President and Managing Director,
R J Covington Consulting (Austin, Texas)
Who Attends USAEE Annual Conferences?
The United States Association for Energy Economics (“USAEE”), and affiliate of the International Association for Energy Economics (“IAEE”), was established to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, experience and issues among professionals interested in energy economics. The USAEE’s annual conferences offer its members an opportunity to discuss the latest energy topics and to network with other energy professionals.
But who are these energy professionals? Anecdotal evidence would suggest that only academics attend these conferences. But is this true? I believe it is critically important to understand who really attends USAEE’s annual conferences. This knowledge will lead to the development of more effective programs that appeal to the broader energy market, will increase Conference attendance as a result, and will assist in more successful sponsorship solicitation if attractive commercial interests are known to attend the Conferences.
In order to shed some light on these questions, and at the suggestion of David Williams, the Executive Director of the USAEE, I undertook an analysis of the registered delegate attendance at each of the last three Association Conferences:
2011 IAEE North American Conference - Washington D.C., United States
2010 IAEE North American Conference – Calgary, Alberta, Canada
2009 IAEE International Conference (hosted by USAEE) - San Francisco, California, United States
My goal was to determine the mix of delegates at each Conference and identify the common elements from year to year and explain any differences in attendance between the Conferences.
In order to make a meaningful comparison between the Conferences, I developed several categories in which to classify the delegates and their organizational affiliations. The affiliations were categorized as:
Industry and Consulting. This group consists of delegates that are affiliated with for-profit businesses and consulting firms
Government. This group consists of delegates affiliated with any level of government, including non-U.S. governments
Academics and Research. This group consists of delegates affiliated with schools, universities and non-profit research and consulting firms
The delegates were also classified by job title or position. This also allowed me to identify those that can be considered “decision-makers” within an organization. The titles we identified include:
Professor / Asst Professor / Fellow
Student / Graduate Student
President / CEO
Director / Asst Director
Chief Economist / Economist
Analyst / Specialist
Researcher / Scientist / Engineer
Editor / Reporter
Minister / Deputy Minister
Board Member / Commissioner
I combined certain positions into categories I label management, non-management (analyst) and classroom (academic), to provide additional insight into the number of decision-makers attending each Conference. These are:
Management – President/CEO, Vice President, Director, Manger, Minister, and Board Member/Commissioner
Non-Management – Economist, Analyst/Specialist, Researcher/Scientist/Engineer, Advisor, and Editor/Reporter
Classroom - Professor and Student.
Finally, the attendees were grouped by geographic location:
Other than North America
The attendance data was first reviewed to ensure that each of the parameters – organization, title, and location – was recorded for each delegate. In the cases where certain data was missing, additional research allowed the missing data to be determined.
Once the data was complete, it was sorted by category as previously described. The result of this step has been summarized in several tables to facilitate analysis. I present this data separately for each Annual Conference in this section of the article, and will draw conclusions based on the data in the next section.
Tables 1 and 2 summarize the number of delegates by organization, position and location. Table 3 groups the data by type of position.
Similar to the San Francisco data, Tables 4 and 5 summarize the number of delegates to the Calgary Conference by organization, position and location, while Table 6 groups the data by type of position.
In the same way as before, Tables 7 and 8 summarize the number of delegates to the Washington, D.C. by organization, position and location, while Table 9 groups the data by type of position.
So what can we learn from this analysis of delegate attendance data?
First is the international diversity. Table 10 summarizes the percentage of delegates at each Conference from the United States, Other North American countries, and Other than North America.
Not surprisingly, location has a significant influence on the delegate mix. San Francisco is a gateway city and was host to an international conference, so the San Francisco Conference attracted a significant number of delegates from outside North America. The Calgary Conference attracted a large number of Canadian firms, government officials, and university affiliations. Washington, D.C. drew a large number of U.S. delegates that live and work nearby. Overall, these Conferences have had delegates attend from 30 different countries around the globe.
Next, Table 11 summarizes the diversity of organization affiliations among the Conference delegates.
Despite the sense that only academics attend our Conferences, I found instead a very diverse mix of delegates. Importantly, the mix has been very consistent from Conference to Conference. And while attendance from outside North America has been dominated by academia, delegates from only the U.S. have almost evenly come from industry and academia, with somewhat fewer attending from government organizations. In all, an average of more 200 different organizations was represented at each of these Conferences.
A third area of interest is the degree to which “decision-makers” attend our Conferences. While “decision-maker” may be open to interpretation, this question has arisen when discussing Conference sponsorship with interested organizations. To put it bluntly, some ask “how will sponsorship help my business?” and this is a legitimate question for businesses with limited discretionary funds. Table 12 summarizes the delegate attendance by type of position.
It can be readily seen that there is consistent attendance by “decision-makers” as we’ve defined it earlier in this article. On average, more than 26% of the delegates reported their position at a level that we considered a decision-maker. This is information that I believe would be useful to a potential sponsor that hopes to establish new business contacts at our Conference. Again, I have focused this issue on sponsorship and in no way intend to question the decision-making authority of the professor in the classroom, for example.
This initial review of USAEE Conference delegate attendance figures was intended to shed some light on who really attends our Conferences. While I recognize that the selection of the various groupings used in this analysis may be somewhat subjective, by any measure I have shown that the USAEE Conferences draw a diverse mix of energy professionals from all segments of the industry and from all around the globe. I recommend that we continue to maintain and analyze this attendance data with the goal of continuing to develop more effective Conference programs, increase Conference attendance, and broaden interest from potential sponsors.