Rhian Jones

BAOS Council Member

Being asked to write this newsletter for the January edition of our journal, I find myself spending time (like many of us at this time of year) reflecting on the past year and planning for the time ahead. However, this introspection is not aimed at my work or family life but actually at the BAOS annual conference!

We are in the process of hashing out the figures from the 2019 conference, looking at not only the financial outcome of the conference but also the delegate feedback of the event. Being part of the planning committee along with Anna Dargue, Pippa Blacklock, Rebecca Hierons and our administrative team, I have discovered there are a huge number of decisions to be made. All of the Council members are volunteers and although passionate about provision of education and teaching for our members, none of us are professional conference organisers! There is also a financial pressure to ensure the event does not jeopardise the overall financial health of the organisation especially as recent conferences have all made a slight loss. BAOS council are adamant that we don’t run the annual conference as an exercise to make money and our aim is primarily to organise an excellent educational event which “breaks even” or ideally makes a modest profit. I am pleased to say that early indications are that the 2019 conference has fulfilled this aim. Financially we are likely to make a profit from this year’s conference and the feedback is generally very encouraging. However, there has been some constructive criticism of aspects of the conference. We will be providing feedback to the conference venue to highlight areas which they could improve on and all of the speakers will be given their individual feedback. Like all things in life, the adage “You can’t please all of the people all of the time” does seem to be particularly true when reading the feedback comments. Most of the delegates this year were very pleased that the conference was held in Bristol, but we did have a few comments that Bristol was “inconvenient” and “difficult to get to”. The catering at these events is always divisive, we spend a great deal of time discussing menus, trying to account for all different dietary requirements and hoping that at the event, the food produced will live up to the caterers promises. This doesn’t seem to have been the case for all delegates and again we will be feeding back to the relevant parties.

All of your comments are a big help in planning future events and in 2020 we are changing the structure of our conference as a result of overwhelming feedback from a recent survey. The conference will be held over 2 days instead of 3 with only 1 formal dinner and no “informal” social night. The aim of this is to reduce the amount of study leave required and reduce accommodation costs for delegates. We are also considering moving away from holding the conference in Edinburgh bi-annually. There are many reasons for this, but a significant factor is the cost of running the conference in Edinburgh is considerably higher than some other cities, with venue, catering and AV costs being up to 50% higher than Bristol for example. These increased costs lead to an increased ticket price despite all of our efforts to keep delegate fees as low as possible. For comparison, the 2018 conference in Edinburgh had a full ticket price of £550 compared to the Bristol ticket price of £500.

The 2019 conference in Bristol seems to have been “The Perfect Storm” as far as conferences go – very reasonably priced venues for the conference and social events which allowed us to reduce the ticket price compared to previous years and an excellent educational programme with interesting speakers which attracted record-breaking attendance levels. Normally we hope for 300 delegates to attend the conference, but Bristol far exceeded this. I am hopeful we will use this great success to plan an equally successful conference in 2020 and the first job on the to-do list is to shortlist the caterers!