14th International Farm Management Congress (Perth, WA, August 2003) – Delegate Evaluation Survey
Summary and Conclusion of the Report – Prepared by John Gardner, Massey University, New Zealand.
The text below is exact copy of what is in the report. Full report available for downloading – see below.
Of the 91 respondents, 36% were attending their first Congress; nearly 50% were 51 years or older and 62% were either academics or consultants.
Nearly 80% of respondents gave the Congress an excellent or very good rating. If those who rated the Congress as “good” are added to this total, more than 90% of respondents were well/highly satisfied. This reflects great credit on the Conference organisers.
The evaluations for each Congress section showed only 27% of respondents rated the posters as excellent/very good. For all other sections at least 50% of respondents gave an excellent or very good rating. For the sections other than posters, the excellent/very good percentage ranged from 53% for the contributed papers to 80% for social with field visits also very high at 77%.
The principal sections of the Congress were the plenaries, symposia, contributed papers, field visits and posters. Academics gave a higher average rating to each section than the consultants or farmers. Consultants in turn gave a higher average rating to all sections than did the farmers, except for the plenaries, which was rated equally by both groups.
The most frequently cited Congress highlight was the plenaries. Not surprisingly, some speakers were nominated more frequently than others. Importantly however, all plenary sessions were viewed as a highlight by some attendees.
Field visits and social aspects were rated equally as Congress highlights. The Congress format provides excellent opportunities for socialising. Field visits are an important part of the Congress and need to be interesting and well organised if a Congress is to succeed.
In relation to how this Congress (and future Congresses) could be improved, a number of suggestions were made but no suggestion had majority support. Costs were however, an issue for some (hotels, food, registration fees for farmers and consultants). Costs are important and must be looked at closely. Some respondents wanted all delegates at one site. Other respondents wanted more participation (attendance and papers) by farmers and consultants. The need for world wide themes, rather than domestic themes in the plenaries was also mentioned. Interestingly the number who thought there had been over-emphasis on “indigenous issues” was about the same who considered this topic was a Congress highlight! Understandably people wanted to be informed about costs and programme details as early as possible.
A challenge facing the IFMA could be to attract reasonable numbers to future Congresses. Nearly half the attendees at this Congress were aged 50 or more. This is not a criticism of the attendees at the Perth Congress. In New Zealand, and possibly in many countries, the population of farm management academics, consultants and farmers is aging and this may be reflected in attendance at Congresses. It is not only the absolute numbers that are important but also the balance. More farmers, young people, women and a greater representation from areas such as Africa and Asia were sought.
Raising the issue of numbers and representation at Congresses is simple. Finding cost effective practical solutions is far more difficult. Perhaps the best way to start is to seek the support of our members. The questionnaires demonstrated clearly that there is a strong loyalty to IFMA/Congresses. Many respondents wrote extensively on their questionnaires, not simply “ticking” the appropriate box. IFMA needs to capitalise on that goodwill – “delegates must be ambassadors back home”.
IFMA could start by working with delegates to boost support for future Congresses.