Published by Maurane, on behalf of authors Abigail Darko, Jenny Hong, & Fatema Virani from Brunel University London, United Kingdom
Brunel’s Occupational Therapy Student Conference is an annual student-led event with opportunities for students in training to work together. The conference includes keynote lectures, seminars, and workshops discussing relevant topics and emerging areas that expand beyond academia teachings. This year’s conference took place on 27th of April, 2018. It included speakers who are occupational therapists, other allied health professionals, carers, parents, and service users. Delegates consisted of practitioners and students from Brunel University, students from other UK universities, Spain, The Netherlands and Belgium!
How we got started…
After forming a committee of truly passionate and committed students, an initial meeting was set up. The meeting was facilitated by a staff lecturer and allowed the committee to commence the team-bonding process. Key decisions were made, which included selecting the theme for the conference. It was only natural that the theme covered “The transformative power of occupation”. We wanted to learn new and exciting ways to use ‘occupation’ to transform the lives of communities and individuals.
The student co-chairs then facilitated meetings and discussion of ideas proposed by committee members for the conference. An action plan was drawn up with tasks to complete before the next meeting, with deadlines set before the next meeting.
- Prepare to be flexible, communicate, compromise, and be patient.
- Ensure minutes and action plans for all meetings are recorded and sent out to the committee as soon as possible to get the ball rolling in completing tasks.
- Select keynote speakers, seminar and workshop leaders through university, placement, and conference networks (committee members can provide a range of presenters based on the varying experiences!). Contact and confirm the speakers’ attendance early in advance.
- Publicise conference on all available platforms internal and external to the University.
- Agree on a reasonable and realistic budget and stick to it!
- Once tickets go on sale, have a system in place to track the budget goals weekly.
- Make sure to share important milestones with the team (i.e. first 100 tickets sold, etc).
- When it comes to food – ‘it’s better to have too much than not enough’.
Top 10 tips for a successful day…
‘So after many hours of planning and hard work…how to make it count!’
- Start early! The weeks really do fly by—draft a timeline/schedule for important jobs or roles.
- Set up deadlines and meet them!
- Communication is vital – set up a discussion forum or utilise social media to stay connected with your organising team.
- Teamwork – Use the strengths and talents in your team!
- Logistics – Make sure rooms are booked well in advance to ensure the date of your conference.
- Food – search for potential providers and estimated costs once the proposed budget is confirmed.
- Volunteers – search for members willing to support the conference and appreciate them as they are valuable contributors to the conference day.
- Ensure programme booklets, certificates, timetable, and registration list are in order the day before conference.
- Duration of conference – make sure the event follows the programme’s timetable to ensure it ends accordingly.
- Greet attendees and speakers and provide a welcoming and inspirational environment for members to comfortably engage and participate in the day’s activities.
‘Team work is dream work!’
It is imperative that as occupational therapists in the making, we advocate for student-led events. Your passion is infectious and will inspire others! Finally always remember, to have a coherent and successful conference you must ensure that it is fueled with:
- Teamwork: By communicating and working smart, the can be more efficient and creative with the project.
- Community: A sense of community within the committee should be established and developed so everyone is included, supported, and feels a part of the team.
- Leaders in OT: As the next generation of leaders will be in attendance of the conference, ensure they are well inspired by current OT role models!