February 5, 1840, was a significant day in meetings history. It was on that day in Boston that the second-oldest continuously operating association in the U.S., the American Statistical Association, held its very first annual meeting. About 10 people attended. The meeting would convene in Boston for the next 70 years or so until 1908 when the board — citing declining membership (the ranks had dropped from a peak of 550 to about 300) — voted to branch out. The strategies they employed to attract a wider audience might sound familiar to modern association executives.
First, they decided to go “national” and meet outside of Boston for the first time, convening in Atlantic City, N.J. They also invited people from sister associations to attend. Attendance at this joint meeting grew to about 40.
For the next 40 years, the meeting rotated to give ASA more exposure. Meeting stops included Boston; New York; Atlantic City; Princeton, N.J.; Richmond, Va.; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Pittsburgh; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Detroit; and St. Louis. By 1948, 600 attended the meeting.
Fast forward to 2007: ASA holds its 167th annual meeting, called the Joint Statistical Meeting. The convention attracted about 5,000 statisticians.