Is it ok to show up to a conference without registering if I don't eat any meals?

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Solution 1

No, it is not acceptable.

You can of course email the organisers and ask if you can participate without paying, but do not be surprised if they say no.

(Please note that conference registration fees cover lots of things besides the lunch. Among others, conference registration fees may cover the rent of the hall in which you are sitting, and expenses related to the speaker who is giving the talk. Conference organisers are definitely not expecting random people to come there without registering, unless they explicitly advertise this possibility.)

Solution 2

People are discussing whether its OK or not. I'd rather respond in context of career impact. The risk is that the people who invited you would think of you as a "schnorrer", and your future invitations may dry up.

Also, many conferences employ professional conference organizers. If there is a chunk of unpaid attendees, you may impact the relationship between the community holding the conference and the paid organizer, making it a little more difficult for that conference to be held in the future.

If you can pay for one day, do it, and be thankful that the conference had a mechanism that allowed you to do so.

Sometimes, though, if the event is internal to YOUR university, organizers make accommodations for local faculty and students to attend at discount or no cost. Good local attendance can enhance the reputation of a department. If this applies in this case, you should talk to the conference organizer.

Solution 3

Tl;dr: You should ask your mentor what the particular policy and culture at the conference you are attending is.


At least in the humanities and social sciences, it depends.

A. There are many conferences where registration is heavily monitored and you cannot audit sessions for free. These tend to be conferences that rely on registration fees to pay for their hotel/facility costs or the running costs of the sponsoring organizations.

B. There are conferences that would prefer it if people registered/paid, but otherwise do not enforce registration to attend sessions.

C. And then there are some conferences that are entirely paid through internal and external grants and not conference registration fees, so they are entirely open to the public (although some sessions and meals may be restricted).

D. Finally, there are also some communities of scholars that think that type A conferences are morally bankrupt, and so actively encourage their students to "borrow" their name tag / registration badges (which leads to all hilarity during the after-panel social interactions): "I always imagined you as ..... um... older... Dr. Goodall.... um.... congrats on your transition?."

Solution 4

Yes, it is possible, and even students and postdocs in top (and rich) schools do this sometimes. However, your question is unclear, since you asked whether it is "OK". But it is not clear OK by which standards? Moral? Legal? Is it normative? Is it widely acceptable?

You can see by Juka Suomela's answer that some academics does not see this as "acceptable", i.e., they perceive this behavior as a morally bad behavior. Some people, me included, have a different value system, and they perceive this as mildly okay, but it is unclear whether the latter group of people is marginal.

Solution 5

Aside from conference and registration. The hotel rent their hall for functions and most of the time its per head payment which include all the charges. Since they have to issue you card to wear during conference to identify you as paid participant.

So to avoid being refused entry and feeling bad infront of others just go present at your slot and enjoy what is offered on the day you are legally paid for.

Request can be made but if lot of students do this it can raise concerns for management and organizers.

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anonymousCSresearcher
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Updated on August 01, 2022

Comments

  • anonymousCSresearcher
    anonymousCSresearcher over 1 year

    I'm planning to attend a prestigious conference in computer science. The registration fees are very high (~150$ per day). I'm presenting as well, but on a co-located event directly after the main conference.

    I don't know whether my university will fund my registration fee for the whole conference. They will most certainly fund the fee for the little event where I'm presenting. In case they don't fund the whole conference, is it acceptable to show up to the conference without being registered? (Of course, I wouldn't have the conference meals with the other participants on the days I'm not registered.)

