Events enable attendees to make new connections, learn about core concepts, share and discuss new research, and coordinate on projects. 

Summary

  • We think that EA Global London was our best event yet — probably more valuable than all events we ran in 2019 (combined).
  • We’re expanding our team so that we can run three large EA Globals, and support at least six EAGx conferences.
  • You can help us by:

Metric: connections

Our core metric is the number of connections made at our conferences. We calculate connections by multiplying the number of attendees times the average number of self-reported new connections. We define a new connection as “someone you feel comfortable reaching out to to ask for a favor,” so this is a relatively high bar. 

This metric has a variety of limitations.[1] We’re still fine-tuning it, finding better ways of measuring it, and thinking through other important outcomes to measure.

Year      TypeEstimated total new connectionsNotes
2019Final8,938Excluding EAGx
2020Final15,521Including EAGx
2021Q4 only10,700EA Global: London
Final17,108[2]Excluding the Coordination Forum, EAGx

EA Global: London

We ran the EA Global: London conference from October 29th to October 31st.

Outcomes

  • We had 1530 attendees in total (~900 attended in-person, and 630 attended virtually). We hosted 22 different sessions at the in-person event, a number of which were streamed or paired with a session for virtual attendees.
  • This event created approximately 10,700 connections[3] for the community, which was more successful[4] than our goals.
    • On average, in-person attendees formed 10.24 new connections. Virtual attendees only formed 2.41.
  • The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, especially for the in-person side of the event.
    • On average, in-person attendees rated their likelihood to recommend (LTR) the event as a 9.1/10 (8.1/10 for virtual attendees)[5]
    • The net promoter score was 73 for in-person, 29 for virtual attendees. [6]
  • We doubled the size of the in-person event at very short notice, and were worried that this would cause more logistical chaos or COVID-related issues.[7] Our impression is that this did not happen,[8] and the feedback we got supports this impression.
    • We think this decision added around 3,900 connections.[9]
  • The virtual side of the event underperformed, although it still added around 1,500 connections; it was positively received by attendees, but we did not optimize it.
    • We are reconsidering running hybrid conferences in the future, and might run separate virtual and in-person conferences in order to give more attention to each side.
  • We began providing grants for travel and accommodation for attendees who otherwise couldn’t attend, particularly students. We also continued to offer discounted tickets for attendees who need them.

Bonus image: 

An AI-generated illustration for the prompt: “painting of an effective altruism conference in London in 2021” (generated using NightCafe).

Postponing EAGxPrague

We also helped the EAGxPrague team organize their event in December and then respond to the decision to postpone it as a result of the Omicron wave. We expect that a lot of the work that went into organizing EAGxPrague is not totally lost, since the event will still be happening on 13 - 15 May this year. 

Hiring

In Q4, we hired

  • Eli Nathan, Project Manager for EA Global, starting in April
  • Ivan Burduk, Events Associate, started in November
  • Charlotte Potts, a part-time contractor working on revamping our volunteer process

We are currently hiring for:

  • Events Generalists
    • This role could involve a wide range of tasks including public communications, impact analysis, admissions processing, production, and content development.
  • Stewardship Program Manager
    • This role would focus on our mentorship program, which connects people newer to the community with potential mentors who are further along in their careers.
  • Retreats Program Manager
    • This role will focus on designing and producing a retreats program - responsibilities could include attendee selection, programming, production, and onsite operations.

Please email amy@centreforeffectivealtruism.org if you'd like to apply or refer someone for any of these roles. 

Future events

The exact schedule for 2022 is still being developed. 

  • We plan to run 3 EA Global conferences in 2022:
    • EAG: London (15 - 17 April)
    • EAG: San Francisco (29 - 31 July)
    • EAG: Washington, D.C. (23 - 25 September)
  • Plans for these events
    • We’re hoping to have capacity for 800-1000 people at each of those if possible.
    • We may run one or more virtual conferences.
    • We’re working to improve our COVID policy and protocols.
  • Additionally, we will be supporting
    • EAGxOxford (26 - 27 March)
    • EAGxBoston (1 - 3 April)
    • EAGxPrague (13 - 15 May)
    • EAGxAustralia (8 - 10 July)
    • EAGxSingapore (2 - 4 September)
    • EAGxBerlin (September/October)
  • Applications for EAG: London (April), EAGxOxford (March) and EAGxBoston (April) have just opened. To apply for these events, please go here.
  • We are also running an event in April for people interested in developing their event-running skills. If you know someone who might be a good fit, please refer them to us here.

