Institute of Chartered Foresters Annual Conference | 2 - 3 May 2018
Interview with Allison Lock, Events & Publications Manager
What is the background to the conference?
The Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) is the Royal Chartered body for foresters and arboriculturists in the UK. It is the only UK body to offer the Chartered Forester and Chartered Arboriculturist titles. The Institute regulates standards and provides support to its members, as well as guidance, information and training to professionals, the public and students.
As part of our members programme, we run conferences around the UK in a different location each year. In 2007 the conference had hit a low point with only 87 attending the event in central London. Since then, with a new Executive Director and an experienced Events Manager appointed, the organisation was rebranded and a focus was put on driving the conference to a more professional level. With greater marketing, sponsorship and an exhibition, the conference has seen a gradual growth. In 2018, the topic – Innovation for Change: New drivers for tomorrow’s forestry – together with the gravitas of the modern, professionally run EICC, resulted in a record audience, filling the EICC's Fintry Auditorium on both days.
What is the delegate profile?
The audience largely reflects the Institute’s own membership of professional foresters and arboriculturists and those following a route to become chartered (Students and Associates). The audience make-up is influenced by the conference theme and attracts some of the most senior people within forestry and arboriculture.
What did your conference set out to achieve?
There are three goals for each of our conferences:
- It has to offer a mix of approaches to a current topic, blending new information with research updates, whilst adding elements of ‘surprise’. Speakers are frequently drawn from unrelated professions to challenge members’ mind sets, for example Microsoft for a forward view on how they develop products to be meet emerging trends and futurologists to discuss changes in ways of working.
- It has to deliver attendee satisfaction, gauged through the feedback survey questionnaire send at the end of the event and the personal feedback received. This year’s feedback has been outstanding on both fronts.
- It has to deliver financially against a set target.
Could you define what a successful ICF conference means for you?
A successful conference is one where the feedback is excellent because everything has looked seamless, the staff team plays to its strengths, the visual appearance is totally professional, the audio visual services are excellent, the catering equally so and the venue is 100% the right choice. That gives me great satisfaction. Of course there are hiccups, many without your control, but it is being able to deal with them without most attendees knowing that is as important as doing it right all the time.
Did your 2018 conference achieve this success?
Yes it did, in no small part to the excellent EICC team – right from the porters, front of house team, catering and technical staff to the planners at the start and through to the conference itself. The key personnel were at pains to work with me to ensure that the conference on paper matched our expectations and they were flexible enough to accommodate my exacting requests.
In the feedback that we received, so many attendees have praised the EICC and its staff and applauded the venue. To break our own record for the ICF’s Annual National Conference was a real boost for everyone. Financially, the forecast is to exceed target, which is excellent.
What made you choose Edinburgh and EICC as host city and venue?
Edinburgh is a relatively easy city to get to with a great transport infrastructure, and as the ICF’s HQ is in Edinburgh, it was nice to be on home turf. My first choice of venue was the EICC as I had run 6 conference for a former employer in the EICC’s Fintry Auditorium and I knew what a great venue it is. The large screen in the auditorium and the professional technicians are a joy.
Did the ICF Conference 2018 in Edinburgh attract higher attendee numbers than previous years?
In terms of all of the ICF’s own National Conferences, yes. Edinburgh is a relatively easy city to get to from most of the UK. The conference theme was also key to the increase in numbers, which the delegates sited in their feedback.
What were the highlights of the conference?
The quality of the speakers’ presentations, the fact that they really got a buzz going from the outset and that was carried into the evening dinner and into day two. The praise from all the attendees including exhibitors and speakers was another highlight, as was the team working on the conference, and I include all the EICC staff in that. From the outset sales enquiry through the planning and delivery of the conference, it felt like everyone was working together. It is rarely that I can say that a venue staff team has been so attentive, helpful and kind too. The EICC staff are a credit to the venue.