The Friendly Face You See First – Casuals at Southcoast Conferences

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Southcoast Conferences has for years employed students from the University of Brighton in casual roles to help out at events, paying a competitive rate and training the students to gain essential skills in event management. The role is super flexible, allowing the students to fit paid work around their studies. The students assist with welcoming and registration of delegates, signposting, queries and everything else that might pop up during the event, being carefully trained to handle any situation that might occur and always representing the University of Brighton in the most professional and friendly way possible. They also occasionally help with administrative tasks and preparation for the events in the office.

Recently, Southcoast Conferences hired and trained a big group of new students to prepare for the busy spring and summer period, and some of them worked their first conference just after Christmas break: “I thoroughly enjoyed working my first event with Southcoast Conferences. I enjoyed the extra responsibility and admired the professionalism of the rest of the team. I also found that many of the delegates were extremely friendly, so it was also great to meet academics from all over the world, which led to some quite inspiring conversations!”

Talking to one of the other students employed by Southcoast Conferences makes it clear why this arrangement is extremely beneficial for the students: “I’ve worked for Southcoast for about 2.5 years now and I still love every moment of it. It feels like every time I come into work I learn something new and I really feel these skills are transferable and will help me be more employable when I finish my degree this summer. And Laura and the team are always super conscious of whatever the casuals can offer – I’ve gotten to use my writing-skills from my studies to help out with the marketing materials for the different events and I get to write content for the website as well. One of the other guys acts as a photographer at most events, so they are great at utilizing the different skills the students have to offer. So I’m not only working an exciting job and making money while at university, I also get to build up my portfolio in my field of study at the same time, which is amazing.”

The students gain plenty of professional experience and skills from working for Southcoast Conferences but this arrangement is just as beneficial for the full-time staff members, as Event Manager Laura Williams makes clear: “Being an events team within a university put us in the unique position of being able to use the incredible talent of our students and offer a real unique selling point to clients whether they be internal or external to the university. Clients love that our event staff are students and always comment on how professional they are which I completely agree with of course!,” Laura explains, “It’s a really lovely cyclical relationship – while it’s great for the students with the professional experience they receive, it’s also incredibly beneficial for us to work with students from different areas in the university because they bring different skill sets and perspectives. When we first meet the students at recruitment or training events, first in mind is always thinking about them as event staff, however, I really enjoy discussing their course and interests and career aspirations to see how we can work with them on a deeper level and offer them different opportunities aligned with their interests or course. For example one of our students has a real eye for graphic design and he helped us redevelop our website. We also have a PhD student working for us who has been able to offer support in the academic programming of conferences which are in line with his research area. More personally though, working with the students is one of my favourite parts of my job because its great meeting them at the start of their journey and watching them develop through their university life and being able to help them and hopefully enhance their experience of university.” 

From working with Southcoast Conferences the students learn about taking responsibility and working independently, being professional, friendly, and working in a team – and we are more than happy and proud to provide them with this experience.

 

Meet the New Events Coordinator at Southcoast!

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Louise Millard lives in Shoreham, grew up in Brighton and likes to go dancing with her husband during the week and for long walks on the weekends. She is also the Events Coordinator at Southcoast Conferences and with lots of experience in event management, the team is lucky to have her.

“Before I worked here, I worked for Brighton and Hove City Council. I worked at the library service, which was mostly at Jubilee Library in town. I used to manage the commercial and conference team there. We used to do room hire, venue hire and I managed the shop as well,” Louise explains.

Today, nearly six months after starting her new role, Louise is an integral part of the Southcoast Conference team and her experience working with the events so far has been positive: “I’m definitely really enjoying it. It’s really interesting because there’s a lot of stuff going on. The team is incredibly nice. We’re quite a new team so it’s great for all of us to be learning at the same time. It’s also lovely working for a university as I’ve never worked at a university before. So that’s really different. And working with the students and with our student event support staff is really cool. It’s nice to be involved in university events, like the International Orientation as well as conferences. My days look very different,” Louise explains, “If it’s an office day, obviously we’re based at Exion, and then it would be things like contacting people, checking up on emails, planning things, making lots of to-do lists, doing the logistical sides of the events, contacting the different departments, making sure we have all the details we need, setting up registration sites, lots of meetings – just making sure we’ve got everything covered. On an event day, we’ll go to wherever the event is taking place in the University and then we do things like setting up the event, managing the team we’ve got there, making sure the event runs smoothly. There’s always something different going on, so I really enjoy that.”