    • O. R. Mapper
      O. R. Mapper about 7 years
      "The registration fees are very high (~150$ per day)." - comparing among the CS conferences I have attended, that is not "very high".
    • anonymousCSresearcher
      anonymousCSresearcher about 7 years
      @O. R. Mapper, I admit, I only have one other conference to compare (which was "only" 300 € for the whole event)
    • jmite
      jmite about 7 years
      Perhaps you could volunteer at this conference for free admission?
    • David Richerby
      David Richerby about 7 years
      @jmite The asker wishes to attend the talks, not sit all day at the registration desk.
    • ff524
      ff524 about 7 years
      @David At conferences where I had a "volunteer" job, none of the volunteer duties took all day, and the students got to choose which task and shift they wanted so that they could attend the talks they were interested in. (The last time I did this, my volunteer job was to take minutes in the SIG business meeting at the conference, which took place after all of the sessions had concluded for the day.)
    • Admin
      Admin about 7 years
      I'm going to be honest...I often do this (show up for talks without being registered...). I know it's naughty, but if it will really enhance your work and inspire you, why not go for it? The worst that can happen is you get thrown out!
    • Dilworth
      Dilworth about 7 years
      What do you mean by the term "acceptable"?
    • Herman Toothrot
      Herman Toothrot about 7 years
      If you just go attend a few talks I think it's ok, one time a colleague gave a presentation at a conference in the same city where I was. I only wanted to see her talk, why would I pay $200 for that?!
    • Toxaris
      Toxaris about 7 years
      Maybe you can get additional funding from other sources than your university? For example, a charity associated with your university or the organization sponsering the conference. Or maybe there is an event with associated travel funding at the conference (such as student research competition or a doctoral symposium) that you can still get in to. Or maybe you can volunteer in exchange for free entry (as others pointed out).
    • mikeazo
      mikeazo about 7 years
      FYI, sometimes conferences have student travel grants. Look into it and apply. It is typically enough to cover registration.
    • hiergiltdiestfu
      hiergiltdiestfu about 7 years
      Ya, had to lol at "very high", too, sorry. The one prestigious conference in my field that I attend annually charges 700 EUR per day (with special rates for multi-day tickets, like 2.4k for 5 days). 100 EUR/150 USD is what a local user group charges for their annual regional mini-conference.
    • Hagen von Eitzen
      Hagen von Eitzen about 7 years
      I doubt that 150$ per day are to cover for meals only
  • Brian Moths
    Brian Moths about 7 years
    It might be worse than not acceptable. It might not even be possible. I went to the american physical society's march meeting, and they had staff at the doors making sure you were wearing your conference name tag. Consequently, you couldn't get into the convention center without registering (or defeating this measure some other way, I guess you could try to forge a name tag or something).
  • Nate Eldredge
    Nate Eldredge about 7 years
    You can of course email the organisers and ask if you can participate without paying I would not actually recommend this unless you have a reason much more compelling than "I couldn't get funding". I think it will simply annoy the organizers, who are usually influential people whose bad side you don't want to be on.
  • Dilworth
    Dilworth about 7 years
    @NateEldredge, certainly this is not true. The organizers are usually not influential, but local academics which are not influential. The most influential people are usually the PC members and especially chairs. Not organizers. Emailing the organizers with a reasonable reason is a good advice.
  • Tobias Kienzler
    Tobias Kienzler about 7 years
    This is definitely not a situation where Python's EAFP applies...
  • Federico Poloni
    Federico Poloni about 7 years
    Many conferences are not held in hotels, but in premises owned by the university.
  • O. R. Mapper
    O. R. Mapper about 7 years
    @Dilworth: Maybe they are not terribly influential, but I hope you agree that a request that boils down to "I know there is a cost assigned to it, but can I get it for free anyway?" is a bit brazen in a certain way.
  • David Richerby
    David Richerby about 7 years
    How is this different from sneaking into a cinema without paying? Or is that also OK by your moral standards?
  • Shahensha Khan
    Shahensha Khan about 7 years
    even if its in university, they have to make arrangements for participants and that include meals and tea breaks beside bottled waters and other stuff so it reduce cost but not eleminate the cost.
  • image357
    image357 about 7 years
    @DavidRicherby: a cinema doesn't cost 150$ a day for unpaid talkers that have to pay fees themselves to publish at these conferences ...
  • David Richerby
    David Richerby about 7 years
    @Marcel Well, eight hours in the cinema isn't cheap but your argument seems to be that it's more acceptable to take expensive things without paying for them than it is for less expensive things, which seems odd. And your language suggests you feel that conferences are some kind of money-making enterprise: please bear in mind that they actually operate at essentially break-even.
  • Todd Wilcox
    Todd Wilcox about 7 years
    @NowIGetToLearnWhatAHeadIs Agreed. I recently left a job at an organization that handles conference spaces. As a matter of basic security, most of the time people are not allowed in many areas of those venues without some kind of badge. In a large enough building, multiple events can be happening at the same time, and everyone in a building must be registered and badged so you can account for everyone in an emergency.
  • anonymousCSresearcher
    anonymousCSresearcher about 7 years
    @ShahenshaKhan, I'd not participate in meals and tea breaks exactly to eliminate that cost.
  • Dilworth
    Dilworth about 7 years
    @DavidRicherby, it is different, because academic conferences are not for profit events, and their agenda is the dissemination of knowledge. Fees are taken as a necessary evil, not as a means by itself (in contrast to cinemas).
  • Dilworth
    Dilworth about 7 years
    @O.R.Mapper, yes it boils down to this, and it is a completely legitimate request. From experience, it has been done before, and with success.
  • David Richerby
    David Richerby about 7 years
