In the article “Many dropouts from events – what can be done”, Editorial Services addressed the issue of many no-shows to events. A first article with suggestions and thoughts from employees was published on June xx, 2023.

Some 30 employees then contacted Editorial Services with a range of opinions, ideas and suggestions. In fact, so many good suggestions have come in to Editorial Services that we want to share with you that we have divided them into two articles. You can read the second article “Lofts of suggestions and opinions about no-shows to events” here.

This article confirms and adds detail about the problem. Many of those who responded to our call also thought that organisers need to think through the needs and implementation of events based on the fact that we have a different reality since the pandemic. One employee also took the time to write and submit a three-point strategy for organisers.

In this article, we continue to talk about the suggestions and ideas that employees have submitted to Editorial Services.

Requirements from outside the University

The decision to hold an event is obviously influenced by factors and requirements from outside the University. For example, more and more often research funding bodies are requesting that the research projects they fund hold various kinds of events and then report on them.

“In the individual instance, this can of course be a good idea. But all in all for those who are expected to attend these events, it can end up being many events.”

Lack of coordination in University Administration

One person pointed to the lack of coordination between different events, in this case events organised by the University Administration:

“For me, the biggest problem has been that the different divisions in the Administration do not synchronise their event calendars. I may have signed up for an event that I find interesting and relevant to some part of my work. Later, another event will turn up that is relevant to another part of my work. I need to prioritise what is most important.

I suspect that the divisions at the Administration believe that they are addressing their target group and do not need to look at what the others have planned. But as an employee at a department, I belong to multiple target groups for different divisions, so it would be good to synchronise event calendars.”

Administration takes too much time

A number of employees wrote that the problem is partly due to the fact that the administrative burden at the University is too onerous. Employees no longer have the time to attend events like they used to.

“One problem could be that most people still sign up for as many events as they used to and think are relevant to their work. But now there is so much more administrative work to do that they realise at short notice that they don’t have time to attend the event.”

Another person came to a rather pithy conclusion:

“The reason seems obvious: there is too much unnecessary stuff to do and too many meetings organised. Researchers end up not having enough time to devote themselves to core activities: research, teaching and third stream activities.”

In this connection, it may be interesting to read the opinion piece on having the courage to refuse to perform some administrative tasks (Våga vägra administration) by Anna Sarkadi, professor at the Department of Public Health and Care Sciences at Uppsala University, published in the magazine Curie on 4 May 2023.

Behavioural change needed

Several people expressed the view that changing behaviour, a cultural change, is necessary for the situation to improve:

“Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” ( Peter Drucker was a renowned management consultant and writer (1909 - 2005)). As long as we tolerate a culture of signing up to events and then skipping them, no strategy will make much of a difference.

Ultimately, we need to discuss and change our culture so that everyone feels responsible for actually being present when they say they are going to be. That’s a long-term change and it will start with our more senior colleagues setting a good example for those younger.”

Start a network

One suggestion received for beginning a cultural change is that a network should be established for organisers of events at Uppsala University. A network where you can discuss, share ideas and gain momentum for cultural change.

Similar networks for discussing and dealing with the increased number of no-shows to events have been established at other higher education institutions.