Guidance on running an Early Career Physiologists' Symposium

Advice on organising an Early Career Physiologists' Symposium from an event organiser

Early Career Physiologists' Symposium (ECPS) bring together people with similar interests to learn from each other and have some fun.  So how do you organise an ECPS? The following suggestions were compiled after the Cations in Physiological Signalling event held at the University of Manchester. 

1) Get a group of people who want to be involved 
Appoint a group chair who will be responsible for coordinating the team and keeping an eye on the budget and timescale. Consider appointing a vice chair, secretary, person to keep the accounts etc. 

2) Decide what you want
Think about what was good about conferences you’ve been to before and what particular resources you have that will make your event special. Decide whether it will be a satellite symposium to a larger event or whether it will be a stand-alone conference. Pick a scientific theme. Decide on a suitable date taking into account other conferences, university holiday times (when accommodation is often more readily available), organising group commitments etc. 

3) Plan how you will achieve what you want and what it will cost.
Find and get quotes for suitable venues/ caterers/ poster boards/ plenary speakers/ printers etc. Make sure you know whether a quote includes VAT or not. Write your budget overestimating the costs of everything you can think of; chances are this extra money will cover the costs of the things you haven’t thought of yet. Add on extra contingency money. 

4) Think about where to get funding 
If your anticipated costs are less than £3500, The Physiological Society may be able to cover your costs. If it’s going to cost more than that, you will need to find funding from elsewhere in addition to applying to The Physiological Society. Find out if your faculty/ department/ institution has a business officer who coordinates sponsorship and may be able to help. 

By this stage you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into and will be able to take an informed decision about whether you actually want to continue to organise an ECPS. It’s vitally important that the whole team understands what they’re working towards and that everyone talks to each other so there’s a full awareness of what’s been achieved and what still needs to be completed. Don’t forget the careful planning you’ve done. By anticipating the things that may go wrong and coming up with solutions during the planning stages, you’ll save lots of time and effort later. If you decide to continue, you may find it useful to consider the following: 

5) Apply to The Physiological Society for funding 
They will also be able to put you in contact with previous organisers and give you the benefit of their academic contacts and experience. If you need extra funding, put together a list of funding opportunities (trade stand spaces, adverts in the conference booklet, promotion material in the delegate packs, sponsorship of specific parts of the conference such as tea and coffee or the poster session). Try to have a range of prices and then contact every company and organisation you can think of and explain what they’ll gain from being involved. 

6) Carry out your plan 
Members of the organising group will need to take responsibility for different aspects of the conference. The chair needs to keep track of what’s being completed and may like to keep a running ‘to do’ list of tasks which need attention. Have regular face-to-face meetings to sort out ideas and keep everyone up to date. Come up with a backup plans in case things don’t work out perfectly. Audiovisual equipment can let you down no matter how thoroughly you test it out so have an expert around to help you. It’s useful to remember that your delegates will forgive you a lot if the food and drink is great! 

7) Choose good plenary speakers 
An amazing scientist who presents their work really badly is unlikely to inspire you and your delegates. Choose plenary speakers who you know are good presenters as well as good scientists. 

8) Advertise as widely as possible 
Set up an easy to use website. Posters and leaflets can be kept uncluttered and eye catching if they refer the reader to the website for full details of your YPS. The Physiological Society may be able to advertise your event to all their contacts or place an advert on their website or in their publications. Give leaflets to supervisors to hand out when they give talks in other institutions. Basically tell anyone you know to tell everyone they know about your ECPS! 

9) Keep a paper record of everything  
This is really important for any agreements made so that everyone knows where they stand. It’s even more important when agreements are made with external contractors, particularly if money is involved. 

10) Thank everyone involved 
You’ll feel so much better after the eventif you’re still on good terms with everyone and you never know when a contact may turn out to be invaluable.