The holistic conference experience: understanding the individual attendee's conference journey

STEFANSDOTTIR, Katrin Sif (2020). The holistic conference experience: understanding the individual attendee's conference journey. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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The overall aim of this research is to analyse and explain conference attendees' holistic journey over their career and to interpret the complexities of how they develop their outcomes from not only a single conference journey but their accumulated conference journeys. Conference research has traditionally concentrated on only a part of the conference journey, mostly elements within the decision-making process (G. I. Crouch & Ritchie, 1998; Del Chiappa, 2012; M. J. Lee & Back, 2007a; M. J. Lee & Back, 2007b; Oppermann & Chon, 1997; Rompf, Breiter, & Severt, 2008; Yoo & Chon, 2008). Currently there is a shift from a management dominant paradigm towards a design dominant paradigm within event research which has contributed towards increased knowledge on the experience at the conference itself (Hahm, Breiter, Severt, Wang, & Fjelstul, 2016; Henn & Bathelt, 2015; Ryu & Lee, 2013; Wei, Lu, Miao, Cai, & Wang, 2017; Wei & Miao, 2017). These early studies focused greatly on the view of the conference host and organiser with the voice of the attendee receiving limited attention leading to calls for further research on them (J. Lee & Back, 2009b; Ramirez, Laing, & Mair, 2013; D. Severt, Wang, Chen, & Breiter, 2007). This research responds to this call by focusing on the attendee, specifically two types of attendees, academics and professionals. Supported by emerging event design thinking, it allows not only for a comparison of the similarities and differences of their journeys, but also provides opportunity for identification of the key influences affecting the conference attendees' outcomes. To achieve this, an interpretivist position was adopted for this research, utilising a qualitative framework consisting of 18 semi-structured life-world interviews (Kvale, 2007). This approach responded to calls for further qualitative research within event studies (Getz 2012, Mair and Whitford 2013, Mair 2012, Brown 2014) as conventionally they have been carried out quantitatively (Crowther, Bostock and Perry, 2015). The data was analysed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis technique generating two conference journeys, for academics and professionals. The research identifies the key influences within the holistic conference journey which support the development of outcomes. It reveals the influences to be both internal to the attendee as well as external. The internal influences relate to the conference attendee’s multiple identities, which impact their ambitions, engagement and emotions which then influence the single conference journey and their holistic lifetime journey throughout their career. The career stage is also internal influence. The external influences are the attendee’s workplace at each time of the journey and the conference designer of each attended conference. Fundamentally the research shows how there is an interaction between an individual’s single conference journey and their lifetime career. When people attend conferences throughout their career and are actively engaged with their attendance during the conference journey influences their career. These major influences of the single conference journeys, the multiple conference creators and workplaces over a career together are powerful. On their own, along with the attendee’s reflections, they are however only a part of the overall puzzle contributing towards the development of outcomes from the conference journey. The research hence identifies that the conference creator can have a larger impact than previously suggested in the literature by shifting their mindset from focusing on their conference as an independent, all-important event, towards a piece in the holistic career of their attendees, designing for maximised outcomes which contribute towards career progression. This research makes a timely and justifiable contribution to the conference literature, under the emerging and growing umbrella of event design.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Egan, David
Additional Information: Director of studies: David Egan
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2020 12:44
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2021 01:18

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