WOS Conference 2016 – survey results

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

The Conference was a sell-out, with some people disappointed that they were unable to book in the final week. This is telling us that our Conferences are more popular than ever, and we will need to choose venues accordingly.

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 (especially the excellent lunch!), and the average score was only marginally lower than the previous year’s event in Carno. The lowest scores related to problems we had with the microphones and the room layout.

The car parking arrangements at Myddfai were much improved since our previous visit, avoiding problems with parking in the village. The room layout (seated at tables) is a necessity of Myddfai having only one room, though our hosts made every effort to improve the flow of the event by serving the food in an adjacent marquee and refreshments in the foyer, both options that were not available to us last time. Nonetheless, Council has discussed the feedback regarding room layout and will endeavour to use venues where this is not necessary; the event cost may increase if we have to use sites that charge us VAT, which village halls generally do not. We will also ensure we check out the toilet facilities of future venues, because there were insufficient for the number of people attending.

We were also acutely aware of the problems with the sound. We used the same equipment as in Carno the previous year, where we had no such problems. Gavin Vella, one of the speakers, has kindly offered to help us resolve the problems we had prior to the 2017 Conference.

The talk on Choughs by Tony Cross and Adrienne Stratford was the most popular talk, but all were enjoyed, and there was helpful feedback to us when we put future programmes together. 90% of respondents felt the talks were about the right length, with the remainder feeling they were too long. Some people love the science and the graphs, others felt there were too many – that’s a difficult one for us to manage (we don’t write the talks!), but reminds us that we need to manage the mix of speakers and topics carefully (we already work hard on this). There were also some suggestions relating to the AGM that we will take on board.

First-time attendees
We asked those who had not attended a previous WOS Conference whether it had met or exceeded their expectations: all bar one person said that it had.

Next time
Most respondents said they were very likely (72%) or would possibly (18%) attend next year’s Conference. For those who won’t, it is because of the distance from home or because they already know that they will be abroad on the Conference date. 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) “A few microphone issues”; “PA system still needs some work”
We have already identified the reason for some of the problems, and how we can fix them. This is a priority for improvement at Monmouth, where the layout of the room should make hearing the talks much easier.

(2) “A longer break at lunchtime, it did take time getting lunch so not much time to look at the stalls or talk to others”
We allowed one and a quarter hours for lunch, which is already quite substantial, but the queueing was an issue. Using the types of venues we do, this is inevitable, but we will look at other ways we might improve the flow at lunchtime.

(3) “Very well run and organised. Good value for money with the venue and the buffet. Good lectures, excellent choice of venues around Wales each year. Good raffle. Thank you for all the hard work taken to organise it.”

(4) “Skip the AGM”; “Is it the best way to have an AGM?”; “Maybe have it after lunch or at the end”.
This is a tricky one! We know that AGMs are not the most entertaining part of the day, but they are a constitutional requirement and they have to be quorate. If we held it at the end, how many would stay (that’s a rhetorical question!). Council also doesn’t want members to feel as though we are rushing it for the sake of expediency; it is, after all, the one formal opportunity each year to hold trustees to account. However, we have had some ideas to make it run more efficiently in future years.

(5) “It is a full day, well attended which adds organising complications, yet retains a warm and friendly atmosphere”

(6) “More emphasis on South Wales”
It is a national Conference, with attendees from all over Wales (and beyond), so we make no apology for putting together a programme that reflects this. But we always try to ensure there is a local flavour at each event: Rob Thomas’ climate change talk included fieldwork from South Wales; Emily Scragg’s waterbirds of the Severn estuary was almost entirely about South Wales; Dan Jenkins-Jones and Wayne Morris’s talk was all about nest-finding in East Glamorgan; and Steve Smith’s Whinchat talk was based in the Brecon Beacons National Park, where we were meeting.

(7) “I thought it was excellent – the locals really did us proud. The only slight glitch was the problem with the sound system but it really wasn’t too bad”

(8) “Excellent venue. Excellent parking arrangements. Good clean rooms. Very helpful staff and volunteers”

(9) “Aren’t there any back issues of Birds in Wales etc that could be made available for sale”
There are, and there were. There were tables with back issues of WOS publications and those by members and affiliated bird groups. At Myddfai, these were upstairs, and we did promote these from the floor before the breaks, but we appreciate that no everyone found them, and space is somewhat limited at this venue.