[APG Public List] Participating in Evaluations

Karen Mauer Green karenmauergreen at gmail.com
Wed Oct 7 12:18:52 MDT 2009

During the years that I was on the FGS Conference Planning Committee, we did
in-depth evaluations of the conference itself, the attendees' profile, and
each speaker/session. It was a tremendous amount of work. I know that the
program chair for Dallas spent over 100 hours analyzing the data, retyping
all the comments, and preparing individualized, private reports for each
speaker on each of their presentations, as well as generalized reports about
satisfaction with the conference for the conference planning committee.

We received valuable information from these surveys and modified the
conferences each year because of them. The  speakers were also grateful to
receive them. I don't (completely) know the reasons why they aren't done
anymore, but suspect that it is primarily a problem of not enough volunteers
to get it done. In addition, there were a few negative incidents that led to
their demise.

Confidentiality was one argument for not doing evaluations. One year the
evaluations of every speaker were sent out to every speaker. A volunteer who
didn't think about privacy issues just printed everything off and mailed it
to every speaker. There were some embarrassed speakers who would rather that
information had not been made public. If I'm not mistaken, that was when NGS
stopped handing out and analyzing evaluations.

There have also been incidents of people "stuffing the ballot box" with
negative evaluations on one or more speakers. That problem was mostly solved
by handing out only one form per attendee instead of having a stack of the
forms available.

Personally, I think their value far outweighs the possibility of these
negative events happening again. Perhaps the proper organization to handle
such surveying would be the Genealogical Speakers Guild? They would
certainly understand the privacy concerns and want to improve conferences
for both speakers and attendees. A committee of volunteers could analyze the
data and make certain the speakers received their evaluations? The speakers
would be pleased; the attendees would have the opportunity to say what they
liked, didn't like, and/or would like to see; and the organizations would
have up-to-date information to enable them to change with the times. A
win-win-win situation. But the conference planners who are planning
conferences for 2010 are overwhelmed. They would need volunteers to "add" a
"new" feature, even if that feature had been an accepted part of conference
procedure at one time. Even back then, part of the problem was finding
someone who would spend the time necessary to analyze them.

My .02.


On Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 7:51 AM, Barbara Mathews <bmathews at gis.net> wrote:

> Laura wrote, in part:
> > Evaluations that are developed well and
> > actually used (by speakers and conference
> > chairs) can be a valuable tool for creating
> > better conference programs in the future.
> I completely agree with Laura on this. Program chairs for conferences of
> any
> size at any geographic level can only serve their audiences well if (1)
> they
> elicit feedback and evaluation; and (2) we all actually give that feedback
> to them.
> One of the reasons the BCG Ed Fund has so many workshops that include
> writing in one form or another (reports, narratives, compilations, proof
> arguments,...) is because it is our most frequent request for a topic year
> after year. Not only do we ask, but the attendees provide this information.
> Some people who don't have time to fill out the form at the workshop come
> up
> to us later in the conference to pass it in. This is great because it
> empowers us to meet their needs better.
> This conversation on the list has been great. It has uncovered something
> previously somewhat subtle. This is that there is a group of us whose
> social
> and business needs are addressed by conferences, but whose educational
> issues aren't. Hopefully enough creative solutions have been shared that
> things will change over the next few years, if not at national conferences
> then in other efficient and effective ways. I feel like saying "Woohoo." Am
> I corny or what?
> Barbara
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