Organising a SWOC meeting

Information for the Local Organiser

SWOC meetings are usually held twice a year, in spring and autumn. May seems to work well for the Spring meeting (avoid bank holidays and half term). Recently the autumn meetings have been in November (again avoid half term), but have been held as early as September. The meetings serve as a useful platform for trainees to present papers along with contributions from established consultants and invited guest lectures. The meeting should include an evening dinner, to which partners may come. The addition of a fun event or a social activity helps to persuade more delegates to stay over (eg harbour cruise at Plymouth 2014 meeting).

The acquisition of sponsorship, rating of submitted abstracts, planning and organisation of the meeting rests with the local organiser(s) with support as needed from the SWOC secretary. Although a significant amount of work is required, you should find the process very rewarding. Getting a trainee to help from an early stage is a good idea, and is useful for their cv. Your trust should offer some additional secretarial help to ease the burden and SWOC can pay a small fee to support this (up to £200). The following should help you:

1. Choose a Date

Choose a date well in advance. Avoid clashes with other major orthopaedic meetings (national or Southwest regional) that will dilute attendance (see BOA, BJJ and EFORT websites which all have listings), and check with Severn and Peninsular training organisers so that teaching can be scheduled to allow trainees to attend. Avoid school holidays including half term. Confirm your chosen date with the SWOC secretary who will then email members with provisional details.

Meetings have been held on a Friday or Saturday (or both) depending on the choice of the local team. There is not an absolute consensus on this, but for the last few years a single day meeting, on a Friday seems to have become the norm. Most consultants seem happy to take study leave for the Friday and may stay overnight for the meal, and it fits best with the trainee teaching days.

2. Choose a Venue

The venue might be a local hotel, post-grad centre, or other suitable conference centre. The main meeting area should be able to seat 100, and have appropriate audio-visual facilities. Additional suitable space is required for trade representatives / coffee / lunch. Ideally the trade stands are not in the main meeting space, allowing conversations to continue during paper presentation sessions, but are co-located with coffee and lunch otherwise it can be hard to get delegates to visit the majority of the stands.

A hotel with its own conference facilities works well but is of course more expensive than a post grad centre, although this can usually be covered by the sponsorship. Members who stay overnight pay for their own accommodation (other than invited guest speakers). A special rate is usually negotiated for a block booking. Aim to have the date and venue confirmed at least 6 months before the meeting. This can then be advertised on the SWOC website.

3. Budget / Source of Sponsorship

Once a venue is chosen, you will have an idea of the required budget for the meeting. Lunch needs to be provided free for the reps as well as delegates (usually at a lower cost per head than the day delegate rate, although some venues will not differentiate). Although SWOC has some funds to help cover the evening dinner if there is a shortfall, each meeting should at least cover the full cost of the educational meeting (delegates are not charged an attendance fee) and preferably the full cost of the whole day. A list of recent sponsors is available on the SWOC website, but you should start by contacting your local reps to give them the first opportunity to be involved.

The SWOC secretary can send out invoices to encourage payment, so please send the name, email and agreed sponsorship amount to the secretary when each sponsorship offer is received.Cheques should be made payable to “South West Orthopaedic Club”, but BACS payment is preferred – bank details are all listed on the club website. Recently sponsorship has between around £500 per space. It is important to stress when asking companies for money that this is to “sponsor the educational meeting”. 12-14 sponsors will cover the costs of most meetings but if there is space, you can invite more. Make sure they can fit into your venue. They should be positioned in the coffee area, and sometimes surrounded by parts of the XR quiz. It can be suggested that bigger contributions attract the best central positions. Sponsors should be listed and thanked in the programme. Delegates must be encouraged to take an interest in the trade stands as the meetings are impossible without them. All expenses for the educational meeting should be met out of sponsorship, so try to keep to budget!

4. Call for abstracts

The secretary will send out a call for abstracts (which are prepared in standard BJJ format – details on SWOC website) with a suitable closing date. These are sent by delegates by email directly to the meeting organiser. Abstracts submitted should be circulated (ideally blinded) for scoring to at least 2 consultant colleagues, plus one or two local trainees, so that a consensus view is reached on which abstracts are of highest quality. If papers are of equal quality, discretion can be used to ensure a suitable range of subject matter and spread across different centres / presenters.

