It’s the time of year when presenters at the ESA annual meeting receive their assigned time slots–causing people who’ve been assigned to speak on Friday morning to groan, because the Friday half day is poorly attended. But somebody has to speak at the end of the meeting and so is going to talk to a near-empty room, right?
Not necessarily. A couple of years ago I did a post with some background on why the ESA meeting ends with a half day on Friday (short version: it’s complicated…). I also suggested various alternatives that might either boost attendance at the end of the meeting, or make it so that low attendance at the end of the meeting wasn’t a problem for speakers. And we took a little reader poll that revealed a couple of clear-cut leading options to address the issue. The one I and many readers would prefer, in large part because it would be free and easy to implement for a one-year trial, would be to swap the Monday morning workshops and the Friday morning talks and posters. The Monday morning awards ceremony could go back to the early-evening slot it used to have years ago. That way, only people who are planning to attend workshops need to stay for Friday. I wouldn’t claim this is a perfect solution (there is no perfect meeting schedule), but I definitely think it’s worth a try. Worst case scenario: you try it once and decide the old way was better, so you go back to the old way.
The ESA meeting organizers have a tough job involving a lot of tough choices. They do it very well, and they’re very open to constructive feedback. My understanding is that the issue of attendance on the Friday half-day is always on their radar. So if you have ideas on what to do about the low attendance on Friday mornings, I’m sure they’d appreciate your constructive suggestions.
UPDATE: Brian makes a good point in the comments that I should’ve remembered to make myself in the post. Just because you’ve been assigned a less-desirable time slot for your presentation doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time going to the ESA meeting! Far from it. Having lots of people see your presentation certainly is nice, but it’s rather far down the list of “reasons to attend the ESA meeting”. So don’t be too bummed if you’ve been assigned a Friday morning timeslot–you’ll still get a lot out of the ESA meeting and have a lot of fun! In raising the issue of low Friday morning attendance, I certainly don’t mean to suggest that it’s some incredibly dire problem that ruins the meeting the meeting for anyone assigned to speak on Friday morning! The issue isn’t nearly as serious as that (though I do think it’s serious enough to merit an attempt to address it).