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20th International Farm Management Congress – Canada

IFMA 2012th – 17th July 2015
Université Laval, Québec.

Congress Theme: ‘Healthy Agriculture for a Healthy World’

A total of 353 people from 31 countries attended the 20th International Farm Management Congress.

Here is a breakdown of attendees by type:

  • Full Congress Delegates: 228
  • One-Day Pass: 79
  • Accompanying Persons’: 46
  • Pre-Congress Tour of Southern Ontario Agriculture: 30
  • Post-Congress Tour of the Maritime Agriculture (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island): 37

The IFMA20 delegate survey was emailed to participants following the Congress, with reminder emails sent out. You can see the delegate evaluation survey form at the end of this report).

A total of 93 out of the 228 full Congress participants completed the survey, representing a 41% return rate. Note – all percentage figures given are rounded to nearest number.

Main Findings of the Survey:

For the first time, the Congress Evaluation Survey was conducted in online format only, garnering equal percent response at a 41% response rate (however, from 93 respondents, over double the number of respondents) to previous years where a paper survey provided during the Congress was combined with email responses following the Congress. The benefits of an online survey is the efficiency gained when comparing responses and calculating percentages as the survey software provided this data automatically. And, survey responses can be filtered per type of respondent for even more information on attendees. For example, responses from those who have attended previous can be compared with those who participated in IFMA20 as their first Congress.

At a 40% response rate, one must be careful in analyzing the demographic data of respondents as only a portion of delegates are represented. While the proportion of “first timers” was higher than previous years at 46% (prior to NZ congress this had normally been at around a third of delegates), there may in fact be more “first timers” responding to the survey. It is encouraging to see so many first timers, while it is also incredible to see respondents who have attended 10 – 20 previous Congresses.

With nearly 30% or one-third of respondents under the age of 40, there seems to be a significant number of young attendees, however with such a low representation from 41-50 year-olds, perhaps there is a new gap we must look at addressing. Once again those in the 51+ age group dominate at 62% which should be no surprise as people in this group are more likely to be able to afford the time and money to attend, and decide to attend without reference to others.

The wide range of occupations was much as we have come to expect, and this is a major attraction of the Congress, allowing an interesting exchange between all those involved in the industry. This is reiterated in the question that asks the respondents’ main reason for attending the Congress – the opportunity for international networking came out on top, as well as when asked to provide two highlights of the Congress.

We need to continue to work hard on attracting all groupings – but in particular the farmer and consultant / advisor groups. And again, do our best to assist younger people to attend. The most common solution to attracting younger delegates was providing a price differentiation and scholarship options for younger attendees.

The land area ‘managed or advised upon’ figure was substantial, but unfortunately several people who could have provided figures for this question chose not to, which is unfortunate as this is seen as vital in marketing the Congress to sponsors.

The question about where people first heard about the congress strongly emphasizes the importance of personal recommendations by colleagues (IFMA Members).

The reader can make their own conclusions of the Ratings Questions (9), but these show that in general we have an excellent basic formula for the congress and that the 20th Congress was highly appreciated by virtually all attendees. In the important areas for those who attended – the content of plenary papers and field trips – high ratings were received. Also, for the paper submission process. Later as respondents were asked to highlight two areas for improvement, notably respondents sought a better field trip experience through more information being provided and more experienced tour guides who could speak to the local area. Many felt the food could have had more variety and served in a more formal setting, while a significant number thought more time could be allotted for discussion following plenary and paper sessions, perhaps reducing the number of sessions.  Or perhaps, seeking an opportunity for organized discussion sessions on given topics instead of plenary and paper sessions.

There were many good comments and expressions of thanks to the organisers and the venue providers, and the general hospitality experienced in Quebec.

The Pre Congress tour was a great success getting universal approval and high praise from those who participated – unfortunately the Post Congress Tour ran into some complications in planning and logistics, leaving the majority of participants unsatisfied. The need for detailed information about each day and each stop was emphasised.

In terms of suggestions for improvement and attracting more delegates not mentioned above, respondents emphasized the preference to have all of the events in one place, promoting Congress attendance to the field trip hosts, continuing word of mouth and target marketing to potential attendees and supporters, running a poster contest, allowing for more partial attendance, providing information on plenary and paper session speakers and titles earlier, and continuing to secure speakers who are not trying to sell delegates on their company or credentials.

As usual the need to keep costs down in terms of the Registration Fee featured in the survey – a continuing struggle for the Congress organisers when offering a great deal of diversity including meals and entertainment, not to mention transport, throughout the week.

Overall, 92% of the respondents ranked the Congress experience 70% or higher.

Our thanks go to all those who completed the Congress Evaluation Survey – your participation greatly assists IFMA Council and future congress organisers when planning congresses.

Report compiled and edited by Heather Watson, IFMA20 Council Representative, Canada – September 2015.

Download the Full Survey Report

IFMA20 Congress Delegate Survey Results – Sept 2015