From Denise Roosendaal, AEA Executive Director
The Evaluation 2016 conference welcomed 3,575 attendees in Atlanta, Georgia. This year’s theme — Evaluation + Design — set the stage for innovative thinking and discussions focused on using design elements in evaluation. Evaluation 2016 featured over 800 sessions selected by the Topical Interest Group (TIG) leaders and 45 professional development workshops and over 600 people dialed into the Virtual Conference from around the world. There was something for everyone at Evaluation 2016.
There were several new components to the conference format this year and other components that continue to be a success:
Design Loft: The Design Loft was an interactive space where attendees came and experienced design firsthand as part of a series of short, engaging workshops aimed at exposing evaluators to simple tools, techniques, and approaches to using design in practice. Challenge topics were discussed in small groups around a white board table. A special thank you to Cameron Norman for leading this concept and to the GEDI scholars for participating in an evaluation of this new conference feature.
IMPACT Convergence: This three-day convergence attracted leaders in the fields of impact investing, social entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility, social finance, and evaluation to work together in a series of events, culminating in an action agenda for the development of impact measurement. Held just prior to the Evaluation 2016, the IMPCON was held nearby at the Carter Center (President Jimmy Carter’s museum, library, and meeting center) and attracted over 240 participants. The conference overlapped with Evaluation 2016 on Wednesday in order to create collaborative opportunities and allow the attendees from both conferences to get to know each other. The supporters and contributors to this new event are greatly appreciated.
Exhibit Hall Enhancements: This year the Exhibit Hall area included several enhancements, including a small presentation theater where exhibitors presented and offered content on their products and thought-provoking topics. Charging stations helped attendees stay plugged in. The University Row and Tech areas enhanced the navigation of the exhibit area.
New Mobile App: This year’s conference had a new, powerful mobile application with enhanced features including an opportunity for attendees to connect with each other. Seventy-one percent of attendees logged into the app and 48 percent of users were very active in it. We continue to encourage feedback on ways the app can continue to be improved. With the advance selection by attendees of a mobile app only option, we were able to eliminate the printing of 800 onsite guides. The Environmental Sustainability Working Group thanks you.
Venue: The City of Atlanta proved to be a terrific venue for Evaluation 2016. Thanks to the Atlanta-area affiliate; the leadership of Krista Collins, Lindsey Stillman Barranco, and Linda Vo-Green; and all of the Atlanta-area volunteers, the attendees felt welcomed and had the information needed to enjoy and navigate the city.
International Attendees & Silent Auction: With over 363 attendees coming from outside the United States, Evaluation 2016 continued a rich tradition of attracting and welcoming individuals from the international evaluation community. Five attendees received travel awards to attend this year’s conference. The International Awards program is supported by the proceeds of the silent auction, which raised over $8,500 this year. Thanks to Hubert Paulmer for his unwavering dedication to this program. Thanks also goes to the participants in the International Buddy program headed up by Michele Tarsilla.
Another special thanks goes to Dana Wanzer, a doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University, who donated a dollar for each AEA member who responded to her research survey. She raised and donated $320.
As in years past, the Evaluation 2016 conference is a product of many minds and hands. From the AEA elected leadership and President John Gargani to the TIG leaders and program reviewers to the session presenters to the Conference Advisory Group to the local area support and affiliates to the sponsors and exhibitors to the student volunteers to the AEA management team members and the Marriott hotel staff, we all benefit from the collaborative nature of the conference structure. Thank you to all who contributed their time and hard work.
From Zachary Grays, AEA Staff
This October, over 3,500 evaluators converged on the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, Georgia, to celebrate the 30th American Evaluation Association conference. And what a conference it was! What was by far most exciting was the unique, diverse tapestry of attendees that came together for six days of education and learning. If you didn’t have the pleasure of joining us in the Peach State, you missed out. And while I can’t recreate the magic of the conference, may this “postcard by the numbers” give you an exclusive glimpse into this year’s annual conference.
