virtual presentations: 27%
  • Virtual/hybrid workshops: 26%

There was a strong positive consensus regarding the in-person meeting, with the majority of respondents expressing appreciation for the opportunity to gather and network with folklorists and colleagues face to face after three years. 

  • “I’m sick of virtual conferences. Zoom section meetings are fine but the face-to-face session experience, along with in-the-lobby/after hours/book room conversations are what make a conference worthwhile.”
  • “Lots of in the hallways conversations were incredibly fruitful and satisfying, even though they weren’t on the planned program. Also, face-to-face discussions and conversations generated by the sessions and the plenaries were very stimulating. Virtual presentations can be useful and interesting, but there is nothing like the face-to-face connections with others, both in the hallways and in sessions and lectures on the program. I thought that, with this in mind, the way the food was set up several times for receptions in the downstairs lobby was excellent at facilitating conversations and interactions and was a fine choice. The food was also tasty and ample. I had some very important conversations, not just of a purely friendly nature, that were instrumental in some of my research and thoughts about work.”
  • “Meeting new people and connecting with old friends [were the meeting experiences I enjoyed most]. The conversations in sessions, at restaurants, and in the hotel elevator–THAT’s what I’ve been missing so much in the ‘Covid years.’”

Many respondents also praised the representation and engagement of local and/or Native artists and culture workers in the Tulsa meeting, which grew largely out of enduring partnerships fostered by the Tulsa Local Committee and AFS leadership and staff.

  • “The participation of Indigenous scholars and community members and African American scholars and community members was significant and valuable. Having the extra time to establish those relationships during the pandemic probably helped to make those aspects of the meeting stronger than usual.”
  • “The local coordinating committee did an amazing job of integrating Tulsa history, politics, and people into our meeting resulting in some incredibly important collaborative opportunities among folklorists and local activists and scholars.”

Many respondents were grateful for the accessibility provided by hybrid elements of the meeting, such as remote presentations and asynchronous access to hybrid sessions through recordings.

  • “I think hybrid is the wave of the future.”
  • “I liked having both virtual and in-person options. While I could make the in-person sessions at this conference, I often have issues with funding or availability so can’t participate. Having virtual opportunities is incredibly valuable to a lot of people, so I appreciate that you folks went the extra mile and planned for that.”
  • “I really enjoyed the fact that having presenters in remote locations allowed for a wider variety of presenters and topics. Even if the time zones made presenting from Turkey a bit of a challenge, it was wonderful to hear people who wouldn’t have been able to present otherwise. I haven’t been able to attend AFS in person over the past couple years, so the opportunity to be at panels remotely has been truly wonderful.”
  • “I did not get any funds to come from India to the USA for the AFS 2022 annual meeting. Hence, the hybrid panels were a great help. I benefited from the presenters joining the in-person session remotely or in person.”

Respondents believe that providing access to recordings is important, as reflected in the comments below. However, a relatively small number of respondents had accessed recordings at the time of their survey response (16%) and a full third of respondents reported that they probably or definitely would not access recordings in the future. This reveals an intriguing disconnect between the access respondents believe is valuable and the access the majority of respondents actually use or intend to use.

  • “Just keep offering recordings”
  • “[I like having] recordings available to participants after, so I can see what I may have missed in person.”
  • “I checked above that I had not yet accessed any recorded sessions and would “probably not” access any in the future. The first time we had recorded sessions available (2020, I guess?), I fully intended to take advantage of them. But I never did. When I attend the conference in person, I am taking time out of my schedule to be there with my colleagues in body and mind–I am fully there and present in the moment. But when I am at my home institution, it can be hard to take time out of my day for recorded sessions, especially when it is just images on a screen. This may be a personal failing, but that is my experience. Possibly I am just old-fashioned.”

While respondents identified hybrid programming as valuable for promoting access, they reported significant technical issues during the annual meeting for hybrid sessions. For some these problems were minimal, but for others, they had a strong negative impact on the quality of their annual meeting experience. The most common concern was in regard to the sound: more than half of the in-person respondents had issues hearing audio in hybrid sessions. Another common concern was the difficulty experienced by both virtual and in-person participants to ask questions and be heard by hybrid audiences in both modes. Respondents were grateful for the prompt response of the technical support team.

  • “Lack of amplified sound in hybrid rooms.”
  • “The hybrid sessions were difficult because as an in-person attendee I could not hear the speakers most of the time.
  • “Find a way to use microphones that increase sound for all attendees in hybrid sessions”
  • “Though I understand some presenters are not able to attend in person, it felt those [sessions] that I attended that did have a virtual presenter proved to have more technical issues. The technical difficulties (which I realize is now part of this virtual world), for me are extremely distracting.”

Respondents also reported a need for greater sound amplification during non-hybrid sessions.

  • “Needed amplification in the rooms. There had been a push for accessibility in past meetings that included using mics. This was needed this year.”

Virtual and hybrid meeting technology invites many possibilities as well as potential problems; respondents shared their suggestions for reimagining the mode and/or configuration of the annual meeting to strike the best possible balance. 

  • “I would be happy with a yearly alternation on in-person only and virtual only. We could stop there or consider smaller special (perhaps regional or topical, low costs [state parks, church camps, university campuses, etc.]) convenings happening in-person during virtual years (or virtually in in-person years). I would be interested to learn from the experience of societies that simply have a biannual meeting model.”
  • “I also think that Livestream and In-person meetings that record sessions for later viewing would also be great.”
  • “Honestly? Scrap hybrid events. They were the most problematic aspect of the entire experience. I understand the point of hybrid events, but the technical challenges they present make them more trouble than they are worth. Last year, I was unable to attend AFS in person, and our panel was fully virtual. This turned out to work great. So I would say have in-person events and virtual events, but no hybrid events.”

The respondents reported concerns regarding concurrent sessions and the subsequent inability to attend them properly. They requested a more spread out schedule, potentially made possible by adding an extra conference day. AFS experimented with an extra day in 2014, and found that the additional cost was burdensome for attendees as well as prohibitively expensive for AFS.

  • “Scheduling conflicts prevented me from attending some panels though I don’t know how this problem could be remedied.”
  • “Too many good things going on at the same time, but it’s not like that can be avoided. It’s just the nature of the meetings.”
  • “The only problem I had was finding time for lunch, since there were so many wonderful things going on over the gap.”
  • “It really is too much in a few days. I wish we could add another day.” 
  • “Maybe making it a bit longer, so that more could be fit in! I know that we used to meet on Sundays, and am not sure why we don’t do so now. Perhaps because people didn’t stay for Sunday? I’m not so sure meeting longer would actually help, though.”
  • “I know it’s not feasible, but having an extra day for the meeting might mean that there are not so many great things going on at the same time. But, really, having to pick and choose so much was the only thing I would really change.”

The majority of the respondents preferred the print version of the Tulsa program book (73.3%); the 2022 Annual Meeting Hub (63.3%) was the second most used option. 

  • “Hub works when I have time to peruse (I use it to book my week) and the print version works well on the fly to whip out for quick confirmation of time/place/location.”

Thanks to all the participants who took time to share their feedback on the 2022 Annual Meeting, which will help us shape decisions for the coming years.

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