Normally 3 paper sessions are held during the day (see suggested meeting format). It should be possible to fit 8 papers into a 70 minute session, allowing time for discussion. Therefore around 24 papers can be accepted for presentation in total. It is normal for up to twice this number to be submitted for consideration. Successful authors should be notified in sufficient time (minimum 8 weeks before the meeting) to make sure that they can attend. Senior authors of accepted papers should be strongly encouraged to attend. Allowing time for abstracts to be rated, this means that the closing date should be 10 weeks before the meeting, allowing an extension of 1 week if numbers submitted are lower than expected.

5. Guest lectures

A successful SWOC meeting combines free paper presentations with 2 or 3 expert guest lectures. It is up to the local organiser to invite suitable speakers. One guest speaker at the Autumn meeting may be asked to present the “Pridie Memorial Lecture”, and their name will be put forward to Bristol University for approval by the Secretary. Reasonable expenses can be offered to any guest speaker, including attendance at the dinner and hotel stay (this can be a useful way of encouraging increased sponsorship from one of the companies). The travel and hotel expenses of the Pridie Memorial Lecturer can be recouped from the University of Bristol. A guest lecture can be on a non-medical subject of more general interest if a suitable speaker can be found.

If a Hampson Memorial Prize has been awarded, the recipient will normally be asked to present their research to the Spring SWOC meeting, typically given a 15-20 minute presentation slot. The secretary will inform you if this is required.

6. Other things to do

A provisional programme and venue directions should be sent to the secretary (to put onto website and email to members) 8 weeks before the meeting so that delegates who have not already booked leave may still do so. CPD points are no longer awarded by the BOA for non-specialist meetings, but delegates can self-assess CPD points by recording the sessions they have attended and keeping a reflective record. Prepare a sign-in sheet and a certificate of attendance for delegates: Sample Certificate. Print a final version of the programme (Sample Programme) including a list of the sponsoring companies.

7. Meeting format (see example timetable)

A start time of 9.30 or 10am (with registration and coffee from 9 or 9.30) allows delegates to travel to the meeting on the day and arrive on time. A brief presentation at the start by one of the local team to introduce the local unit, its history and characters, can add a local flavour to the proceedings. A chairman (or two) should be allocated for each of the sessions, chosen from any of your willing colleagues. Guest speakers will need to be introduced (and thanked) by a suitable member. A SWOC business meeting may be held (15 minutes) usually during afternoon tea. Items for discussion should be forwarded to the Secretary. During the meeting there may be an x-ray quiz (if printed images can still be located!). There should be time for this to be reviewed towards the end of the meeting with the x-rays shown as a PowerPoint presentation. Score sheets are collected during the meeting. There is usually a prize, which is announced at the dinner (non attendance at the dinner disqualifies!)

8. On the day

Make sure the trade stands are in place before delegates arrive. Coffee should be available before the meeting starts. An IT support expert is essential. If not provided by the venue, find a suitable trainee to make sure all the presentations are loaded in time. A spare laptop is a wise precaution. A laser pointer is required. If Mac presentations are not supported by the AV system, make sure the presenting authors are aware of this. The monitoring of timing of the papers needs to be draconian. Resorting to bells, whistles or hooters is encouraged! It is common practice for the session chair to ask for comments as well as questions to draw on the wider experience of the audience. Nominate 3 of the Chairs to be on the panel to judge the best paper (with marks for content / presentation / dealing with questions). The prize (£100) for the best paper can be announced at the end of the meeting or at the dinner. Coffee / tea / biscuits are required again mid-morning and mid-afternoon, served in a place that involves the Trade Stands.

9. Dinner

Book the dinner venue early. This may be in the hotel that some members are staying in, or an alternative venue. Try to choose somewhere that will encourage delegates to stay on. The cost per head including wine may be discounted for delegates if SWOC funds allow, but this should be discussed with the secretary. It is important not to guarantee more than 40 diners when booking, but ask for an option of a further 15 or more nearer the date. Final numbers (including vegetarians) will need to be finalised during the meeting. The dinner arrangements frequently lose money if the numbers are not accurate. Members have proved to be notoriously unreliable in telling us if they are going to stay! Ask them to confirm ASAP, particularly if, as we hope, they wish to bring partners, and ask them to suggest who they might like to sit with. A seating plan may be helpful, at least for the ‘top-table’ and visiting speakers. Try to organise it so that people can sit with their friends. The dress for the dinner is usually smart casual. Prizes may be awarded during the meal (xray quiz, best paper). There may be a few anecdotes, but a formal speech is not usually made.

10. Afterwards

Send the presented abstracts to the Secretary for submission to the BJJ (in the correct format). Also the attendance list from the day, and a final tally of projected income and expenditure. The secretary will chase up any reps who have not paid. Sit back for a well-earned rest!