Associations exist to serve their members, and AAPG is no exception. Those of us who have the privilege of holding leadership positions in our Association have the responsibility to listen and respond to members’ comments and concerns.
I am writing to address questions that our leadership team has received about why we ask presenters and committee members to pay a registration fee to participate in virtual events that they support with their time and expertise. They point out that other companies have organized technical events this year, and they were invited to attend at no cost.
First of all, I would like to clarify that this practice is not new. Historically, AAPG and our sister technical/professional societies have stipulated that all attendees, presenters and committee members register and pay registration in order to attend their events. Unlike private companies who hold events to make a profit, professional associations use events as a means to a much greater end: advancing science and supporting educational programs for students and professionals throughout the world.
We clearly understand that 2020 has been a tough year. The last ten months have brought unprecedented challenges not only to companies and professionals, but also to professional societies, whose existence depends on the sponsorships, exhibition space and registrations from their events, and to a lesser extent, on the sale of publications and memberships.
I cannot speak for other societies or regions, but in AAPG’s Latin America and the Caribbean Region, we have not reduced, but tripled our activity during the pandemic. We replaced our plans for one in-person technical workshop and two in-person conferences in 2020 with a Virtual Research Symposia series – six full two-day technical events held once per month between July and December – an online short course and four virtual Executive Forums with panel discussions and roundtables.
We have moved the Imperial Barrel Award competition and Ready to Work Program online, organized a two-week Young Professionals Conference and expanded the reach of both the Visiting Geoscientist Program and Distinguished Lecture program exponentially through the our LACR VGP virtual #TuesdayTalks lecture series and our LACR Virtual DL tour. The lectures were open to everyone and made available free of charge.
URTEC in Latin America, Other Events
This month we look forward to hosting the first AAPG-Society of Petroleum Engineers-Society of Exploration Geophysicists Unconventional Resources Technology Conference focused on Latin America. The three half-day sessions offered online and on-demand make it easier than ever for a global audience to learn about the region’s most exciting unconventional plays and technological advancements.
In AAPG LACR, the limited income we receive from our virtual events helps us to sustain our lecture programs and other high-impact educational initiatives including the Student-Young Professional Leadership Summit and Sustainability Development in Energy Projects Contest – and to continue to provide support to 67 student chapters and 10 young professionals chapters serving young geoscientists from Mexico to the Caribbean to Southern Cone.
I know that colleagues in other regions and associations are working hard to keep their initiatives alive as well. We all are doing our best to continue supporting all of our educational programs and organizing low or no-cost virtual activities that give our members the opportunity to continue the professional development and to present and publish their work, something that would not be possible if we did not keep holding events.
I must admit that it would be easier to do nothing, to wait until “a better time” to start organizing events, but our members want to keep presenting, publishing, learning and expanding their network. These activities have been more important and relevant than ever during this year of physical isolation and transition.
The presenter response to the 2020 Latin America URTeC event is a perfect example of the appetite for online conferences. We received 160 proposals for the 48 slots available in the program, and presenters from all over the world wrote to tell us that they did not want to let a year go by without being able to present and publish their work. Most of those selected for the program were deeply appreciative of the opportunity we gave them to do so, and those who were not included expressed disappointment.
Investing in Online Success
For online events to be successful, we need to have more than just content. We need people to register to enjoy it. To have strong registration numbers, we have to charge fees that people can pay. We have worked very hard to manage the cost of participation in our online conferences, while offering the same technical quality our members expect.
It is important to note that virtual events also have a cost, not only for the digital platforms used, but also for the staff who are working tirelessly to learn new technologies and develop the skill sets needed to organize virtual events (often with financial losses) so they can continue offering all the services that our members are used to receiving.
In our LACR, we have two staff members and a large group of volunteers who help us offer a wide variety of events, programs and initiatives that would not be possible without their hard work. These volunteers support us because they want to, not because they have to, and they consider volunteer service a privilege.
If you have been a part of planning an AAPG event, you know that it is great fun, and a lot of hard work! Committee service brings recognition and opportunity, as well as a sense of responsibility.
When you feel responsible for the technical and economic success of an event in the association you are serving, you understand why it is so important that everyone who is capable of contributing – be it technically or financially – do so.
When you give your time and your resources, you are investing in the future, helping members who are less fortunate than you are, and understanding the reason why you are a part of an association.
Multiplying Our Investment
We have very special members in AAPG LACR who understand that “why.” We have received groups of student registration payments paid by individuals who work as consultants and want to help those who are coming along behind them. One committee member covered registration for a presenter from Venezuela who was unable to pay due to the country’s difficult political situation and currency devaluation. Another donated a free symposium registration she won in a contest to colleagues who needed the free registration more than she did.
Gestures like that warm my heart and motivate me to keep serving AAPG, no matter how tough it can be sometimes. AAPG is a family who has been there for me and helped to make me who I am today. As a member of the family I have the joy and the duty to help it grow.
A registration or a membership payment represents much more than a contribution to the financial result of an event or a fiscal year. It is a vote of confidence in our Association and the valuable work we do to advance our science and ensure that future generations can continue to count on the same benefits that our members enjoy today.
I encourage you to give what you can, do what you can, serve when you can. Working together, we will multiply our investment.