Comment on this post or email us (hello@eaglobal.org) if you have any feedback or questions, and we hope to see you at events in 2022! 

 

  1. ^

    For instance:

    • We expect this to overestimate the true number of connections, since people who engage a lot with the event may be more likely to fill in our post-event survey, and also more likely to make lots of connections. However, we think it allows for some comparison between events and years.
    • 2020 figures include EAGx, whereas 2019 and 2021 figures don’t.
    • We think this methodology overestimates the number of connections at virtual events relative to in-person events. All events in 2020 were virtual, and some events in 2021 were virtual, while all 2019 events were in-person.
      • We expect virtual events to over-report total numbers of connections relative to in-person events.
      • As mentioned in an earlier footnote, this figure is calculated as the number of attendees x average number of self-reported new connections. This is probably an overestimate, since people who engage a lot with the event are more likely to fill in the survey, and also more likely to make lots of connections. We expect this effect to be bigger for virtual events, because there’s more variation in how much people engage with the event, and because fewer people complete the survey (causing more bias). Therefore, we expect this method to broadly overestimate the number of connections made in 2020 (and to some extent 2021) versus 2019.
      • Note that in 2021, 74% of in-person attendees and 39% of virtual attendees filled out the survey (which means the surveys were decently representative). These numbers fit the pattern that more in-person attendees give feedback, so virtual events may indeed overestimate connections more than in-person events do. However, we broadly did not find that in-person attendees who filled out the survey earlier (e.g. before we announced external incentives) were more likely to report more connections, which suggests that the method we use is relatively robust.
  2. ^

    We expect around 200 connections were also formed at the Coordination Forum.

  3. ^

    We expect this number to be fairly robust, as we had very high survey completion rates from in-person attendees (74% response rate— 666 responses), and that’s where the bulk of the connections comes from (~9,200 of 10,700). Moreover, as noted in a previous footnote, when we tested for trends in the responses to the questions related to our key metric (connections), we found that eagerness to complete the survey earlier or without extra encouragement (we offered respondents free books) does not correlate with higher responses for the number of connections formed. This means that we are likely not significantly overestimating the total number of connections formed at an event by extrapolating from partial information.

  4. ^

    In the previous update, we had optimistically projected 11,285 connections, 500 more than we got in the end. Our projection overestimated the number of attendees and connections from the virtual side, and underestimated the number of connections per attendee from the in-person side. 

  5. ^

    These compare favorably with our past events. The in-person score is a new record.

  6. ^

    This is very high for the in-person event, and a bit lower than our average for the virtual event.

  7. ^

    Few people reported getting COVID after the event (and many attendees were getting tests for travel); we are aware of only ~4 cases that might have originated at the conference. This is close to the baseline rates of COVID in the UK at the time (how many cases you’d expect for around 1000 people existing in the UK).

  8. ^

    We are worried about potentially harmful effects from the admissions process. We were surprised by the number of extremely strong applications we received for this event, and had to reject or waitlist some strong candidates as part of the process. We think this may have negatively impacted some people involved, but believe that the result was probably positive.

  9. ^

    We got ~9,200 connections from the in-person side of the event. All else equal, if we only had 500 attendees, we’d only get 5,100 connections.

48

20 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 5:36 PM
New Comment

I'd personally love to see one flagship-level online EAG with the level of resources it was given in 2020, in addition to the multiple in-person conferences. I think a virtual conference is a great supplement that increases the accessibility of the movement and I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the virtual conferences in 2020.

Thanks for this comment! I agree that virtual conferences are super valuable (they're impactful and more accessible), and we're probably going to make (at least) one happen this year. We haven't prioritized picking a date for that conference yet because in-person conferences require earlier planning — the difficult logistics around venues force us to pin down a time and place much earlier — but we'll try to speed up the process on the virtual side, too.

