Monday, May 05, 2008

SLA Seattle Attendance Prediction

What will be the attendance figure at the SLA annual conference in Seattle? Denver 2007 barely topped 5,000. No conference has drawn over 6,000 since New York 2003. The conference was last held in Seattle in 1997 and attendance was a robust 6,935, but times have changed, SLA is a smaller association, and that number looks unapproachable now.

Seattle is a popular tourist destination and should draw a good crowd. It is one of very few cities not on the East Coast that can attract a lot of attendees. But there are reasons not to be optimistic.

The economy has been going through a rough spell lately and librarians may not have the financial resources this time around. Seattle is on the far edge of the nation. Most members, I’m guessing, reside on the East Coast and must travel all the way to the West Coast to get there. Air fares will be higher than for many other, shorter trips, and air tickets are more expensive lately anyway. It’s not the easy sell it once was.

Here are recent attendance averages:

Average attendance last 5 conferences: 5,363
Average attendance last 10 conferences: 5,573

These are the past 5 conference attendance figures:

New York 2003 6,798
Nashville 2004 3,852
Toronto 2005 5,273
Baltimore 2006 5,844
Denver 2007 5,046

This graph charts SLA attendance since Seattle 1997:

When I look into my crystal ball and think of SLA, it grows cloudy, just like the skies of Seattle. I don’t feel good about making a prediction because the clouds obscure my view. Can Seattle top 6,000 again? I just don’t see it. Attendance should be close to the Baltimore figure. A number similar to Denver 2007 would be a loud alarm bell for the association. A city like Seattle should easily break the most recent 5-year average. The latest 10-year average is the minimum acceptable number; otherwise, something is broken, isn’t it?

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