Ron and I have finally returned home from our extended vacations. A total of 8 countries (USA, Canada, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain and Denmark) and two Mensa annual gatherings – North American and European. I thought I would take this opportunity to compare and contrast American AGs, Mensa Canada AGs and EMAG. So far, I have attended 5 American AGs, 2 Canadian AGs and now 1 EMAG; I have enjoyed them all.
Attendance numbers: The US AG’s attendance is hovering around the 2,000 mark (American Mensa began holding AGs in 1963), Canadian AG’s attendance is in the low to mid 100’s, and this year EMAG (this was the third EMAG) had approximately 430 attendees (from 26 countries).
Locations: The US AG is generally in one main hotel, with overflow hotels utilized as necessary; events are typically held in the main hotel. The first Canadian AG I attended was held in a large hotel with all events at that hotel; the second on a college campus. This year’s EMAG was held at a convention center, with attendees booking hotel or hostel rooms around the city (including floor space at the Mensa grammar school), with larger sessions/dinners held at other locations.
Hospitality: As many of us know, the US AG is almost excessive in the amount of food and drink available. At the Canadian AG, meals were served (at the 2009 gathering held at a college campus, we had access to the cafeteria and the food was good) with snacks and beverages (including beer and wine) provided in hospitality during the evenings. EMAG provided minimal hospitality; coffee, tea and water (with interesting flavorings) were available at all times; beer, soda and other drinks were available for a nominal charge; and some meals were available (Gala dinner, Farewell lunch). But for the remaining meals, we would just head out with a group of folks and find local fare – some great meals were had. The Gala dinner was phenomenal – and put our US AG banquet to shame.
Speakers: Obviously, with significantly more attendees, the US AG has many more speaker tracks than either the Canadian AG or EMAG. But the biggest difference is that attendees at the Canadian AG and EMAG attend the sessions in great numbers while at the US AG many attendees spend the majority of their time in hospitality or the games room.
Games: The US AG has numerous tournaments and a huge dedicated games room and the games room (and the puzzle room) are major draws. Games at the Canadian AGs and EMAG would just occur randomly in the hospitality room. But we play the same or similar games. SET seems to be a hit at all gatherings.
The biggest similarities: Whenever you walk into any of the gathering rooms, Mensans are talking animatedly about almost any topic under the sun. Many discussions revolve around similar topics, such as the similarities and differences of our education systems, medical coverage, etc. And acceptance; as I’ve always said, wherever you go, you have instant friends.
Try one, or more, of Region 1’s upcoming Regional Gatherings (RGs): October 15-17 – Connecticut & Western Massachusetts Mensa’s “Ever the Twain” in Manchester, CT; October 29-31 – Boston Mensa’s “Wicked Good RG” in Dedham, MA; November 5-7 - Maine Mensa’s “Shop ME” in Freeport, Maine.