Thank you for strong EAGs in 2020 and 2021, in ultra-challenging circumstances! Re:

  • The virtual side of the event underperformed, although it still added around 1,500 connections; it was positively received by attendees, but we did not optimize it.
    • We are reconsidering running hybrid conferences in the future, and might run separate virtual and in-person conferences in order to give more attention to each side.

Sharing across one data point that I found the virtual event and a few subsequent connections very valuable. Conflicting October travel meant I wouldn't have applied/been able to join in-person in London — so it was both useful and encouraging to participate in the virtual side of the event. 

Without endorsing this particular source, this strikes me as a valuable perspective as far as inclusion reasons to keep investing in hybrid options when viable.

1. Hybrid events are more inclusive and accessible than in-person-only events.

There are many barriers people may face to attending an in-person conference, especially if it requires flying or a long drive:

  • Physical disabilities and mobility issues: blindness, deafness, using a wheelchair or walker, inability to walk quickly, chronic pain, chronic fatigue
  • Health issues that require equipment or a regimented medication schedule to manage
  • Caring for children or older relatives at home
  • Complex dietary restrictions

...Hybrid events are more accessible to these audiences because they allow attendees to participate from home without travel or overnight stays.


 

Thanks for bringing this up. I appreciate the inclusion reasons to run virtual events. In practice, I think the virtual side of hybrid events is significantly worse than a fully virtual event; lots of in-person attendees or speakers who would want to interact with people who are attending virtually are too busy with the in-person conference, the organizers are split between the two sides (and largely focus on the more involved in-person side), and there's a bit more confusion about how everything works. The upsides (simultaneous attendance at a big event) don't seem to outweigh the downsides. But please let me know if you disagree!

So what I'm most excited about is having separate virtual and in-person conferences.

+1 for separate virtual and in-person conferences as otherwise the virtual really gets second shrift.

Hey, do you want a comment from this account on this post?

Sure! We'd be happy for some red-teaming or suggestions on how to improve our work.

Epistemic status: See profile.

tl;dr: Skeptical about measuring "conections".

Yeah, in the abstract, I'm skeptical of the way you are measuring this, because you are measuring quantity and not quality. You don't just want "more connections", you want more connections that lead somewhere, and it's not clear to me that doubling the number of (junior) participants does this. You have a higher number of potential connections, but also a dillution effect.

So in a simple model where there are only "junior" (people looking for opportunities) and "senior" (people giving out opportunities) people, if you double the number of junior people who attend the conference, you will get more junior-junior connections, perhaps fewer senior-senior connections, and the effect on junior-senior connections depends on whether allowing more senior people to filter themselves produces better connections or mostly overwhelms them and increases the number of junior people they have to talk with until they find a good match (and thus reduces the number of total good matches). You can fix the reduced number of senior-senior connections by having separate senior-only events, but that then creates fewer senior-junior connections.

My impression is that that simplified model is in fact not that far off from what is actually happening. There are also longer term effects (e.g., maybe someone who goes to EA global and is offered no opportunities nonetheless is still inspired). But then I'd sort of want to see some attempt to estimate that instead, or at least point to it.

In the concrete, I'd say that the promisingness of the average participant was noticeably lower than in previous years, and that this effect made it harder for me specifically to find people that I got something out of talking with (but easier to find people who I could offer something to). This effect is cofounded by me in particular becoming more "senior", or at least older, though. Nonetheless, I've attended a few EA Globals, and I wouldn't say this one has been the best one.

Separately, I'm a bit skeptical of the value of "connections" at these types of events, and I tend to think that they are a bit fake. But you could test this, e.g., you could ask a random number of participants to actually follow up on their reported connections, and see whether they respond, or you could ask in a few months whether people actually followed up (maybe you are already doing this, though). 

It's also not clear to me whether this is an interim update (in which case I'm probably being unnecessarily harsh), or whether this is the extent of your evaluation (in which case I am somewhat worried, the same as I would be if 80,000 hours only measured "number of people we had calls with", rather than "number of importance-adjusted career changes"). 

