Writing in Healthcare Conference (held 18 March 2011)
What was originally planned as a continuing professional development (CPD) conference for around 100 staff, ended up being attended by a marvellously diverse and enthusiastic group of 134 people, including staff, service users and carers. Many people have enthused about the day and said it was both enjoyable and inspiring. For me, it was a magical day, marred only by the sad fact that I can only be in one place at once and so was unable to attend all the workshops, which ran in parallel.
I am grateful to a lot of people whose support made the day such a success, in particular the workshop leaders:
- Reflective practice writing and therapeutic creative writing (Gillie Bolton)
- Write it out! The positive power of creative word-play. Creative writing for personal growth and stress management (Geraldine Green)
- I’m still me – the importance of the written word in life story work (Sandi Winterhalder and Helen Jackman)
- Working with narratives in child and adolescent mental health services (Alison Burgess and Jennifer Atkinson)
- Running a reflective practice group (Kathryn McDowell, John Masson and Shaun Cavanagh)
- Poetry and collaborative poems in group work (Nigel Peirce and Liz Fitton)
- Introduction to writing for publication (Dave Dagnan)
- Research presentation/research clinic (Angus Forsyth and Dave Dagnan)
Reflection on organizing the conference (what follows is not from the Words for Wellbeing book):
I had the idea for the Writing in Healthcare conference in September 2009 and the conference was well over a year in the planning.
First I agreed the date and booked the main tutor, Gillie Bolton, to deliver sessions on reflective writing and therapeutic writing. My practice supervisor helped me to plan a programme with 4 workshop strands, and he agreed to give a presentation in the research strand of the conference.
Next I booked the Venue, which was the North Lakes Hotel, Penrith. I drafted the programme and the Communications Team got the programme printed.
I handled all the bookings myself and confirmed by email or post. I used an excel file to record the bookings and set up pivot tables so I could always see how many were booked on each separate workshop and on the conference as a whole. The excel file was used to produce badges and certificates too.
I used direct email, press releases, e-newsletters to promote the conference. I added the event to websites, and sent targeted emails to contacts I found on some websites. I also promoted the conference at other events and through Lapidus.
Thankfully, a colleague gave me a lot of admin help in the final 2 months before the conference. She ordered badges and packs, helped me work out how best to do certain things, e.g., the green badges, the handout packs and the book “raffle” – with some books kindly donated by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
In the packs, we put the programme, an evaluation form, a comments form, a workshop sheet with directions to the individual’s workshops, a Year of Writing newsletter, with a call for submissions for the Words for Wellbeing book, and a certificate of attendance with their name on. We sourced badges that had both a clip and a pin. We used green card for the inserts for the “helpers” and presenters. These green badge people were the ones delegates could turn to if they couldn’t find their way around. For the white badges we used mail merge on Word and the Excel list to print 2 white labels per person – one for their badge and the other for their pack. The badges went in the packs so when each delegate arrived they just needed to sign in and be given their pack containing everything they needed.
Printing of everything possible was done well in advance. Last minute printing was just for any late bookings. The packs we used were clear plastic, we ordered 130 but had to then order another 25 as we had more than 130 bookings in the end. Having clear plastic packs made it easy to see that a pack had the workshop sheet (personalized) in the front and the personalized certificate in the back. Having the label on the front made giving out packs easier and also hopefully reduced the number of people who got their packs mixed up.
I didn’t sleep well on the night before the conference – I woke up at 20 past 4 and was too excited to get back to sleep so I got up about 5am. I gave a lift to 2 helpers and we were probably at the North Lakes Hotel by 8.15am and somehow was rushed off my feet until 9.30 when the conference opened. When I arrived I had to see someone in the conference office and tour round the 4 rooms finding out about fire exits and wifi, etc, and getting keys in case we needed them.
For me the conference itself passed in a bit of a blur – but I do remember smiling a lot! At the end of the day, after I had driven home and then been interviewed on the telephone for local radio, I sat down with my family and a cup of tea and suddenly felt utterly exhausted. I was delighted with how well the day went, and very relieved that it was all over. Organizing a conference is a huge amount of work, but it was all worth it. Yes there are things that, in hindsight, I wish had been different. But it was a great day that people are still talking about and it was a great finale to my Year of Writing.