Tag Archives: NEBARSS

Organising a Conference, or: How to act like a swan!

By Mareike Ahlers (Archaeology PhD)

Graciously gliding across the water, swans have the uncanny ability to present a serene picture of themselves to the world above the water. Underneath the water, however, their feet are paddling frantically to keep them afloat. This sounds very much like organising a conference.

On the 20/21st November 2015, my colleague, Lucy Cummings, and I hosted the 2nd Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium (NEBARSS). Full of new experiences, it was both our first go at organising a conference and our first time presenting an academic paper. You can imagine then, that this was a little daunting! Our conference was a great success. Everyone—guests, colleagues, and staff—was really pleased with how it went. Our effort and organisation certainly paid-off, but it was not without its difficulties.

Starting on Friday evening, Newcastle’s own Dr Chris Fowler gave the keynote on ontologies in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain and Ireland, followed by a wine reception. This was a great start to the conference. The excellent keynote set the tone for the rest of the conference, and the wine reception provided the opportunity for everyone to meet. The occasion also gave the speakers the chance to loosen up and calm down any nerves with a glass of wine (or two!) … While we proceeded to stress about making dinner plans, double-checking that people had places to stay, and cleaning up and clearing everything away before rushing down to meet everyone for dinner. But the world seems much more relaxed after an amazing curry!

But the organisation does not stop there. On Saturday morning (the main day of the conference), Lucy and I met at the department well before 8am, doing more clearing and setting up coffee, biscuits and poster boards… These are wobbly A4 folding screen boards onto which we had to fit A1 posters. Just a little hiccup.

Trying to get your nerves under control throughout the morning is especially tricky if you know that your own, very first, paper is coming up in just a few minutes. While finally getting the chance to tell your audience about henges and long barrows, a little piece of paper telling you that only there are only 5 minutes remaining is vying for your attention. They seemed really off-putting! But, we are told that it happens even to the best.

After that it is finally time to relax… well, at least until lunch time. While everyone else was enjoying the delicious food platters and sandwiches, we were already starting to think about the next session: making sure that all the power point presentations are working, water is ready at the lectern to slake any sudden thirst, and the session leader has some information to use when introducing the speaker.

Finally, after the last session and when all thanks have been given, the first sip of your cold drink in the pub is the best feeling of the whole day. Everyone is happy, the conference is a success, no fatal mishaps, no wine or coffee on the carpets. You managed pass the whole day off like a swan. Time to breathe … and start thinking about the next one!

Five Tips for… Organising a Conference

OneOne. Create a timetable

One of the best things we did in the lead up to the conference was create a to-do list and a timetable for completion. This really helped us to stay on track, and made sure we didn’t forget anything. There are a lot of things to keep in mind when organising a conference and having a well-planned schedule allowed us to stay on track making the whole process a little smoother.

Delegates at the NEBARSS conference

TwoTwo. Don’t worry if something goes wrong
No matter how organised you think you are, there will always be something you haven’t thought about. But it is Ok. Our delegates were a particularly amenable group, but really anyone will appreciate that there are little details that may go wrong (like the microphone in our case!) and that it is not the end of the world.

ThreeThree. Acquire some free pens: freebies mean everything!

Of course, they don’t, not really, but everyone appreciates a good

the NEBARSS conference pack
the NEBARSS conference pack

selection of items in their conference packs. It is also a very good way of making contacts within larger organisations and businesses, local or national. It is a good way of obtaining financial support for your conference. The earlier you start this process, the better. You are far more likely to get support if you ask in advance. Organisations often have deadlines for funding, so do your research. Some publishing companies are also really keen to hear what universities are up to. In fact, on account of this our conference report is being printed in ‘Past’, the Prehistoric Society magazine.

FourFour. Enjoy the day!

Even though there was a lot of work leading up to the day, and a lot of running around and frantic organising on the day itself, it pays off! Every one of our delegates came up to us at the end of the conference and thanked us for the day for organising it so well. This was of course so thoughtful, but well-received and valuable feedback which made it all worth it!

FiveFive. Don’t buy too many biscuits!

Incredulously, there is such a thing as too many biscuits! Don’t panic though, they are a welcome, if fleeting, addition to the office… That is until everyone blames you for tempting them.

Mmmm.....
Mmmm…..

Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium – confirmed speakers

We have now confirmed our list of speakers for the 2nd NEBARSS conference, to be held here at Newcastle University in November in the historic Armstrong Building. The full list can be seen below, or can be downloaded in PDF form here.

Dr Chris Fowler will give a keynote lecture on Friday 20th of November, his paper is titled:

‘The powers that be’? Powerful events in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain

This keynote will be followed by a wine reception, nibbles, and a lively discussion. Saturday 21st is devoted to current research students, with postgraduate researchers from across Britain and Ireland presenting their work. There will also be a poster display highlighting new and exciting research projects.

Registration is now, and all those who wish to attend are required to register online here. http://webstore.ncl.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&catid=53&prodid=414

Registration is open to undergraduate and postgraduate students, postgraduate and early career researchers, lecturers and independent archaeologists, and members of the public who have an interest in prehistoric archaeology.

The registration fee includes the conference pack, tea/coffee throughout, lunch, the wine reception and associated nibbles! There is information on accommodation, travel, and things to do in Newcastle as well as instructions and how to find the Armstrong Building on our website here. (link) https://nebarss.wordpress.com/conference-archive/newcastle-2015/2015-conference-pack/ Please get in touch if you have any questions or queries.

We hope to see you in November for what promises to be an exciting and engaging symposium!