[Coral-List] Registration cost for 12th ICRS

Glazer, Bob Bob.Glazer at MyFWC.com
Mon Jul 25 11:35:03 EDT 2011

I've been following this thread with a great deal of déjà vu.  Each year we host a small 'boutique' conference (~350 people) and each year we go through the same deliberations - how do we keep costs low yet still provide value for our membership?  Even with rising costs, we focus on this question.  Ultimately, the venue and the services are based on that simple question.  It is fundamental.  Not all of the solutions are easy but our 5 day, simultaneously interpreted conference with Proceedings still only costs $150 per registrant (early registration) and $75 per student.

There are a lot of criticisms and few solutions that have been discussed in this thread but those that have are worth considering.  In the spirit of proving constructive ideas, here are five recommendations off the top of my head; some of these have already been proposed. This is just a short list and there are likely many other areas where costs can be cut and the meeting can still be incredibly valuable for the membership.

1.       Regionalize the meetings with a focus on making the global meeting smaller - a few posts have talked about developing regional meetings and this makes good sense.   The Society for Conservation Biology, World Aquaculture Society, American Fisheries Society and many others do this with great success.  Also, the fact of the matter is that 2,000 to 3,000 people is unwieldy not only for the host, but also for the participant due to the numerous concurrent sessions.  Regional meetings with less-frequent and smaller global meeting may be a model that addresses a lot of the issues including finding hosts, venues, and funds to support the meeting.

2.       Eliminate the printed Book of Abstracts - we went to this model last year.  We provide a Book of Abstracts online for free ahead of time in an attractive format (page-flipping software and pdf) so that individuals can download the Book.  We received absolutely no negative comments about this change.  Besides the obvious environmental benefits to an online only Book of Abstracts, this was a significant cost savings not only in terms of printing but also shipping.

3.       Choose venues that are less expensive - although this may reduce the number of organizations that are willing to volunteer to host the meeting, it makes good sense from a budgetary standpoint.  Our ultimate A#1 hosting venue is an all-inclusive resort because this model reduces substantially the costs involved from meeting rooms, to coffee breaks and food/entertainment.  In combination with number 1 above, this may be feasible in the sense that if there are more regional meetings, the large international meeting will likely be smaller making more venues accessible.   Unfortunately, all-inclusives often are not environmentally or politically optimal, but hosting a meeting at one of these venues serves as an opportunity to influence policies.

4.       Do away with included meals in the registration costs - just a quick back of the envelope estimate suggests that the cost for the sit down lunches for 2,000 people is likely around $30,000 per meal ($15/person) or $150,000 for the week.  That is huge.  Obviously, this will require a venue situated in a location that can handle a large number of delegates going to lunch at the same time.  Again, an argument for smaller conferences.

5.       Go a la carte with the organizational services - there are likely a number of activities that can be easily accomplished without using the meeting organizer (e.g., venue selection and contract negotiations, activity organization, poster session organization) and probably some that are not (e.g., online conference registration, interpretation.)  Some posts on the list have mentioned the Ft. Lauderdale meeting and how that was accomplished with a great deal of organization and volunteer time and that this provides benefits to students.  Indeed!

In short, perhaps the biggest problem with regards to the massive amount of funds required to hold this meeting is that the size of the meeting eliminates a number of options relative to reducing costs.  I sympathize with the host and the choices that I am sure will be on the table in the future.

Robert Glazer
Associate Research Scientist
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
2796 Overseas Highway, Ste. 119
Marathon, FL 33050
305-289-2330; 305-289-2334 (fax)
bob.glazer at myfwc.com

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