International Association for Impact Assessment

Why do conferences cost so darn much?

  • Guest post by Marla Orenstein

    Why do conferences cost so darn much?


    Many members ask why the IAIA annual conference fees are so high, and whether anything can be done about it.

    Here are some things you might not know.


    1.  Everyone pays the conference registration fee. EVERYONE.

    As President of IAIA, I still have the honour of paying the conference fee. So do all the Board members. Conference organizers are subject to registration, too! We are all in this together. 



    2.  Compared with many other similar conferences, IAIA is less expensive.

    The fee to attend the IAIA conference is USD $645 for members (early bird rate).  In comparison:

    • The International Conference on Environmental Pollution and Remediation is $837.
    • The SPE International Conference on Health, Safety, Security, Environment and Social Responsibility is $1,200.
    • The Americana Environmental Forum and International Trade Show is $1,062.
    • The Globe Forum Leadership Summit for Sustainable Business is $1,600.

    3.  It costs more to hold the conference than the total of the registration fees.

    • For the 2016 conference in Japan, the registration fees (including for training courses, the banquet, the fun run, etc.) only covered 60% of the cost of holding the conference.
    • For the 2017 conference in Montreal, the registration fees covered 72% of the conference cost.

    So how can the conference take place, given that fees don't fully cover the costs? This is where sponsorships come in. The local conference organizing team and IAIA's Executive Director Jill Baker put in a lot of work to get sponsorships from private organizations, government and grant sources.  Sometimes the cost is fully covered; if not, the shortfall comes out of IAIA's reserve funds.   



    4.  The conferences are growing.

    In recent years, the number of participants at the annual conference has grown substantially.  We had an average of 925 participants attend each of the conferences in the last five years (range of 748 to 1,105), compared with an average of 668 participants (range of 545 to 864) for the five years before that. 

    This is good news.  First, it means that the conferences are seen as relevant and worth attending. Second, it means that each conference has more content and more networking opportunities for those who attend.

    What it means in terms of costs, however, is that the venue needs to be sufficiently large to hold everyone – often a conference/convention centre (for example, in Japan, in Durban and for 2019 in Brisbane), which is considerably more costly than a hotel venue.


    First, the IAIA annual conference is excellent value for money. Second, although paying the registration fees can be painful, there is no room to decrease the conference fees—every cent goes back into creating a conference that is meaningful, memorable and engaging.

    And finally, if you are part of an organization that has the capacity to sponsor the annual conference, IAIA would love to speak with you – please check out our IAIA18 sponsors page [] for more information on contact Jill Baker at

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