WOS Conference 2015 – survey results

Thanks to all delegates who completed the online survey in the days following the Conference in Carno. This page summarises the results and responds to some of the comments and questions raised.

How you rated the Conference
We asked you to rate, on a scale where 1 is poor and 5 is good, different elements of the Conference. In broad terms, the comments were very positive, though not everyone liked the way we laid out the seating along tables.

This year we bought our own sound system so all speakers could use microphones, and this made a big difference. We are aware, though, that at Carno the screen provided is inadequate for our Conference; we also had problems blacking out the roofline windows. At other venues, larger screens are available, but we will seek to address this when we next return to Carno.

You enjoyed all the talks, with Holly Kirk’s report on the seabird tracking work particularly popular. One person felt the talks were too long, but 98% of respondents felt they were about right.

First-time attendees
We asked those who had not attended a previous WOS Conference (around a quarter of respondents) whether it had met or exceeded their expectations: all said that it had (no-one said they were disappointed).

Next time
Most respondents said they were very likely (61%) or would possibly (27%) attend next year’s Conference. For those who won’t, it is principally because of the distance from home. We rotate the Conference on a four-year cycle between Mid, West, Southeast and North Wales, so that it comes close to all Wales-based members; this seems to have wide support.

You gave us lots of ideas about the sort of talks and themes that you would like to see at future Conferences, but it’s very clear that you want to hear about work on birds taking place in Wales.

Selected comments – and some thoughts from us

(1) “Good food” – (2) “Lunch not good enough” – (3) “Would have preferred a hot meal”
The catering is the most costly part of organising the Conference, around 60% of the total cost. We know that most people like to have a meal because many have a 2-3 hour drive from home to attend the Conference. We try to keep the cost as low as possible (£21 for members this year) by using community halls rather than conference centres and hotels – which would incur VAT and so push the cost up farther. However, this does mean that local caterers have to work with the kitchen facilities that are available. We could opt for different types of venue, which incur VAT, and pay more for the facilities and lunch. Would members be willing to pay around £30? We’d be interested in your views.

(4) “All talks were highly informative and delivered with great enthusiasm.”

(5) “A book stand was available at other WOS conferences and I found that useful” – (6) “I enjoyed having more stalls and the Swarovski display at Myddfai” – (7) “Could we have a couple of bookstalls in future?”
Subbuteo Books have attended WOS Conferences for a number of years, and we are grateful for their support. Swarovski Optik sponsored the 2012 Conference and brought a display of their products. Such companies make a commercial decision about attending Conferences such as ours, and we’re delighted when they do. We will continue to invite relevant companies, but obviously cannot guarantee they will come.

(8) “A well-tested and very successful blend of interesting talks and opportunities for socialising”

(9) “As always an excellent day out, I thought this year was the best of the four I have attended. It was nice to have a positive vibe to the conference. Striking that balance between serious conservation concerns and the positive progress that has been made in some areas is a difficult task, but this year it was done perfectly.”

(10) “Perhaps, when speakers are referring to others in the room – whom they may know well – they should explain who those others are – for the benefit of newcomers. This will make for a more inclusive atmosphere.”
Fair comment, and noted! We will try to do better next year.

(11) “Please carry on in the same vein! WOS Conference is the best conference event that I attend. I always try and attend whenever possible. There is always a positive ”vibe” and enthusiasm for birds in Wales from the organisers, speakers and delegates which enthuses and motivates everybody. I just wonder if there was a possibility of extending the conference to a weekend event in the future if there was the interest.”
A useful comment, and we’d be interested in views from others about whether you would support a weekend event (obviously, with accommodation, the price would be much higher). Perhaps something to think about for our 30th anniversary, which is on the horizon. We would also be interested to hear from members who know of good quality venues that hold 120-150 people.

(12) “Your gamble to focus your conference on engagement of young scientists/young people paid off – it was different and interesting, and reassuring if you are an “old” member wondering who will carry on our work.”