Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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Cliques within the crowd: identifying medical conference attendee subgroups by their motivations for participation

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-15, 15:24 authored by Sai Sreenidhi Ram, Daniel Stricker, Carine Pannetier, Nathalie Tabin, Richard CostelloRichard Costello, Daiana Stolz, Kevin W. Eva, Sören Huwendiek

Conferences enable rapid information sharing and networking that are vital to career development within academic communities. Addressing diverse attendee needs is challenging and getting it wrong wastes resources and dampens enthusiasm for the field. This study explores whether, and how, motivations for attendance can be grouped in relation to preferences to offer guidance to organizers and attendees. A pragmatic constructivist case study approach using mixed methods was adopted. Semi-structured interviews completed with key informants underwent thematic analysis. Survey results outlining attendees' perspectives underwent cluster and factor analysis. Stakeholder interviews (n = 13) suggested attendees could be grouped by motivations predictable from level of specialisation in a field and past engagement with conferences. From n = 1229 returned questionnaires, motivations were clustered into three factors: learning, personal and social. Three groups of attendees were identified. Group 1 (n = 500; 40.7%) was motivated by all factors. Group 2 (n = 345; 28.1%) was mainly motivated by the learning factor. Group 3 (n = 188; 15.3%) scored the social factor highest for in-person conferences and the learning factor highest for virtual meetings. All three groups expressed a preference for hybrid conferences in the future. This study indicates that medical conference attendees can be clustered based on their learning, personal and social motivations for attendance. The taxonomy enables organizers to tailor conference formats with guidance on how to utilize hybrid conferences, thereby enabling better catering to attendees' desires for knowledge gain relative to networking. 


Open access funding provided by University of Bern

European Respiratory Society



The original article is available at

Published Citation

Ram SS. et al. Cliques within the crowd: identifying medical conference attendee subgroups by their motivations for participation. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2023;29:1–24.

Publication Date

29 April 2023

PubMed ID



  • Beaumont Hospital
  • Medicine


Springer Netherlands


  • Published Version (Version of Record)