Wednesday, November 21, 2007

SBL Room Sizes

On Ancient Hebrew Poetry, John Hobbins writes:
It is miserable to give a paper to an audience of 30 scattered in the back of a long space with a seating capacity of a hundred or more. I wish SBL organizers insisted on procuring rooms with seating capacities in line with expected attendance. I gave one paper to an audience in a relatively small, jam-packed room of perhaps 20 people. That worked well. I gave another paper to perhaps 30 people in a cavernous space. That did not work well. I couldn’t tell whether people were following me, which meant, in the end, that I couldn’t even follow myself.
I know what John means, but the fault is likely to be with the chairs of the section, group or consultation in question. When chairs set up a session, they are asked to estimate attendance, and a room is allocated based on that. So if a huge room is allocated for something with a small audience, it is sometimes because the chairs overestimated attendance. This is not always the case, though. Sometimes it's just the case that there are not enough of the requisite number of rooms for the time slot in question.

1 comment:

Judy Redman said...

The other problem for conference organisers is that the venue only has so many large and so many small rooms. There are situations where you know that if you set up particular sessions at the same time as others which are obviously going to draw the same audience in order to provide everyone with the room sizes they want, people will complain. Your other option is to put someone who thinks they will only get 30 people in a room that holds 100.

The only time most people will sit at the front is if there are no seats anywhere else but sometimes asking the 30 people to move a bit so they're sitting in a more cohesive group works. I find that even if I can get everyone to sit on either side of the centre aisle it doesn't feel quite so weird.