When asked what her favourite part of her new role is, Louise is certain: “The best thing is probably that great feeling when things go well and you’ve put the time in beforehand and then something runs really smoothly and it works and you get good feedback afterwards. When people enjoy the event – that’s probably the best part.”

So what is Louise looking forward to most in her new role?

“Honestly, I’m just looking forward to the day where I know where every building is,” she laughs when asked, “This place is huge.”

 

Welcome to the team, Louise! We are so happy to have you.

MeCCSA 2020 Conference

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After many months of hard work and preparations, the days had finally come: it was time for the 2020 annual MeCCSA (Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association) conference, this year taking place at the City Campus at the University of Brighton.

The delegates from all around the world arrived from 10 am on Wednesday 8th January, ready and excited for 3 days discussing and learning about this year’s theme, Media Interactions and Environments. MeCCSA 2020 was the most sustainable MeCCSA conference to date and was largely paper-free with minimal use of single-use products. After having registered with the welcoming Southcoast Event Staff and receiving their reusable coffee cup and MeCCSA branded water bottle to fill up at the refreshment stalls, the delegates could check the programme for the upcoming days online by scanning a QR code on the back of their name badge.

Over the days, multiple keynotes, panel sessions, and roundtable discussions touched upon countless media-related subjects. Every day the delegates were able to choose from a broad array of topics discussed in different panels, including Game of Thrones, podcasts, gender, politics, AI, culture, Japanese film, and TV, just to mention a few. The programme also included network meetings, beautiful and interesting art exhibitions, stalls hosted by 8 different academic publishers, the MeCCSA AGM and plenty of opportunities to meet new people in the coffee and lunch breaks. At all times Southcoast Event Staff was on hand to help delegates find their way to their next session or answer any queries that might pop up throughout the conference.

On Thursday The Real Junk Food Project Brighton served delicious lunch consisting of salads, tandoori chicken, couscous and pastries for the delegates, assisted by Southcoast Event Staff. The Real Junk Food Project cooks with food that would otherwise have been thrown away to reduce food waste. Since its founding 5 years ago The Real Junk Food Project has saved 5000 tonnes of food – equivalent to 11.9 million meals.

The programme also offered a fun social programme in the evenings, allowing the delegates to network and experience vibrant and exciting Brighton. Led by the Southcoast Event Staff holding signs to show the way, the delegates started their first evening in Brighton with a beautiful drinks reception in the picturesque Brighton Museum & Gallery. Ewan Kirkland, the organiser from the University of Brighton, welcomed everyone to Brighton and gave a toast to MeCSSA before the delegates moved on in the evening programme to a cosy local pub, the Walrus. At the Walrus, the delegates participated in an entertaining pub quiz, touching upon several different themes like the 2010s, academic questions and a fun picture round, all curated by Ewan Kirkland.

The following evening was the night of the gala dinner, taking place at the iconic Brighton Palace Pier – the delegates got to dine 500 metres out on sea! Walking down the Pier towards the Palm Court Restaurant, the delegates were greeted by beautiful light dancers wishing them a lovely evening, before the guests proceeded inside for a welcome drink and a chat before the dinner. The delicious 3-course meal consisted of a soup, fish and chips and an Eaton Mess cheesecake to top it all off, all accompanied by wine. The light dancers performed their beautiful tricks as the entertainment of the night, clearly impressing everyone with their skills and with that a successful gala dinner finished with the delegates ready for the final day of the conference, MeCCSA 2020 coming to an end on Friday 10th January.

