Austin Forum on Technology & Society 2019 Attendee Survey Results: Thanks for Your Support and Ideas!
For more than 12 years, the Austin Forum’s mission has been to inform and educate Austinites about the nature and importance of technologies in shaping society and to inspire connections and collaborations that advance the applications of technologies in society.
Through the generous support of our partners, we’ve hosted great speakers at wonderful venues. We’ve recently expanded our reach with our technology blog, the Austin Forum Update, and podcast series, the Austin Forum Upload (with Series 2 coming soon!), and will soon release a new AF app to enable AF attendees to better connect to other and to all of our content and resources. We do all this while remaining free of charge and accessible to everyone.
To continue to achieve our mission and increase our impact, we asked one favor of you: to provide thoughtful, objective responses to the Austin Forum 2019 Attendee Survey. We are thankful to the 257 respondents who took the time and effort to share their feedback and ideas. We have carefully reviewed your ideas, concerns, and feedback to help us make the Austin Forum even better and even more impactful for our community.
The results of the survey suggest that the Austin Forum, overall, is seen as a very good service to the community and learning experience for most. An outstanding 96% of the attendees were satisfied with Austin Forum’s programming, with 74% of respondents being very satisfied or extremely satisfied and 72% saying they recommend the Forum to others. One respondent replied: “Love the topics that are very relevant to everyday life in Austin, Texas, US and the world, that we don't think of from different perspectives. Makes me think and consider more information in choices, voting, activism, business, etc.” The Austin Forum provides a diversity of cutting-edge topics that “give a view of what the future is likely to look like,” and expert speakers present “at a level that keeps the layman interested but satisfies the experts.”
Some general trends in the data suggest attendees want the ability to ask more questions and participate more fully through more interactions and deeper dives into the topics with workshops and small group sessions. One respondent suggested “links to resources on the next topic I can read/consume leading up to the Forum to level some of the technical information that will be discussed.” Another suggestion was, “it would be cool if there were more hands-on demonstrations.” These are great ideas to further augment our programming and increase our impact, and we’ll be implementing them in our events, website, social media, and other channels as the year goes on. There were many other great ideas in the survey results—we’ll share many of them as we implement them, while others will be minor, perhaps transparent tweaks to things that are already working well but can be subtly improved. Thank you again for all the great ideas!
We were especially pleased to see the great diversity in the attendees of the Austin Forum. While we experience it every month in the in-person presentation and networking events, the survey data was a useful confirmation and expansion of that data. We have great participation from all age groups from age 25 upwards, proving our appeal to everyone from younger professionals to retired workers, with a modest increase in participation from professionals in the middle of the careers. Over half of the respondents had been part of at least one startup. The formal education levels of our attendees is quite high, with a strong base of college-educated attendees and variety of advanced degree levels. Finally, our gender balance was very good for a tech-focused organization with 37% being female—but this shows we still have more work to do (and we have plans—stay tuned!).
We believe strongly in the importance of in-person monthly events, both for learning (we all read enough on computer and smartphone screens) and for networking, building relationships, etc. However, we recognize no location and venue are perfect for everyone, even one as great at the new Austin Central Library. We got feedback about the parking availability, traffic, catering, etc. We realize we cannot accommodate everyone’s individual preferences, but we are listening and considering your suggestions of occasionally hosting the Forum on varied days of the week and at varied locations (The Domain or south of the river) which may result in better, free parking. While about half of the respondents like the Central Austin Library location and venue, the other half find it a struggle to drive to and/or park at the library at that time of the evening. Again, there is no single location, venue, day of week, time of day, etc. that can be perfect for everyone, but we’re open to trying some new things! We’re also working on plans to livestream the events more consistently and at higher quality. And of course, don’t forget about the Austin Forum Update blog and the Austin Forum Upload podcasts, which can be consumed by anyone, anywhere, any time!
According to survey results (and as we hoped and expected!), networking and collaborations are an important and valuable part of the Austin Forum event experience. Thirty-two respondents have started 58 different collaborations with people they met at the Austin Forum and 40% of respondents report meeting potential collaborators at the events. Some of the comments indicated that while the library is a great presentation venue, it and the after-event locations are not as conducive to networking as past venues have been. We took that seriously, and already improved the pre-event networking at the April event by focusing it on the more intimate space outside the presentation room. We are working diligently on better options and funding for further improving the quality and effectiveness (while maintaining the fun) of the networking portions of the events, whether at the library or elsewhere. We want everyone to learn, enjoy, and then stay to connect, collaborate, and contribute.
Thanks again for the input and for your continued support of the Austin Forum for the past 12+ years. Please join us at the monthly events and online for news, podcasts & blog posts, and stay tuned to connect with others on the Austin Forum app.
By Jay Boisseau, Executive Director of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society