On Monday, August 22, the SAA Council voted unanimously to establish an Annual Meeting Task Force charged to study a broad array of issues related to the annual meeting. See the group’s description below for details. SAA President-Elect Jackie Dooley seeks SAA members to serve on this Task Force. If you’re interested in serving, include in an e-mail message directed to firstname.lastname@example.org your full name, title, institution, and experience within SAA (e.g., how many years a member, section and roundtable memberships, committee service), along with a brief statement of interest and qualifications. Please use the subject line: Annual Meeting Task Force (Your Last Name). Deadline: September 26.
The Annual Meeting Task Force is charged with analyzing current practices related to the SAA Annual Meeting as well as possible future approaches, and delivering to the Council a report with recommendations as to which current practices should be changed and what new practices should be implemented. The task force will consider how issues of social responsibility should be addressed; how meeting sites, including hotels, are selected; the current meeting model and meeting structure; increasing diversity in meeting sites; how to limit cost of meeting attendance for participants; how to best make meeting content available to those who cannot attend; and the extent of SAA’s dependence on the annual meeting for budget revenue, as well as any other issues they deem appropriate.
The SAA Vice President shall appoint five members, of varying lengths of membership in SAA, with expertise in the topics defined in the Purpose statement. One of those members shall serve as the chair. A professional meeting planner serves ex officio. In addition, the SAA Vice President shall also appoint members with appropriate expertise to serve on four subgroups (described in Section IV), each consisting of between four and six members. One member of each subgroup shall serve as its chair and shall also serve as a member of the task force, bringing the total membership of the task force to nine people plus one ex officio. All appointments are effective from October 15, 2011, through October 15, 2013.
The task force will provide regular updates prior to each Council meeting. Ideally, a preliminary report and recommendations would be delivered to the Council by its Spring 2012 meeting, allowing for distribution to the membership for comment no later than the 2012 Annual Meeting. This would allow for a final report and recommendations to be delivered to the Council for consideration no later than the Spring 2013 meeting. However, given the required coordination with a survey to be developed and distributed by the Membership and Diversity Committees, the task force should advise the Council as early as possible what schedule it recommends after consultation with those groups. Any revised schedule must include distribution of a draft set of recommendations to the membership with an open call for comments and sufficient time to address the comments received.
To assist in the gathering and analysis of the information necessary to support the broad mission of the task force, its work shall be supported by four subgroups. Each subgroup is tasked with gathering information on a specific topic and submitting a report to the task force. These subgroup reports will be used to support and inform the task force’s final report. In addition, as described in Section II, the chairs of each subgroup will serve as full task force members. The four subgroups will be:
A. Social Responsibility
Assignment: Identify what “social responsibility” issues have a possible impact on the annual meeting, for example, issues related to discrimination, harassment, or labor practices. Determine possible approaches to considering hotel relationships with their labor force before signing contracts and explore the feasibility of including “out clauses” if labor practice, discrimination or other issues arise. Also examine if there are other considerations regarding the meeting that could be affected, for example calls for boycotts of meetings in specific states or cities because of local or state laws or policies. Examine what steps SAA can take if a situation arises, with consideration for what information should be conveyed to the membership and in what fashion.
Outcome: Deliver to the task force a report defining what social responsibility issues SAA should consider in making a site selection, what steps SAA can and should take to avoid conflict with SAA principles, proposing policies about how and when SAA should communicate information to membership, and other relevant recommendations for the task force to consider.
B. Meeting Model
Assignment: Review rationale for current meeting model (i.e. conference events take place at one hotel) and consider alternative models that might meet SAA’s needs, for example having meeting events split across two or more hotels or utilizing convention or university facilities.
Outcome: Deliver to the task force a report outlining the pros and cons, including costs to SAA and members, of possible meeting models and, if possible, recommend one or more models for future consideration.
C. Meeting Content
Assignment: Review current format, schedule and type of content of the annual meeting, including issues such as timing of section and roundtable meetings, number, content and scheduling of plenary sessions, number and format of sessions, opportunities for informal networking, timing of workshop sessions, and total length of the meeting. Consider value of introducing new kinds of content, such as lightning talks and un-conference elements. Discuss what rules regarding meeting structure and content should be continued from year to year. Examine issues regarding call for meeting sessions and possibility of extending the deadline for proposals.
Outcome: Deliver to the task force a report identifying which aspects of the current meeting structure should be continued and which should be changed, what kinds of new content should be considered, and any recommendations for changes in the way annual meeting program committees function.
D. Online Accessibility of Meeting Content
Assignment: Research how other professional organizations provide online access to meeting content, including virtual conference and other models. Consider opportunities for increasing accessibility of content from previous meetings, including audio recordings and presentations. Review the business models and costs (to SAA and members) of using a vendor to provide services and explore what options could be provided using volunteers.
Outcome: Deliver to the task force a report describing the options available for delivering meeting content online, either contemporaneously with the meeting or following it, and for making better use of available materials. The report should include an assessment of costs associated with various options and, if possible, a recommendation for which options should be pursued.
In addition to reviewing and incorporating the reports of the subgroups and taking into consideration the Society’s Strategic Priorities, the entire task force is charged with exploring and considering:
The task force will coordinate with the Membership and Diversity Committees, which have a planned survey for the membership. Ideally as part of that survey, this group should collect information from the membership to assess issues such as how much they value various aspects of the meeting, how the economy has affected their ability to attend the meeting, and how they would view key trade-offs.
An important element of the task force’s work will be soliciting broad input on the meeting in general, in addition to collecting structured data via a survey. The group, in coordination with SAA staff, should collect information about how other comparable organizations have handled similar issues. The task force may also want to consult with outside professionals, such as people with expertise in meeting planning.
The task force meets via conference call as needed to develop work plans, ensure coordination of efforts by various groups and individuals, and ensure compliance with established timelines. In addition, the task force may have one in-person meeting prior to delivering its draft report, one at the 2012 Annual Meeting, and another in-person meeting in 2013 before delivering the final report.