Comprised of four PhD students, an ECR, and a member of non-academic staff, our team of six was well suited to the interdisciplinary nature of the conference and different members were able to take the lead on different aspects of planning. Undertaking conference organising is a huge task, there are so many different jobs to be done from locating funding and writing applications, designing and running the website, marketing, running social media accounts, keeping on top of emails, reviewing abstracts, organising keynote speakers, and scheduling the event. In short, there are so many tasks to be completed before the event even begins! It is therefore vital to have a committee with a wide range of skills and experience to take on the various roles and to have excellent communication between the team.
Keeping in contact – meetings, messages, and planning
With members working on different aspects of planning, many meetings need to take place and actions recorded. This ensures that all the work is equally dispersed across the committee. Our committee kept in regular contact using Facebook Messenger. We found we could easily get hold of each other quickly to ask for advice on issues –including tricky emails, submitting last-minute funding applications or double-checking certain jobs were being handled by a member of the team.
While this was a useful medium, it is not without its faults! It was easy to fall behind on an important conversation or to have missed the scheduling of a meeting. Therefore, it would be advisable to use a more formal medium for staying in contact, such as Microsoft Teams. Recording minutes at each meeting is also advisable, so the tasks that need doing are clearly defined and allocated. As far as possible, schedule the next meeting before the meeting ends, or keep a regular meeting slot allocated in everyone’s diary.
In the weeks running up to the conference, we met regularly, and the week before the conference took place, we met daily to make sure everything was ready. We also met after each conference day to reflect on what had gone well, issues that had arisen and tasks that needed to be completed in time for the next day. It is worth noting that conference planning demands a lot of time, so it is important for committee members to make space in their working schedule.
After the conference
While conferences can be exhausting to run, it is essential for the conference team to meet and reflect on the experience before taking time off to relax. The team need to consider whether the event will run again in the future and if so, to establish a workable timescale with committee members, taking on board everyone’s feedback and reflections. After the conference is over, there are several tasks still to complete, such as making sure invoices are paid and processed, and that thank you emails have been sent to invited speakers. Make sure the committee are clear about their roles going forward in the next stages of planning and post-conference work. Most importantly, acknowledge the hard work that went in to be able to pull off a successful online event!
This guidance material has been prepared by Brianna E. Robertson-Kirkland and Sophie Boyd.