How many cups of coffee does it take to make a conference?

Posted 23/08/2019 by 9a4fa0b2-a68f-44ca-95b6-a2b900c1471a

Katie Wheat

Dr Katie Wheat, Head of Higher Education Engagement, Vitae 

Ever since I joined Vitae, ‘conference time of year’ has always been my favourite. I look forward to it in the same way that others look forward to the changing colours and crisp air of Autumn. It marks the start of the new year, for me, in a way that no other event can and this year I am more excited than ever, but also having slight backstage nerves in revealing some of this year’s changes. I hope our loyal attendees will find they enhance their overall experience at the conference (and don’t find them too disorientating!)

So, what’s new?

First, we kick off the conference slightly earlier, which means an earlier lunch to avoid rumbling tummies through the panel Q&A. Then, delegates will move into the larger exhibition area for a finger buffet lunch, so no more standing on tip-toes to spot the bowl food passing by, or was that just me? 

The next big shake up is that we go from lunch into the first 90 min workshop slot of the conference, giving an earlier opportunity for the in-depth discussion and networking that I know people come for. After 90 minutes of hard work, we will need coffee, which will be ready to ‘grab and go’ along the corridors between the workshops and the half-plenary sessions. But make sure you head the right way up the corridor, because next comes the (familiar for some of us) tough choice between half-plenary 1, focusing on doctoral researchers, and half-plenary 2, focusing on research staff. If your remit covers both I suggest buddying up with someone to swap notes. Bios and presentations are on the app to help you make your choice without resorting to a coin toss.

Workshop gathering

After the half-plenaries, it’s time to pop back to the exhibition for a quick snack to keep us going until the conference dinner and help us concentrate for the last two sessions of the day, a 45 min workshop slot and a 25 min special interest session slot. Here, conference regulars may notice that we have just one round of special interest sessions this year, rather than two back-to-back, which brings the networking drinks, Three Minute Thesis final, and dinner all slightly earlier than previously.

After an evening of being well fed, watered, and entertained, day 2 carries on in an equally fabulous fashion, with plenaries, workshops, networking, and a last chance to catch the winner of the poster prize awarded during the conference dinner.

I hope you will also notice some small steps in consideration of the environmental impact of conferences. In contrast to previous years, we are moving towards a paper-light approach to our publications, with lots of new content coming on the website in place of a printed report or booklet. You can also take away our slimmed down paper offering in a reusable bag rather than plastic wallet. This year we will still have a full printed conference guide but watch out for the conference feedback form to give us your thoughts on how we can go further in 2020.

And finally, for some Friday fun, the conference in numbers (so far)…

  • 77 workshops, special interest sessions,and posters being presented
  • 18 countries represented through our global community
  • 157 first-time delegates registered 
  • 70 member institutions entered the Vitae 3MT 2019 competition
  • 450 plastic participant folders saved by switching to cotton bags
  • 1,296 servings of tea and coffee expected to be guzzled