VIS Community Opinions on Hybrid Event Formats

In a post by the VIS Executive Committee (VEC) earlier this year, we introduced our initiative to determine the extent to which VIS should assume a hybrid format, so as to broaden participation while ensuring positive experiences for both in-person and remote attendees. As part of this initiative, we partnered with members of the IEEE Visualization and Computer Graphics Technical Community Executive Committee (VGTC ExCom) to conduct an online survey to take the pulse of the community, to collect data regarding conference attendance patterns and preferences, to determine the sentiment toward potential hybrid experiences, and to collect ideas. In this post, we summarize the results of this survey.

Since January, 192 people responded to our call to participate in the survey, which we disseminated via community mailing lists and social media. 138 respondents selected VIS as their primary VGTC conference; our analysis focused on this subset of responses. We believe that the VIS community is reflected in the survey responses, which span the dimensions of world region, gender, level of education, age, affiliation, and VIS attendance history. However, some voices are either over- or under-represented when we compare the demographics of survey respondents to VIS attendance data; for instance, VIS attendees from North America are slightly over-represented, while those from Oceania are under-represented.

Reflection on Prior Conference Experiences

In the first half of the survey, we asked about recent conference experiences, including the motivations for attending either in person or virtually, as well as the barriers that prevent people from attending a conference in person. The results are shown in Figure 1. For each question, respondents could select up to three considerations, which included an ‘Other’ option that allowed them to specify their own. Highlights include:

Figure 1: Community responses to three questions from an online survey regarding IEEE VGTC conferences, filtered to the subset respondents who identified IEEE VIS as their primary VGTC conference (N = 138). For each question, respondents could select up to three considerations, which included an ‘Other’ option that allowed them to specify their own.

  • Top three motivations to attend VIS in-person: (1) networking, (2) present work, (3) attend paper presentations.
  • Top three barriers to attending VIS in-person: (1) cost of travel and accommodation, (2) time availability, (3) paper not accepted.
  • Top three motivations to attend conferences virtually: (1) no travel required, (2) no in-person attendance option offered, (3) affordability.

The open-ended comments largely corroborate what we saw in the fixed-response questions, however we also noted a recurring desire for hybrid formats to ensure accessibility. Additionally, respondents indicated how environmental concerns also influence their attendance decisions, with some choosing not to fly or combining travel with personal time to mitigate environmental impact. Finally, several respondents mentioned significant personal safety and human rights concerns associated with potential conference locations.

Next, we asked about respondents’ preferences and behaviors when attending conferences virtually. The majority of respondents reported consuming less than 50% of the conference program content, preferred livestreaming some of the content and watching the rest asynchronously. The majority preferred interacting with speakers via a basic chat interface, Slack or Discord, or a web application like They preferred interacting with other attendees via Slack or Discord, a basic chat interface, or asynchronously via email. In the open-ended comments, we noted a particular appreciation for the Discord instance associated with VIS 2022, although the effectiveness of such a platform depends on activity levels.

Opinions on Future Conferences

In the second half of the survey, we asked respondents for their opinions and preferences with respect to future conferences. In particular, we asked participants to either to agree or disagree with a series of statements regarding the specifics of possible hybrid conference arrangements (See Figure 2), which included statements about presentation video recorded before the conference, presenting at satellite events, and the integration of in-person and virtual presentations.

Figure 2: Percentage of survey responses (N = 138) that Disagree or Agree with the statements regarding future VIS conferences listed in the left column, along with the percentage of Neutral responses.

So what do respondents largely agree on? Most respondents (88%) want video recordings of in-person presentations and panels to be made available after the conference (7% opposed, 5% neutral). The majority (59%) agree that presentations by speakers who cannot attend in person should be broadcast at the in-person conference venue at a designated time and room (13% opposed, 28% neutral). Similarly, the majority (57%) agree that Q&A following presentations should accommodate in-person and virtual attendees to equal measure (24% opposed, 18% neutral). Finally, the majority of respondents (55%) agree that those who wish to host a future VIS conference must propose a virtual attendee experience (29% opposed, 16% neutral). The open-ended comments largely support these preferences, with calls for standardizing presentation formats across sessions and using familiar remote communication technology.

There was no clear majority opinion for other questions that we posed, though if we consider the percentage of neutral responses, we should avoid requiring pre-recorded presentations from speakers who elect to present in-person, and we should not consider changing the annual cadence of an in-person VIS conference.

Unsurprisingly, nearly half of the respondents said “it depends” when asked if they will opt to attend future VIS conferences remotely; less than 10% said they would attend virtually for most / all conferences that offered such a format, with about the same percentage saying they do not plan to attend future conferences virtually. The majority of respondents indicated that the virtual registration fee should be 25% or less than the full in-person registration fee. If attending virtually, the majority of respondents indicated that they would livestream keynote sessions but opt to watch paper talks asynchronously. This preference is also reflected in CHI 2024 organizers’ decision not to provide a synchronous conference experience for remote attendees, or as they put it: “Live is Synchronous, Remote is Asynchronous”.

Opinions on Satellite Events

Finally, relative to remote participation in general, we noted less enthusiasm or willingness to attend satellite conference events. The comments suggest that the quality of satellite events depends heavily on attendance and local organization strength, and that the attendance of a satellite event is contingent on the number and presence of local paper presenters. However, European satellite events are particularly attractive relative to others due to Europe’s developed rail travel network, particularly when the VIS conference takes place outside of Europe.