340+ – International attendees who joined us from over 65 countries!
5 – Minority Serving Institution (MSI) fellows completed their final presentation deliverable of the 2015/2016 cohort in a room that swiftly became standing room only. Congratulations to Smita Mehta, Dr. Chandra Story, Kate Cartwright, Dr. Jieru Bai, and Dr. Cirecie West-Olatunji. AEA would also like to thank Dr. Arthur Hernandez for his exemplary direction of this diversity initiative.
15 – Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) scholars, the largest cohort in the history of the program, experienced their very first AEA conference. As a part of their service learning project, the scholars were tasked with evaluating the AEA Design Loft, an experimental space intended to provide conference attendees an opportunity to learn specific tools, techniques, and strategies from the field of design that may have application to evaluation practice. Tune in to next month’s column to learn more about what they’ve learned from this innovative addition to this year’s conference experience.
5 – Diversity Topical Interest Groups (LARED, Multiethnic Issues in Evaluation, LGBT Issues in Evaluation, Feminist Issues in Evaluation, and Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation) came together and partied like it was 1999 in a business-meeting-social-event-turned-blowout-bash. While the communities they serve are diverse and varied, what they share in common is a commitment to the greater good in underrepresented populations. They had me at photo booth!
8 – Graduate/doctoral level candidates, new graduates, and early career evaluators who self-identify as members of under-represented populations in the evaluation profession who have never attended a conference were offered travel grants to attend Evaluation 2016. Edging out over 100 very competitive applications, AEA congratulates LeAnn Salazar, Satlaj Dighe, Mark Yu, Phoenicia Lewis, Kamila Tovbaeva, Jasmine Henio, Emgan Aisha, and Lehua Choy and welcomes them to the AEA family.
$8,000+ – Raised to support the international travel awards! One of the very many highlights of the AEA conference is the silent auction to fund the International Travel Awards. Organized by Hubert Paulmer, these funds go to support professional evaluators living and practicing in emerging countries or countries in transition to attend and present. This year AEA had the pleasure of welcoming the following award winners thanks to your generous contributions:
- Ram Chandra Khanal, Nepal
- Esteban Tapella, Argentina
- Modupe M. Osokoya, Nigeria
- Youssra Bakhir, Morocco
- Garat Jamal Muktar, Kenya
We are pleased to announce that the AEA Board of Directors will match this year’s contributions dollar for dollar for use in the 2017 conference travel program!
Evaluation 2016 has been put to bed and Evaluation 2017 is right around the corner in Washington, D.C. While I am not an evaluator myself (honorary evaluator, if you will), I do indeed feel like a member of this very special tapestry of evaluators who call AEA their professional home. Thank you to everyone for making Evaluation 2016 so grand and we’ll see you next year in D.C.!
From Sheila B. Robinson, Potent Presentations Initiative Coordinator
Whew! Evaluation 2016 has just come to a close, so it’s a good time to take a breather from presentation design — unless, of course, you have another presentation coming up soon!) Now is the time to reflect on presentation feedback and consider what you can use to improve. Here is where we might take a page from the famous Deming Cycle: Plan, Do, Study, Act. At this point, we’ve planned and done our presentations, right? So, it’s clearly time to study and act.
Feedback from our audiences is an important part of our learning process as presentation designers. Feedback can help us improve our presentations if we take the time both to reflect and then act on the feedback we receive.
Think back to your presentation.
This is excellent informal feedback that makes us feel appreciated and valued, lets us know we did well, but can also clue us in as to which aspects of our presentations may have facilitated success with participants.
What to Do
First and foremost, plan to seek out and commit to reflect on any feedback you receive.
What if you receive little or no feedback? What if people left your session before the end? What if they asked no questions? What then? While this may not necessarily indicate an unsuccessful presentation, you may want to be proactive and take action for your next presentation to ensure you receive some actionable feedback.
What to Do:
After all, feedback is the breakfast of champions (attributed to Ken Blanchard).