Ollie here from CEA's events team

Tl;DR: we basically agree. We think the number of connections is (one of!) our decent, measurable proxies for Good Things Happening but we could do better and we’re working on that.

Yeah, in the abstract, I'm skeptical of the way you are measuring this, because you are measuring quantity and not quality. You don't just want "more connections", you want more connections that lead somewhere

Yes, we agree. We’re working on ideas that actually capture the “lead somewhere” part. This might be impact-adjusted connections or, more crudely, “critical connections” (connections that actually cause something good to happen).

You can fix the reduced number of senior-senior connections by having separate senior-only events, but that then creates fewer senior-junior connections.

Our (pretty scrappy) data suggests that the proportion of attendees who made "professional connections" was about the same in 2021 as previous conferences (~80%). The question for this was an option to select "I made an important professional connection (e.g. a potential career or hiring opportunity, or maybe a potential funder or collaborator)". This sounds like it captures a lot of what you'd call "senior-junior connections", but includes some senior-senior connections (funder/collaborator).

the promisingness of the average participant was noticeably lower than in previous years, and that this effect made it harder for me specifically to find people that I got something out of talking with

I’m sorry you found the conference a bit less valuable yourself. We’re hoping to build out our events portfolio such that more experienced EAs can continue to get a lot of value out of conferences, even as EAGs grow. Do let me know (here or via ollie@eaglobal.org) if you have ideas for this.

You could ask a random number of participants to actually follow up on their reported connections, and see whether they respond, or you could ask in a few months whether people actually followed up (maybe you are already doing this, though). 

I share your scepticism. We already have plans to do this but this is a helpful nudge to make sure it happens!

It's also not clear to me whether this is an interim update (in which case I'm probably being unnecessarily harsh), or whether this is the extent of your evaluation (in which case I am somewhat worried, the same as I would be if 80,000 hours only measured "number of people we had calls with", rather than "number of importance-adjusted career changes"). 

It’s an interim update, reporting immediate event outcomes, not the extent of our evaluation :)

Thanks for your comment Nuno, we do really appreciate the constructive feedback!

Easy fix, if we can link survey responses to accounts:

modify the event survey in year  to ask for a list of named connections this year, then pull this same response in year +1 and ask what number have so far proved to be valuable. 

My read of your comment is that you have a well informed, personal view of many EAGs, and this is driving your skepticism.

I think your perspective and experience on EAG is useful, especially if this can lead to insights that could improve it, or create new narratives that allow us to perceive EA coordination better. 

I wanted to write a few questions with this motivation.

I think I find the metric less relevant. (I think it might turn out to be difficult to measure match quality, especially impact, because Goodhart or something. Sometimes simple metrics as a proxy is ok.)

My impression is that that simplified model is in fact not that far off from what is actually happening….if you double the number of junior people who attend the conference…[this] increases the number of junior people [that senior people] have to talk with until they find a good match
 

I'd say that the promisingness of the average participant was noticeably lower than in previous years, and that this effect made it harder for me specifically to find people that I got something out of talking with

 

From what I understand, for the qualities of “juniorness” and “promisingness” that you mention, it seems they are two distinct issues or channels for how EAG is getting worse:

  1. The noise or difficulty of matches due to quantity of "juniors" due to volume / communication / coordination costs imposed on seniors,  and
  2. The participant quality or "promisingness" decreasing (due to event size).

But I'm not sure 1) is important? 

As long as the average junior person is equally promising, you can have equally good senior-junior matches, and the value of the event for a senior person seems unaffected as event size increases from more juniors. (Also, the total value of the event seems non-decreasing as you add more junior people).

If participant quality is the same, I don't understand why this increases search costs for senior people or something. Or maybe it does for some, or maybe it involves management and is a skill to be learned? I guess I view these as second order effects and I don't understand why the effect could be very large (I could be wrong).

