November 16, 2017, by Susan Lim

Life Skills: Students Insights on Organising a Conference

Students preparing for the future workplace need more than just academic knowledge: they need a range of real-world skills. The best way to build these real-world skills is often to step out of the classroom and take on a bigger challenge. A team of postgraduate students from the School of Education at the University recently did just this when they volunteered to organise a conference. Entitled Educational Leadership in the 21st Century: Developing a Leadership Blueprint in an Uncertain Era, the event was a great success. The conference featured local and international presenters from the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNMC) School of Education and drew a diverse audience from around Malaysia. The organising team included postgraduate students from Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In a follow-up interview, the team shared what they gained from getting involved in the conference organisation. They also shared their advice to other students who would like to develop their skills in conference organisation and event planning in the University.

Organising Conferences and Events: What’s in It for You?

Team members reported different benefits from organising the conference but generally agreed on a few key points. Interestingly, they all felt that they achieved what they set out to – and far more.

  1. Long-term gains. Organising a conference can bring long-term gains in your research work and beyond. Not only does a conference extend your subject knowledge, but it also offers event planning experience and networking opportunities.
  2. Skills, not just knowledge. Several students found that they developed more than just knowledge, but also hands-on skills that would be useful in their lives and work.
  3. Learning together. Students who were new to conference organisation found that they learned a great deal from more experienced students, from planning to communication and logistics of running the event.
  4. Academic perspective: Organising a conference gave students a broader perspective on the academic field of their work while building knowledge of the subject.
  5. Fruitful friendships and self-knowledge. The team’s strong relationship was an essential ingredient of the conference’s success. Thanks to the shared project, they forged friendships that are also fruitful. With members from five different nationalities, each member of the team has learned a lot about the other countries while collaborating with a cross-cultural team.
  6. Good planning. Organising a conference helps you to become a good planner. You develop the skill to plan and can continue to utilise it in different situations.
  7. Develop your communication skills. You will have to deal with different types of people to arrange different things, such as logistics, registration, and publicity, to mention only a few.

Postgraduate students who organised the conference

Advice for Student Conference Organisers

Organising a conference taught the team a great deal. For other students who want to get involved in conference organisation or event planning, they have this advice to share.

  1. Just Do It… if you’re 100% interested. Organising a conference calls for absolute commitment, and there will be challenges. Only do it if you are interested enough to overcome these obstacles without losing heart.
  2. Be understanding. In any kind of team project, different people will have different needs, opinions and skills. Take others into consideration and be willing to set aside your own opinion for the greater good.
  3. Co-operate and collaborate. Teamwork is the foundation for a successful conference. Organising a conference will call on all your people skills, and sharpen them as you meet communication challenges.
  4. Mentors are key. The team were unanimous in their praise of their mentor, the Head of the School of Education, who supported the team in organising the conference. Students agreed that he embodied the qualities of a leader and truly set an example for them with his fine attention to detail while keeping the big picture in mind.
  5. Everything is a learning experience. As postgraduates and future educators, the students found that organising this conference presented many opportunities for reflection and learning. One student advised that there would always be opportunities for learning from such an experience when you keep an open mind and an open heart.

Following the success of this conference, the team is now preparing for their next event, an even bigger education conference slated for March 2018. They are looking forward to putting everything they have learnt from this successful event into practice on a larger scale, both in the upcoming conference and beyond.

For more information, please contact Marie Therese

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