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Sarah Jones on organising the AJE June conference

The June 2015 conference was attended by nearly 100 UK and overseas academics and was one of the most successful AJE events to date.  A product of nearly six months of hard work by the Committee, here Sarah Jones, conference co-organiser and Associate Head of Media, Coventry University, explains how it all came together…

Sarah Jones

Sarah Jones

I have just organised the Future of Journalism Education, along with Kathy Watson from the host institution, University of Greenwich. It was one of our most well attended conferences and in probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing locations. We had a brilliant keynote in the form of BBC’s James Harding and a whole range of conference presentations from ditching shorthand, the value of accreditation, finding feature ideas and multiple uses of social media. So how did we do it?

Kathy and I naturally divided up the role. I put out the initial call for papers and we were inundated with abstracts. I looked after that side of things; abstracts, presenters, the programme, the timings (yes, including the lack of coffee breaks, so apologies!), publicity and managing Eventbrite. Kathy took on the hosting side; sorting the beautiful venue, booking dinner (having the Thames as a backdrop was great), convincing the university to pay for lunches and coffees (a first in AJE history) and arranging a fab team of student volunteers, who did such a fantastic job.

Securing a great keynote is essential and Margaret Hughes of UWS, was brilliant in getting James Harding. This was a great draw and helped us get coverage of the conference in the Guardian.

Steve Hill, our awesome web editor, had got some brilliant students to do interviews and record the conference, which will provide useful content in populating the website in the next few weeks.

Organising a conference like this is really a collaborative effort and it was great to see it all come together. It’s a lot of work but to have such engaging conversations and sharing of best practices, makes it all worthwhile.

The lessons learnt:

  • Work together: you need all different skills to make a conference a success.
  • Get a great keynote: it sells the conference itself and helps pay for lunches.
  • Use social media: the analytics from Eventbrite show just how many bookings came from Twitter. Steve and I tweet a lot.
  • Pick a great theme: we had so much interest and lots of abstracts thanks to quite a broad, but really exciting theme.
  • Get a new email address: one that is dedicated to just the conference organsing would have been great. Between presenter questions, scheduling restrictions and updates from Eventbrite, I’ve felt incredibly popular.
  • Try not to organize it 24 hours after you get back from a work trip to Australia. That wasn’t a smart move but luckily most of my work was done by then. Another reason to share the workload.

So whoever wants to organize the next one, get in touch. Happy to help!

Sarah Jones, AJE Committee Member and Associate Head of Media, Coventry University

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