Have You Ever Cancelled a Planned Conference Trip at the Last Minute?

A new experience.

June 6, 2018

Earlier this month I did something that I have never done in my two-decade academic career. I canceled my plan to attend a conference at the last minute.

This was a conference that I very much wanted to attend. It was a small gathering at a peer institution.The attendees were people that I very much wanted to spend a couple of days with.

But still I backed out.

The reason was family.

It turned out that my older daughter needed to move into her off-campus house during the same days that conference was occurring. I wanted to help her move in.

Hence, I backed out of the conference at the last minute.

I still feel terrible about going back on my commitment to attend this conference. Had I known earlier that I would not be able to attend my space could have gone to somebody else. In backing out of the conference I was failing to honor a commitment, and letting colleagues down.

I am hyper-aware of the importance of honoring one’s professional commitments.  In an industry where the only thing you really have is your reputation, it is extremely important to do what you say are going to do.

Still, I learned a long time ago that if there is ever a choice between work and family - always choose family. This is something that I’ve always told all the people that I’ve ever hired.

Sometimes, and unavoidably, family commitments get in the way of work commitments.

My conference backing out experience of this past week has caused me to wonder about how common this might be in our academic world.

Have you ever had to cancel your participation in an academic conference at the last minute?

What caused you to have to cancel?

Have you ever been scheduled to present at an academic event, and then not been able to fulfill that commitment?

What happens if you get sick before an academic conference? Do you go anyway, assuming you will feel better?

How did you handle things like travel costs and conference registrations? Did you look at those as sunk costs, or were you able to get the money back?

Is there such a thing as “academic conference melt”? Do people who plan academic conferences anticipate that a certain percent will always drop off?

The folks organizing this small academic gathering that I had to miss were incredibly kind and gracious. They let me know that I could spend less time at the conference if that worked better, and they were very understanding about why I could not attend. This was greatly appreciated, as it lessened the stress of missing the event.

Are academics more or less understanding than other professions when it comes to putting family first?

What conferences have you missed at the last minute?


Be the first to know.
Get our free daily newsletter.


Back to Top