Conference: what worked, and some suggestions for improvement for the future

I believe in giving praise where praise is due, and so I would like to congratulate all the party staff, companies, businesses, volunteers and particularly the members of Federal Conference Committee (FCC) on their delivering the most enjoyable, welcoming and member friendly conference I have attended in my 27 years in this party.

I particularly liked and would like to see at all future conferences:

From the moment you arrived people explained what was happening and when, FCC and Federal Executive members were available front of house to hear what members wanted to tell them;

In the conference hall every technicality of the debate was clearly explained as it happened so nobody felt out of their depth;

In the fringe meetings every acronym and every bit of jargon was explained, it isn’t just the new members who are helped by that everyone benefits.

On the whole this conference gave us a lot to build on, and here are some of my suggestions for the future:

Print an alphabetical glossary of acronyms and jargon that can be handed to all at the new-members reception and can be picked up at the Federal Party front desk;

Introduce a ‘poster wall’ so that party groups and organisations that do not yet have AO or SAO status can pitch for members and supporters to get them started;

Ask fringe organisers to arrange rapporteurs so that the fringe can be ‘written up and published’ enabling members who do not attend, or for whom fringes clash, to be briefed on what was discussed;

The conference website, booklets and ap currently cover the main agenda, the fringe and the training, but for many of us conference is our only real holiday of the year. Why not commission a fourth section in all three formats that enables the local party and the local tourist board to let members know what else is available locally, and takes adverts from local business. With over three thousand delegates,it would help both members and the businesses in the host town or city.

Finally, even with One Member One Vote, some members who are either time or cash poor will struggle to get to conference, and sometimes people who do not qualify for benefits can have difficulty affording to get to conference. It is time we developed a bursary scheme of some sort because every member should be free to participate fully in the democracy of the party.

* Chair of Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats, a member of the NW Regional Executive and the English Council and Vice President of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats

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5 Comments

  • I agree with all Iain’s comments and suggestions.

  • suzanne fletcher 26th Sep '15 - 9:05am

    I agree with all iain’s suggestions too. the last re bursary scheme I agree in principle, but very difficult to sort out. best way is to encourage local and or regional parties to do so.
    Reporting back fromn a fringe is challenging, but if thought about beforehand something that can and should be done. LD4SOS always does something on their fringe on their website with photos links etc. I am a compulsive notetaker. However this year our 2 speakers (Refugee Council and UNHCR) were so gripping I don’t think anyone took notes. we will do something though.
    Lots I could add, but on the subject of fringes, we feel that a fringe should be run with as many “Liberal” principles as we can. Apart from this time when we had the late offer of the UNHCR speaker that was so worthwhile having, we try to leave time for members there to question and discuss. However the cut from 1 hour to 1 and half hours does not help, and I cannot recall the change being made clear to us when booking – the price has not gone down !!
    We do “yellow sheets” for chairs which give information about us and also asks for feedack. this includes a space and encouragement to write down any questions or points that people wanted to make that either were not called to speak or didn’t feel like saying publicly. liberal princilples!
    cost of stalls and fringes for membership based groups is a huge challenge, and I won’t clog this thread up with the issue.

  • suzanne fletcher 26th Sep '15 - 9:10am

    on another issue, I think the ethos and management of conference needs to change to make campaigning central. just how easy is it to do social media articles, press releases etc from what happens in the hall (or elsewhere). we don’t even get the text of a motion agreed till weeks afterwards, not easy to find utube links straight away, coverage on party website skimpy (and in the case of the refugee debate even wrong).
    I don’t think most people there even think about it, and priorities of those running conference (and yes, I do apppreciate all are working very hard and do a good job) need to be thought about again ?

  • peter tyzack 26th Sep '15 - 12:17pm

    I agree with all of the above thoughts and ideas, the rapporteur especially… How about more flexibility of fringes timings, to fill that gap between end of the afternoon session and the early evening fringe. Yes involve the Local Party more, and give them the opportunity to run a stall/fringe/event.
    Also, we run from Saturday to Wednesday to appease the media(at least that’s what we have been told) but they don’t do us any favours, so lets pick the days that suit members. I would suggest we start on Friday morning and run through the weekend. Getting a Monday or a Friday off work is relatively more easy than asking for Mon/Tues/Wed But let’s survey members and ask what days suit them. !

  • suzanne fletcher 26th Sep '15 - 4:06pm

    agree with Peter re timings, lets look at on a “zero based” way to see why we do things the way we do now. everything is completely different in the political and media world to what it was 10 years ago. not saying anyone is wrong,. just time for a fresh look.

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