    @Dilworth But attending without paying means that the costs are spread over fewer people, meaning that fees are higher. "Ah", you say. "But the fees were set before they knew how many would attend!" True but any loss the conference makes this year will probably have to be made up by having higher fees next year; conversely, any profit made this year will probably result in lower fees next year due to the organizing institution having a little more cash they can use to subsidize.
  • David Richerby
    David Richerby about 7 years
    @Dilworth And how is it better to refuse to pay somebody who's just trying to cover their costs than to pay somebody who's trying to make a profit? It sounds worse, to me: shouldn't I be supporting the conference organizers and freeloading off the filthy capitalist cinema companies, rather than the other way around?
  • Dilworth
    Dilworth about 7 years
    @DavidRicherby, clearly your arguments are sound and correct. But it is still a question of values. E.g., one can say that it is not "fair" for junior people to be penalized by not attending conference due to lack of funding, while other senior, or richer departments or countries can afford paying higher fees. There is not absolute right or wrong here. That's my point (in contrast to Jukka who implied there is an absolute right here).
  • Nikey Mike
    Nikey Mike about 7 years
    Yes, this is also valid in my University, but only for the conferences which are held in the University, and not other resorts. In fact, professors also sent and make unpaid reservations for undergraduate or graduate students which want to hear the talks. However, for conferences held in another institutions this is not the case anymore.
  • Dilworth
    Dilworth about 7 years
    @DavidRicherby, I explained in my previous comment: some may argue that the distribution of funding is unfair in the first place, etc. We're not here to be judges, but to give advice.
  • Dilworth
    Dilworth about 7 years
    @Jukka, could you please explain the term "acceptable"? Is it a legal/moral or normative advice?
  • Jukka Suomela
    Jukka Suomela about 7 years
    University buildings are not necessarily free, either. It is fairly common that conference organisers have to pay some rent for the lecture halls that they use. Furthermore, conferences are often organised at least in part outside the normal opening hours of the buildings (especially in summer), and the conference organisers will also have to cover the extra cost of having the building open (e.g. security/janitor services).
  • Jukka Suomela
    Jukka Suomela about 7 years
    Also, even if everything related to the venue was free, it is still often the case that some of the speakers cost a lot of money. A single 1-hour invited talk might easily cost the conference organisers 2ke (flights + hotel + food). Especially in a small conference, the expenses of the invited speakers easily add up to a nontrivial sum, and it is only feasible if there are sufficiently many paying conference participants.
  • Jukka Suomela
    Jukka Suomela about 7 years
    @Dilworth: "Not acceptable" in precisely the same sense as sitting in a cafe without ordering anything.
  • Cape Code
    Cape Code about 7 years
    @O.R.Mapper I have once contacted the organizers of a conference to ask if I could still get the student discount even though I wasn't a student anymore but had no institution to fund me. The people who answered were employees of the company that organized the event and the answer was positive. I suspect no member of the organizing committee was actually informed.
  • Shahensha Khan
    Shahensha Khan about 7 years
    Well as almost every one said, its not only meal and tea. Speakers, proceedings, website management, conference management, arrangements, planning, scgeduling, setup for speakers, the accomodation for invited guess, key note speakers, every single thing cost money. If you want to go ask organizer simple is that.
  • Dilworth
    Dilworth about 7 years
    @O.R.Mapper, as I answered David Richarby before: the supermarket is intended for profit. Academic conferences are for dissemination of knowledge.
  • Dilworth
    Dilworth about 7 years
    @JukkaSuomela, I see now. So you mean it is not a normative behavior.
  • O. R. Mapper
    O. R. Mapper about 7 years
    @Dilworth: Yes, and as he correctly responded, it seems even worse to refuse to pay the one who is just trying to pay for their expenses instead of making a profit. We don't have to reiterate the entire discussion now, do we?
  • O. R. Mapper
    O. R. Mapper about 7 years
    @CapeCode: I wonder what the answer would have been, had you asked for taking part for free. As it stands, the company still had the choice between getting no money at all from you on the one hand, and getting the student entrance fee on the other hand. Possibilities for discounts are often available in commercial offerings (especially as, in many situations, "student status" is somewhat open to interpretation), but that's a long way from getting the whole thing totally for free.
  • Dilworth
    Dilworth about 7 years
    @O.R.Mapper, it is a different discussion than the one with Richarby: here we are discussing the consequences of you asking to waive the payment of a product. You insinuated that the same consequence would hold with the conference, which is wrong. And the reason is that supermarkets are for profit and academic conferences are not, and so the organizers will be sympathetic to your request. While, if you try it in a supermarket you'll fail to get a waiver with 100 per cent.
  • O. R. Mapper
    O. R. Mapper about 7 years
    @Dilworth: I do not see a real difference between the question whether it is "OK" and the impression you will leave for trying. That academic conferences are not for profit may make it easier to abuse people's goodwill about letting you in for free, but that doesn't mean completely foregoing the registration procedures and not paying even a bit will leave a positive impression.
  • Massimo Ortolano
    Massimo Ortolano about 7 years
    @NateEldredge Your comment is nonsense. Some conferences have a young researcher support program for exactly these cases. Having organised a few conferences, I can say that this kind of requests are common, even from senior researchers: organisers might reject them, but surely they won't spend their time taking revenge.
  • Peter Mortensen
    Peter Mortensen about 7 years
    (its = possessive, it's = "it is" or "it has". See for example <wikihow.com/Use-Its-and-It%27s>.)
  • Dylan Meeus
    Dylan Meeus about 7 years
    A TL;DR should really go at the top of your post. In this case, we've already read it, and it loses it's point a bit. ;-)
  • graffe
    graffe about 7 years
    It may not be acceptable but I always see it in conferences in the US and people don't appear ashamed to admit it.