About a month after its conclusion, it is useful to reflect on the 2015 TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg. The Conference this year was designed to increase the participant experience, by providing more educational and networking opportunities than in the past. A final attendance number of 1564 makes it one of our best attended conferences, a testament to the hard work of the Arrangements and Program Committees in reaching out to potential attendees and designing a conference with value to them. In particular, we had anticipated a good Canadian representation at the Conference, but the final number of registrants from Canada substantially exceeded early expectations. Especially noteworthy was the attendance of a large number of students who represent the next generation of wildlife professionals.
In addition to attendance, the conference set records for the number of sponsors and contributors (60), and the number of education sessions (more than 700), including symposia, workshops, and contributed paper and poster sessions. The exhibit hall was sold out with 51 exhibitors. By almost any metric of size and scope, the Conference was a great success. But the engagement of participants was impressive as well. The opening plenary session on Sunday and the members meeting on Wednesday were better attended than in recent years, and the audience for the boreal forest plenary on Tuesday was large and enthusiastic. Participant engagement carried over as well in the opening and closing receptions, the Quiz Bowl, the Ignite TWS session, the film showcases and other events. Initial feedback from attendees indicates a high degree of overall satisfaction with the Conference.
I should mention that two new member benefits were announced during the Conference, namely the increase from four to six issues of The Wildlife Professional each year starting in January, and a 5 percent discount for TWS members for online courses through our new Strategic Partner, American Public University. A continuing benefit to attendees was the recording of over 450 educational sessions at the conference, with availability to be announced by email in early December. For members who were unable to attend, we make two of these recordings available each week through the TWS Talks member benefit, so look for those offerings in your inbox throughout the year.
Finally, don’t forget to mark on your calendars the Conference next year in Raleigh, NC on October 15-19. We already are well along in planning for the Conference, which will build on the success in Winnipeg to make it an even better and more enriching experience to attendees. I look forward to seeing you in Raleigh!