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Neuro rehab insights

What does it take to deliver a successful neuro conference?

Elysium Neurological share their insight into planning and hosting an event

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In 2019, the team at Elysium Neurological decided we were at a point where we would like to host a national conference to explore some themes linked to the services and pathways we provide and to network with professionals in the field of brain injury and neurological conditions.

The conference finally came to fruition in November 2022 and was a great success with excellent feedback. We have taken some time to look back and reflect on what we did that made the event work so well.

Firstly we needed to decide if we were going to organise the conference ourselves. We have a talented marketing team who organise internal conferences and events to a very high standard but we felt this event needed to be developed in partnership with a specialised conference organiser.

We have been attending successful ABI Solutions conferences and events for years and I had previously been involved with sponsorship for the Head First conference which had opened my eyes to the possibilities of the conference scene.

We approached Jason and Helen at ABI Solutions to ask if they would be prepared to work with us on our first national conference and they agreed, with some conditions.

They were very clear that there are certain things that they insist on in order to partner for an event of this type. The main things we discussed right at the beginning were music to my ears and we found an immediate synergy with our organisational values, drive and intentions.

The first things Jason and Helen said were:

  1. Content is the most important thing, linked to meaningful learning outcomes. Delegates want to go away from a conference or CPD event with new ideas that positively impact on their own practice or that they can use in reflective practice.
  2. Expert speakers are a must – people who have something new and interesting to share that promotes discussion and debate.
  3. Attention to detail and a drive to deliver an excellent overall conference experience for the delegates makes the process more enjoyable and ensures people go away feeling that they have been valued as a delegate.

So, we chose a venue that we had used before, 1 Great George Street. It is a beautiful setting for a conference and makes people feel great as soon as they arrive. The lobby and entrance to the hotel are stunning and the conference theatre is well laid out with good acoustics to allow delegates to relax and easily engage with the content.

ABI Solutions have an extensive database of neuro specific contacts to offer the conference to and they also approached a range of exhibitors to come along and provide great networking opportunities for the delegates.

Irwin Mitchell agreed to sponsor the day. They were approached as we felt that they have similar values and aspirations to Elysium in relation to education and learning and we were delighted that they agreed.

We set about thinking about the content for the day and felt that it was important for the day to reflect the different service pathways Elysium Neurological offer across the country. However, these service pathways can be quite diverse and specialised (from neurobehavioural to supporting people with complex physical needs such as tracheostomy and ventilation) so we needed to find a golden thread to ensure the day made sense, had a good flow and that there was a relevance for everyone in the audience to connect with.

We decided that whatever the pathway, our specialised services all support people who face significant challenges, so we plumped for an overarching theme for the day of; “Rising to the Challenge”. To describe more about what people might expect, we added the description, “Managing the diverse challenges in the field of brain injury”.

This conference was not about Elysium Neurological promoting our range of services. It was intended to be a learning platform for people to share, debate, discuss and reflect on different elements of challenge in neurological services. We did have some content from expert clinicians who work with Elysium to start us off, so we had early discussions to explore possible themes.

We had some other expert speakers in mind who we had seen deliver excellent sessions in previous conferences that we felt would fit well with our core content so ABI Solutions contacted people to discuss the possibility thy might present on the day.

This process was blown off course a number of times in the intervening years due to covid restrictions as we were unable to run the face-to-face event. We stayed in touch and whilst there were a couple of tweaks to the conference programme in the end as we had to ensure we were still fresh, current and relevant to the audience, much of the original programme survived.

ABI Solutions handled all the technical and organisational areas of the conference. They have been doing this for years and they have a very slick and effective method for bringing high quality neuro conferences to life. Their attention to detail was second to none and we knew that they would have thought of everything, right down to making sure that the speakers were able to travel to the conference with ease on the day and looking after individual dietary requirements.

We had a dinner the evening before the conference with the speakers so that people who had not met before could be introduced and feel more at ease. People discussed their presentations during the meal which resulted in the discovery of similar points or themes. This enabled people to refer to each other’s content when they spoke which gave a more seamless feel to the day.

On the day we had around 300 delegates arrive at 1 Great George Street. The lovely ABI Solutions team were set up at the front of house and registered the delegates, handing them their delegate bag containing everything they would need for the day.

There was time to have a coffee and network with each other as well as interacting with the exhibitors before the first session.

The day was jointly managed and hosted by Elysium and ABI Solutions and it is this genuine partnership working that was at the heart of making the conference a real success.

As the delegates gathered before the first session, there was a palpable optimistic energy in the room and many people commented what a relaxed and positive vibe they felt. This continued throughout the day with much smiling, laughter and genuinely interested dialogue between people.

We opened with a welcome from the conference sponsor Sarah Griggs, Partner, Irwin Mitchell and the conference was introduced by Professor Quazi Haque, Executive Medical Director, Elysium Healthcare & President of IAFMHS who reiterated the importance of CPD and learning and networking. Paul Mooney, Clinical Director Elysium Neurological chaired the day with a relaxed style making people feel comfortable and getting the most from questions that were posed by the audience using Slido, an interactive app to support audience interaction.

The printed conference programme informed people not only of the order of the day, speakers details and content but of useful information such as wi-fi facilities, the conference hashtag (to share their experiences of the day on social media), the lunch menu and post conference arrangements.

ABI Solutions conferences are always CPD Registered and the conference was accredited by APIL training which is a great help to clinical and legal professionals who need to demonstrate their learning in appraisals and revalidation processes.

We had a special edition of the NR Times printed for the event that contained the most recent articles published by Elysium Neurological and an index of previous articles for people to refer to. This is also available on the post conference website available to all those who attended.

We wanted to find something to add to the day that people would remember and we decided to have an energiser sessions after lunch to uplift people’s spirit and focus their mind for the afternoon session. We approached a musician, Adam Pickard and he came along and ran a fabulous interactive session with audience participation with a competitive edge. The engagement with the session was impressive and the group rendition of ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ was shared a number of times on social media as people expressed their enjoyment of something a little bit different.

The feedback from the conference really speaks for itself. All the feedback forms reflected scores of good to excellent for every aspect of the day. Some of the general comments people left:

“Wonderful conference – speakers, exhibition stands and appreciated opportunities to network”

“All was fantastic – well done!”

“Fantastic agenda!  Held my interest all day.  I have left with much to think about.  Thank you”

“Very useful and informative event!”

“Brilliant day!  Thank you”

“Excellent day, thank you all very much”

“Overall great topics and well run conference. The whole programme was very educational.”

“Opened my eyes in a lot of ways.”

The comments and feedback for the individual speakers were also incredibly positive.

So the lessons learned? Make sure you have content that people want to engage with and think about what they can take away from the day. 

Focus on all the small details that ensure the overall experience really values the delegates and gives them value for money.

Work in partnership with each other, respect areas of expertise and really listen to each other when you are talking about what is proven to work.

The first Elysium Neurological conference is now available as a virtual event for people who mauy have missed it or not been able to attend.

We are looking forward to presenting some focussed CPD events throughout 2023 and hope to deliver another national neuro conference in Spring 2024. How we will top the first one will be a challenge in itself, but we like a challenge! 

HIWIN

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