SCMS 2013 Conference Survey Results
Thursday, August 1, 2013
The 2013 Conference Survey: Responses
We would like to thank all of the SCMS members who took the time to respond to the survey following the 2013 Conference in Chicago. We very much appreciate your thoughtful comments—they help the Executive Board and those directly responsible for planning next year’s conference to move forward in a way that serves our membership. The information gathered from the survey will guide discussions as we prepare for future conferences.
About 400 members completed the survey, providing a good snapshot of the organization’s members: comments were gathered from significant numbers of faculty at various ranks, as well as from graduate students, full and part time instructors and lecturers, and independent scholars. Most of those responding to the survey presented a paper at the conference and/or participated in workshops, SIG and Caucus meetings, and special conference events.
Although the range of specific comments provided to survey questions was diverse, general trends and suggestions emerged.
General Reactions to the Conference: What did members like most about the 2013 conference? Most members responding ranked the conference hotel, panels, workshops, awards ceremony, and special events highly, mirroring the fact that 75% of the evaluations identified the overall experience of the conference as "good” to "excellent.” Responses repeatedly praised the high quality and breadth of the papers presented, the Chicago location (despite the opening storm), and interactions with friends and colleagues. What did members like least? Although respondents gave generally good marks for the Drake Hotel, many found the reception, upper floor meeting rooms, hotel lobby, and elevators too crowded. Space problems are in part a result of the SCMS’s success, which manifests itself in an ever-larger conference. Nonetheless, we take these concerns seriously and are keeping them in mind as we scout future conference locations. What changes did those surveyed, as a group, suggest? Common suggestions included the desire for scheduled breaks, a reduction in the number of panels, greater accessibility, and providing paper abstracts in addition to titles online. As you might expect, along with new suggestions, quite a few raise issues that have come up before in the organization’s history. We continue to try to find solutions to longstanding concerns, as well as to address those involved with more recent developments.
Other topics that were frequently commented upon include the use of digital media at the conference, the new member’s orientation meeting, and face-to-face networking in conference spaces.
Media: Some members voiced concerns about the use of tweeting during the conference, feeling that it was both distracting and reductive of the papers being presented. Others noted that it seemed that only certain kinds of panels (e.g., those devoted to television and new media) received the most social media attention and asked that there be broader representation. Still others who used the SCMS website or social media during the conference found these (especially live tweeting) useful—even fun—and offered suggestions for expanding official tweeting to increase its visibility. This latter perspective represented the majority of responses the board received and we will be looking into how to thoughtfully expand this feature of the conference. While the new initiative of live-streaming a workshop did not appeal to, or simply wasn’t used, by many respondents, a significant number found this activity worth continuing and even expanding at future conferences. On another front, quite a few respondents requested a downloadable, mobile conference program. This is a recurring request that the Board continues to weigh, as we balance the desire for greater access to the program with ensuring that this information is provided to conference registrants only.
New members and networking: New members who attended orientation sessions generally found these helpful, but also offered good suggestions for greater interaction between long-time and new members—suggestions that are already informing next year’s orientation activities. Regarding the topic of increased networking at the conference, many cited the opportunity for personal interactions as one of the regular highlights of the conference. However, others felt that the pace and size of the conference made leisurely conversation difficult and noted that an especially packed reception needed more space. These are issues that have and will continue to inform our selection of event rooms and hotels.
While we cannot address every member’s specific requests, we want you to know that the Executive Board and conference organizers greatly value your feedback and are using it to design the best future conferences possible. Thanks once again for taking the time to complete the survey.
SCMS Secretary, on behalf of the Executive Board