APA Annual Convention gets a makeover

At its August 2011 meeting, the APA Council of Representatives approved a series of initiatives aimed at improving the Annual Convention experience for members

By Nancy Gordon Moore, PhD, MBA

The final item came out of the 2010 Convention Task Force (CTF) Report with modification by the Board of Directors and by Council.  The changes are to be implemented for the 2014 Convention and Council requested an evaluation of the changes after three years. 

Report Findings

The original report (PDF, 4.19MB) included an extensive review of data related to the convention: the 2007 consultant’s report and recommendations; attendance figures by division and by program; the number of attendees who do not belong to a division; the allocation formula; prior efforts to address recurring complaints; division feedback; and a benchmarking study that explored how peer organizations structured their annual meetings. 

The “ideal convention” according to the task force is: highly valued by members; highlights APA’s successes and scientific contributions; provides opportunity and resources for professional skill development; a pipeline opportunity to attract the next generation of psychologists; opportunity for members to participate in smaller communities such as divisions; and a venue to conduct APA/divisional business. In order to realize this vision, the group targeted several needed changes: 

  • Reduce the overall size of Convention by 20% and change the allocation formula 

  • Increase the number of programs around cross-cutting themes 

  • Improve quality and collaboration through training of division program chairs 

  • Increase funding available to both central programming and divisions to attract well-known presenters 

  • Increase the visibility and number of high-quality posters 


Divisions have been most concerned about the reduction in the overall size of the Convention, the change in the allocation formulas and the potential impact on their programming.  The Task Force made a number of recommendations about the implementation of the recommendations. 

In order to reduce the number of concurrent, competing programs, the total number of program hours is reduced to 1250.  Of that pool, 1000 hours are allocated to divisions; 250 hours are given to an expanded Central Programming Group (CPG) under the Board of Convention Affairs (BCA).  The COG is tasked with developing cross-cutting programs not readily available at more specialized conferences.  All hours currently assigned to governance groups are moved under the jurisdiction of CPG.  Divisions can tap 125 of the hours in the CPG pool through submission of proposals for collaborative programming.  Such proposals also can request funding for premier presenters.  

In the past, hours were assigned based on attendees’ selection of their “primary” division.  However, there was no verification of membership and there was no mechanism to account for attendees who belonged to no divisions. A new formula allocates hours based on attendance by actual membership of the divisions.  If an attendee belongs to multiple divisions, each will receive a proportion of the total. For example, if Jane belongs to Div 5 and 12, each division will receive one-half of her attendance credit.  The formula will be based on a rolling three year average of attendance.  Under the Proportional Model, each division is guaranteed a minimum of ten hours.  Recognizing that a transition period was needed, in the first year of implementation divisions will retain at least 70% of the hours assigned in 2010, in the second year they retain at least 65% and in the third year at least 60% of their 2010 hours (Chart showing new allocation (DOC, 16.8KB)).  If these adjustments cause the total division hours to rise about 1000, the hours will come out of the collaborative pool in order to keep the total program hours to 1250. There is no longer any distinction between substantive and non-substantive hours, and divisions are free to use their hours as they wish.  
Unrelated to the CTF report, but of note for divisions planning ahead for 2013, is the different schedule that BCA has adopted for Hawaii.  Each day of the Convention is shorted by 3 hours, but an extra day is added to the meeting so there is no reduction in total program hours.