Both the University of Brighton and Southcoast Conferences are proud and honoured to have hosted this year’s successful conference and wish the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen best of luck with next year’s conference.

 

MeCCSA 2020 Facts: 

  • 317 delegates from 138 universities across 28 countries
  • 273 presentations in 76 panels
  • 8 academic publishers: Palgrave Macmillan, Polity Press, Emerald Publishing, MIT Press, Rowman & Littlefield, University of Westminster Press, Combined Academic Publishers, Edinburgh University Press.
  • 4 keynote speakers: academic and industry leaders Dr Deborah Gabriel, Professor Jussi Parikka, Professor Sarah Kember, Professor Trine Syvertsen.
  • The mosts sustainable MeCCSA conference ever

 

 

From Lectures to Live Events

Lectures to Live Events James

New Doctor James Gatheral has had a busy couple of months: he turned 30, got engaged, finished his PhD at University of Brighton, and is now trying to fulfil his dream of becoming a lecturer. But while he is searching far and wide for job opportunities, he, much by coincidence, has also turned into quite the conference planner, helping Southcoast Conferences to make some of the biggest conferences yet hosted at the University of Brighton into massive successes.

While planning the RSVP Conference alongside his supervisor, Dr Peter Blake, James ran into Laura Williams, the Events Services Manager at Southcoast Conferences:

“I was working from an academic perspective on a conference that was going to be held at the University of Brighton. I came in to sit in a meeting with Laura and a couple of academics. […] We all worked well together, we got on really well […], and after a couple of meetings I asked Laura if she might be able to help me with some part-time work to support me while I was in the precarious position of finishing my PhD some months after my funding had finished. I wanted to get involved, and Laura had lots of upcoming events, so it seemed to work perfectly. We came together at the right time.”

The event which brought James into the world of conference planning, the annual conference of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, happens to be one of the biggest in James’s field of research, so contributing to the organisation of such an event was a big opportunity for him as an early career researcher.

“It is a big international conference, with scholars coming to the conference from the United States, Canada, Australia, Asia, and continental Europe. I had been to their most recent conferences, one hosted in Kansas City, one in Freiburg in Germany, another in Canada, but it hadn’t come to the UK for a couple of years. Peter and I were at the conference dinner after a very successful event in Freiburg, and after a few glasses of wine we suggested very confidently that Brighton would be the perfect host for a future conference,” James explains, laughing. “It snowballed from there. The Society chose to give us the conference for 2019, and it was both a great opportunity and a great responsibility because it is an important event and we were quite nervous about hosting it. But Laura was amazing, and every time there was any problem she would make everyone feel at ease. The event was a great success, and we got some excellent feedback.”

Following the conclusion of his many years of studying, James has now taken on a bigger role within Southcoast Conferences while looking for Lecturer positions. This includes helping to manage the preparation stages of one of the biggest conferences hosted at the University.

“Laura’s been working on a big conference called MeCSSA that’s actually more than twice as big as the one I was talking about earlier. There were over 300 abstracts submitted to present papers, and there will be a huge number of delegates from all around the world in attendance this January. Laura needed a bit more support for this conference because the conference mailbox had about 50 emails coming in every day with various questions and issues. The team also needed some urgent support in terms of processing all the abstracts and sending them out for peer review. Most of the tasks needed to be done immediately (preferably yesterday!) and it was all rather hectic. Laura asked me to take on more responsibility, so now I am helping her daily, checking the mailbox, responding to queries, organising the schedule, and engaging with publishers to exhibit at the conference.”

James has no doubt his current work will help him in his future career: “[It’s] brilliant for me because on my CV, to have things like conference organisation is amazing. Not many people would have that kind of experience just after their PhD, it’s something you normally get later on. Also, things like crisis management – you know when they say in interviews: ‘has anything ever gone wrong and how did you fix it?’ This experience has given me so many examples to draw on for that question! But it has been really enjoyable and rewarding. I’m very happy to continue here - the ultimate eternal student, I’ll just never leave! But yeah, it’s been a really great experience.”