My most recent conference trip was to AERA in Chicago, one of the most popular conferences for people in the educational research field. Over the past 10 years, the average number of attendees at AERA Annual Meetings has been 14,967. Consider this: a three-day event hosting 10,000+ people. One might think, “Wow, that’s a great opportunity to meet others,” but in reality, it’s often the opposite. Everyone seems to be in a hurry to get to the next session. Unless you already know some other attendees, there isn’t much opportunity to make meaningful connections.
I suspect this is a common feature of large conferences. Many parallel sessions occur simultaneously in different locations. If you want to attend sessions in different venues, you need meticulous planning and the ability to walk quickly. After attempting this on the first day, I was so exhausted that I decided to stay at the venue where my presentation was scheduled. Another observation is how the keynote sessions were organized. While the size of the conference room might not be under the organizers’ control, it could have been planned differently. When we reached the keynote talk, the room was already beyond full. Later, we found out that it was actually the overflow room, with only a screen streaming the presentation. The actual room where the speaker gave the talk was packed. There was no way even half of the conference attendees could fit into those venues. I left in the end, knowing that the recording would be available later.
Putting all of these factors aside, the cost of delivering a ten-minute presentation is simply too high for me to justify another conference trip. Consider airfare, accommodation, meals, and transportation to and from the conference venue. These expenses accumulate rapidly. While my institution does provide some support for such activities, I can no longer justify the expense. As a result, I’ve made the decision to stop traveling to conferences unless there is an exceptionally compelling reason to do so.