Presenting at an economics conference? Get a room close to the coffee break.

You submit your paper to a conference. You’re all fired up to share your work and to get feedback. Then no one shows up to your session! Is it because everyone hates your work? or because it’s 8am? or both? Günther, Grosse, and Klasen (published version; working paper) identify some correlates of session attendance.

We analyze the drivers of audience size and the number of questions asked in parallel sessions at the annual conference of the German Economics Association. We find that the location of the presentation is at least as important for the number of academics attending a talk as the combined effect of the person presenting and the paper presented. Being a presenter in a late morning session on the second day of a conference, close to the place where coffee is served, significantly increases the size of the audience. When it comes to asking questions, location becomes less important, but smaller rooms lead to more questions being asked. Younger researchers and very senior researchers attract more questions and comments. There are also interesting gender effects. Women attend research sessions more diligently than men, but seem to ask fewer questions than men. Men are less likely to attend presentations on health, education, welfare and development economics than women. Our findings suggest that strategic scheduling of sessions could ensure better participation at conferences. Moreover, different behaviors of men and women at conferences might also contribute to the lack of women in senior scientist positions. [Emphasis added by me]

So, do whatever you can to angle for that second-day, late-morning slot.

1 thought on “Presenting at an economics conference? Get a room close to the coffee break.”

  1. Interesting paper, and I appreciate that the authors advanced reasonable suggestions for addressing potential participation and representation issues.

    Top pull quote (and general life lesson): “A summary of our results suggests that unknown males writing single-authored papers with long titles on unpopular subjects presented in early morning sessions and remote rooms have a very low chance to attract listeners.”

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