Members of the Great Up North Conference Planning Team met via Skype on 2nd July to discuss our learning from the recent event. Being good Knowledge Specialists, we chose the Retrospect from the KM Toolkit to help us to identify and record our reflections.
The Retrospect, available as a Knowledge Moblisation Postcard on the Knowledge For Healthcare Blog encourages us to consider the objectives, successes, and disappointments in a particular project – in our case the Great Up North Conference – and to identify the critical factors in success or disappointment so that they can be replicated or avoided.
78 conference delegates kindly provided feedback and we were able to use this to help us in our reflections. Overall the feedback showed the event was a great success, but we wanted to probe deeper and identify the factors behind this success and the reasons for any disappointments. However, we were also interested in a lot of the hidden elements associated with planning for the event.
I’ll focus on just two examples of successes and disappointments here.
- In addition to the networking element, what delegates enjoyed most about the conference was the warm, friendly, and welcoming atmosphere. The team believe this was down to a careful mix of messaging in the communications, the preparatory pre-conference events such as the webinars and Randomised Coffee Trials, and the pre-event lunch. The latter was very well attended and additional efforts were made to ensure delegates were made to feel welcome. All ideas to be replicated or adapted for future events.
- The team also felt that there were a good number of paraprofessionals and library assistants at the conference. This was a key success factor as we had always aimed for the event to be inclusive. This success was again attributed to careful communications and specific messaging around the fact that paraprofessionals and library assistants are welcome. Natasha Craig, Library Assistant at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals, was on the planning committee and was key to getting the messaging right – expressing concerns over some of the messages being planned and ensuring a more inclusive approach. Including paraprofessionals and library assistants in future planning was seen as key to success.
While our powers do not extend to changing the weather or improving the pavements of Harrogate, the planning team did identify some areas for improvement within their sphere of influence.
- Signage and direction appeared to be an issue on the day with some delegates having trouble finding the rooms for the breakout sessions. Although the doors themselves were labelled, the team identified that we would need to pay closer attention to wider directional signage in the area used by the conference to point people in the right direction from the main venue.
- Secondly there were issues with dietary needs not being met. Although these had been flagged in advance and reminders were given on the day, there were instances of meals and refreshments not meeting needs. This is a recurrent issue not unique to Great Up North, but the team felt that a possible action in the future might be to assign duties to a member of the planning team to proactively keep an eye on this and be the key contact for delegates with any concerns.
Overall the planning team were happy with the event and scored in between 8-9 out of ten.
We found the Retrospect a useful way of reflecting on the planning and delivery of the conference and will retain and share our findings in the hope of improving future events.
On behalf of the Great Up North Planning Team