Conference Countdown 2016: Five things to do this weekend to prepare for Conference

This time next week, many of us will be heading down to Conference in Brighton. I won’t be as I have the particular joy of the 6:25 am flight from Edinburgh to look forward to on Saturday morning.

Here are some top tips for pre-conference preparation which will help you get the best out of the event. Once you are in the fast moving frenzy of our four days in Brighton, it’s difficult to find the space to take stock and plan. Putting the time in now to work out what you want to do will pay dividends.

So, here are a few things you can do this weekend to make sure you are properly prepared. In no particular order…

Get your ticket for the Lib Dem Disco

Cambridge Lib Dems have captured the Saturday evening conference market with their annual disco. It is hilarious, with guest DJs competing against each other. Last year Jo Swinson triumphed in spectacular style. Buzzfeed were there to report it all and take video, so don’t be under any misapprehension that what happens at Lib Dem Disco stays at Lib Dem Disco.

I came second to Alistair Carmichael in the DJ competition 2 years ago. I went slightly off-message with the Disco theme as we were in Scotland. I thought it might be a really good idea to get lots of people who may have had the odd wee drink doing the Gay Gordons at 11 o’clock at night. When I suggested this to the organisers, they replied: “Your proposal for carnage is appealing.”

In the end it was pretty civilised and, thanks to Paul Walter, there is video.

I did actually play some proper disco stuff as well, just so you know.

Anyway, it’s back this year and you really don’t want to miss out on a ticket. And you certainly don’t want to have to queue on the night. Some people who did missed Paddy last year. So, buy your ticket here, now. I mean right now, this minute. You might forget and you would never forgive yourself if you couldn’t get in.

Jo has some serious competition as she attempts to keep hold of her crown. Wales’ education secretary Kirsty Williams loves her music and knows how to party. The brilliant Abi Bell from Hull and Simon Hughes complete the line up.

Read the papers

The last thing you want to do is find yourself in a Conference debate wondering what on earth they are talking about, what the motion says and where you can find it. It can all get very confusing. So, get yourself ahead of the curve by reading the agenda. Find out what the motions say. Work out which debates you might want to speak in.

The words Governance Review do not make for the most exciting phrase in the English language but they are important. Key decisions will be made at the Conference about how the party is run. You need to make sure that you understand where the power is going to lie and whether enough of it is being left in members’ hands. There is a helpful explanatory booklet that sets out the changes  Conference is being asked to make and the rationale behind them.

All the conference papers are available here.

Write your speeches

With the best will in the world, even with wifi for doing research available in the Brighton Centre, it’s best to get it all done up front. If you have even the bare bones of your speech written, or some key facts about the topic, it will be much less stressful in the long run.

You can always update it with any flashes of inspiration you get from discussions at Conference.

If you are a wee bit nervous about the idea of speaking, it might be a good idea to ask a question at a fringe meeting, or go along to the one of the consultation sessions, on nuclear weapons or sex work and contribute to that in a less formal environment.

Check out the online training guide

There is a huge array of training available at Conference. Some of it starts very early in the morning. The party has made this online training guide to help you plan what’s best for you.

There’s some really good stuff on diversity for local party officers with the aim of ensuring more diversity in local parties and at party events. There’s every angle of campaigning you could probably wish for.  You could go to Conference and just spend all your time in the excellent training on offer.

Sort out your Conference Diary

At the time of writing, the Conference App isn’t available yet. It’s a great tool for organising your Conference life as it easily lets you schedule things from the agenda. You will be able to get it from the App store at some point next week. However, it’s worth sitting down with the agenda, directory and training guide over the weekend  and working out where the inevitable clashes are and what choices you are going to have to make.

Of course this doesn’t mean you have to stick fervently to it. If you get a better offer, spontaneity is a great thing. It’s just that having a basic framework there makes life so much easier.

It’s also worth making arrangements to see any friends you know are going to be there. I’ve got to the last day of Conference before and realised that I’ve not caught up with even some of my best friends.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Conference and Op-eds.


  • Catherine Smart 9th Sep '16 - 9:53pm

    Thank you for the Disco plug, Carol: the money raised goes towards campaigning in Cambridge where we would like to get Julian back into Westminster at the first opportunity.

  • Catherine Smart 9th Sep '16 - 9:55pm

    Apologies: CARON.

  • Tony Greaves 9th Sep '16 - 11:12pm

    There are other good reasons why I cannot go to conference this year, but reading this list helps me to understand why I have a sense of relief rather than disappointment!

  • “The words Governance Review do not make for the most exciting phrase in the English language”

    I suppose that’s true, but only because “Colin Baker is on the telly” just pip them. “Governance review” is certainly a more exciting phrase than “Lib Dem Disco”, which continues to fill me with squamous existential terror, and is one of the small list of things upon which the good Lord Greaves and I are in agreement.

  • Those of us who aren’t going to conference can watch bits of it on BBC Parliament. Coverage is limited to Monday and Tuesday. UKIP’s conference is next Friday and Saturday and is being broadcast almost in its entirety. Interestingly, there is no live or recorded coverage on the channel on Sunday when there are some interesting debates at Brighton.

    Details of when there will be live and recorded coverage are available at:

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