Organising an AUA Regional Network Event | AUA Blog
Merlin Harries MAUA | Faculty Education Manager, Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care, King’s College London
I took on the role of Anglia and London Regional Network Coordinator nearly a year ago, and I’d happily confess that the prospect of running a regional event was exciting but also pretty daunting. However, I was fortunate to join a network team with two very engaged and supportive Deputy Network Coordinators, Katy McGowan and Lewina Coote. They have both been incredible over the past year in contributing their time, ideas and expertise to develop our regional network.
Teamwork is the most important ingredient in running a regional level event. The great thing about the Network Coordinator role is that you benefit from working alongside the AUA Office, who are incredibly helpful, knowledgeable and responsive. I cannot overstate how crucial the support from people like Matt and Jordan has been over the past year. They have been amazing.
Above all else, I wanted to ensure that the theme for our event was led by our members – so the first step I took last March was to run a members’ survey via the AUA Office. The survey included various options for themes informed by ideas from our Branch Advocates. They were brilliant in coming up with ideas that were both timely and relevant to life as an HE professional.
Preparing for your AUA event well in advance is critical. I would recommend allowing at least six months lead-in for anything like a conference. Beyond this, some useful pointers include:
• Your speakers
Internet research is key! Take your initial, broad theme for the day and search out speakers with the necessary expertise to deliver content. They may work with an HE provider, but I’d also encourage you to look beyond universities to sectors aligned with the work we do too (for example, Wonkhe are a superb example of an organisation primed to deliver the very latest insights and commentary on a range of relevant topics). Approaching speakers in advance is essential, as they will all have busy schedules.
• Your venue
After you have set a date, you will need to look for a venue. I found that working through our Branch Advocates was really helpful in finding a suitable space that could be made freely available. Provided that you are not charging for the event, most universities will be open to you using a room as the AUA brand is well-known and our events are always beneficial to their staff.
Make sure you promote your event at least four months in advance to ensure a good uptake. Use social media via the AUA Office to promote the event, and tag or mention individual speakers in your Tweets and posts, as they can also help boost visibility.
With any event on a reasonably large scale, you will face unexpected changes. One of your speakers may drop out, or the room you are using maybecome unavailable . I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of Matt and Jordan as a valuable source of support here. Your Deputy Network Coordinator(s) and Branch Advocates are also a great source of inspiration if you need to find a replacement speaker.
I went with six thirty-minute talks which proved popular with delegates. You may be tempted to plan breakout talks and a complex agenda – but if this is your first AUA event, I would encourage you to take as simple an approach as possible. Orchestrating room changes can be a challenge, and taking up multiple rooms also has a greater impact on your host university.
• Early bird
When you have all your lanyards, schedules, and AUA literature in hand for the big day, a fairly obvious point(but one worth mentioning) is to get to your location at least an hour before the scheduled start. Unless you have a Branch Advocate who is happy to do some prep work, you’ll need to sort out your wayfinding signage and deal with any snags in the room. A good example which I came up against was getting replacement batteries for the wireless mouse needed for the presentations! I would recommend looking up all the necessary extension numbers in advance (e.g. Facilities, Catering, AV Team) to make sure they are contactable on the day.
I found the experience of organising and running our regional event enormously rewarding and enjoyable. If you are running an event, I hope your experience is the same. While you may find it challenging, you will have added insight into enriching our members’ professional growth and career development. Most importantly, you will have helped build new connections across your network. For me, this is one of the most valuable and gratifying aspects of our work at the AUA.
If you’re reading this and you have more questions, please do feel free to get in touch with me directly via the AUA Office (firstname.lastname@example.org). Good luck with your event!