Meet the New Faces at Southcoast Conferences!

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Recently, the Southcoast Conference team had two new faces join the team, Erika Cummings and Yasmin Cotton, and we are so happy to have them with us. Read on to learn a little bit more about the two new staff members and what they will contribute to the Southcoast Team.

Erika is a long-term Brightonian, having spent most of her life in the city and she has three grown children as well as one grandson. She grew up in an international family, all mostly working in show-business, but has found her own path in event administration.

How did you find the role at Southcoast Conferences?

I particularly went onto the University of Brighton job vacancies site because I was looking for a role within the university. So every week I used to go through, see which new roles were up and I applied for this one.

What did you do before working here?

Before here I worked in HR. So I was in recruitment and I used to work for Airbus, which build and designed satellites and also the Mars Rover. But my main training and background is in HR and training.

What does your everyday look like?

Mostly emails, but then it’s writing up the contracts. It’s very process-driven so there’s lots of taking the bookings through the various process, making sure that everything is done. But we do get a little tied up sometimes – or I get a little tied up sometimes – with all the little things you can’t quite finish. And so once a week I have a mop-up of all the things I couldn’t quite finish because I’m waiting for a response.

How are you finding your new role?

Great fun. I like it very much. Great team, very interesting job. Something different every day. It’s not just desk-bound, we do get out quite a lot. It’s just varied all the time.

What is the best thing about working at Southcoast Conferences?

The team I think because we all get on so well. It’s lovely here, and with other people on the floor and there’s always interaction. You know, you’re not just sitting there with your head down, there’s always someone to chat to and they sort of build that chatting time into your daily work as well so it’s not as though somebody frowns upon you if you’re talking about “I’m a Celebrity” or something – everybody joins in.

Yasmin is originally from Worthing where she lives today with her younger sister. Last year she finished a Masters in History, War & Conflict at the University of Brighton and most of her free time is spent in the company of cheesy 80s murder mysteries.

How did you find the role at Southcoast Conferences?

I found the role directly through the Brighton University job vacancies site. I knew I wanted to work for a university and because I studied at Brighton I thought it might be nice to try and get something here. So I just kept an eye out for job vacancies.

What did you do before working here?

I come from a slightly varied office background. Before this job, I worked as a receptionist in a law firm, which was local Brighton based as well. I worked with them for about two years. Before then I was a secretary at Sussex police. So most of my jobs have been Brighton based.

What does your everyday look like?

Normally I come in, complain about how cold and tired I am, depending on what time of year it is and then I make a coffee. Then I check all the new enquiries that have come through on the emails, have a look at what the week is bringing in terms of the conferences and events and things like that. At the moment I’m also keeping an eye on all the summer schools due to arrive at the end of June.

How are you finding your new role?

I love it, it is really good. The team is really lovely and very supportive. It’s been great to go to the different events that Laura and Louise plan as well. So I got to meet loads of different people. It’s nice and varied, I don’t just sit at a desk.

What is the best thing about working at Southcoast Conferences?

Possibly the free stuff. The stuff that we get sent from different clients – Christmas was good. No, I’m joking. To be honest, it’s the team, I really enjoy working with this team. It’s a really nice atmosphere, so that is probably the best bit.

 

Welcome to the team, Erika and Yasmin!

 

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