 

So I'm speculating that actually 2) "promisingness" is the issue, and so I think the implication or subtext of your comment is that with more people, we're walking down the quality curve of participants (and pretty quickly. If you are perceiving the change in total value of the EAG as negative from event size increases, this gives us a sense of the slope of participant quality).

Does this sound plausible or reflect your perspective?

 

I guess I what I am trying to do in this comment is punch through the discussion of the metric, and punch through several confounding things (your seniorness and "search costs") to get at what I speculate is the essence of your experience, the change in promisingness—which actually is still sort of complicated and has confounding issues itself.

So, if you're still with me here and this comment isn't too rambling or confusing, it would be really interesting to hear you talk a lot more about your perspectives on promisingness and these confounding issues.

So  if the pool of potential candidates is pretty similar from year to year and there isn't a lot more going on, simply moving the cutoff criteria could account for your changed experiences, as I think you are saying. (My read is this is the subtext of your comment, that the size of EAG is affecting match quality).

But if the pool of candidates or some other quality of EAG is changing, maybe your experiences has a different explanation?

  • For example, a explanation might be some effect of a changed selection process, "advertising", or the recent output of community builders. COVID might have affected the pool too.
  • Maybe movements get older and the energy changes naturally. This is neither good or bad.
  • The effect might be vary a lot by cause area, or some small but important community inside a cause area.

 

 

Do you have any insights about the above, or can you dismiss any of these speculations out of hand?

Or is this comment just really confusing?
 

Another topic is the “design of EAG”, or something. 
 

Again, my read is that the subtext of your comment is that the pool is being adversely affected by increasing the event size. Let’s fully accept this perspective.
 

So, regarding the "total value of the event for altruistic impact". As touched on above, it’s not clear that decreasing match quality outweighs the value of quantity increases. If you’re straight up doubling the event size, that could allow for some decrease in average match quality.

Like, if EAG was 500 before, and 1,000 now, the "value for the 500 new people" might outweigh the "impact on the original 500 people".

Obviously, a judgement about change in total value of the event is hard, but maybe you have a good guess or intuition about the sign of the change?

 

But there’s still more considerations:

  • EAG acceptance is seen as a badge of ingroupness, and this badge seems valuable for an decentralized movement. For example, being rejected hurts. Obviously, I understand if a dud like me gets culled. But I can think of many people, maybe who aren’t strong networkers or signallers, that EA should value, and many of them are not going to make it into a size 500 event and that  seems bad.
  • You might think that EAG impact is driven by very very talented people, like the next Christiano or SBF and this affects your view of sizing and experience for these people. But there’s several special "programs", that range from those explicitly run by formal EA orgs, as well as powerful de facto "programs" and personal recommendations, that find develop and connect talent at physical events, including EAGs. These exist among different cause areas. How these programs play out or could be improved in different conceptions of EAG seems pretty relevant.

 

I’m just some dude writing stuff onto an internet forum, but my guess is that a larger EAG is better given a view of a growing EA.

To the degree you think that previous executions of EAG are inadequate, I’m not sure that this is informative about the future.

It seems bad if a movement couldn’t scale a gathering beyond 500 or 1000 people. It seems like careful, high effort design, maybe new meeting formats or ways to improve match quality, could more than offset the downside of larger event sizes.

Hey, I think that these are all good comments, and I wouldn't call you "a dud". I agree with your thoughts around possible cofounders, though a decrease in average participant quality was the most salient explanation to me.

We plan to run 3 EA Global conferences in 2021

I'm guessing this is a typo and you meant 2022?

Thanks for catching this! Yep, it's a typo — should be fixed now.

I would be curious to here why you think this EA Global resulted in more connections.

We put a lot of emphasis on networking and tried to communicate the importance of reaching out to fellow attendees. We also worked with Swapcard to improve the networking app, and felt that this had a positive effect. In general, we think most of the connections resulted from chance conversations or booked one-on-one meetings--- and we were pleased to see that people reported having around 12 one-on-one meetings each. (We can also confirm that people who had more meetings had more connections, although causality is not clear.)

I guess the numbers probably come from the survey.

If you recall, on the last night, they held our (vegan) dinner for ransom until we filled this out. Ruthless.