I organised and hosted a BSA Postgraduate Regional Event in March 2018 while a third year PhD student at the University of Sheffield. My research relates to the sociological study of sex, sexuality and pornography, and over the course of my PhD it has not always been easy to meet researchers in the same area. I decided to apply for funding from the BSA to host a conference as I wanted to meet other academics in the same field as me. My application was successful and I organised the ‘Sex in Society’ BSA Postgraduate Regional Day which took place at The University of Sheffield on Friday 2nd of March 2018.
The aim of the conference was to explore contemporary social and political questions around sex in society; and to bring together PGR students and academics who are pursuing sociological research into sex, sexual culture, sexual practice and sexual consumption. I designed a conference format which I hoped would best compliment this including keynote speeches, 15-minute presentations with Q&A, and a round table discussion. This enabled us to hear from a range of academics about their research and engage in some group discussion about our own research and our experiences of doing it.
On the day we heard from keynote speaker Dr. Fiona Vera-Gray; presenters Tara Beattie and Kyle L Murray, Rosie Hodsdon, Jaime García-Iglesias, Stephanie Ejegi-Memeh, Max Morris, Runze Ding, and Amy Gunn. During the round table discussion, everyone present participated, so we heard from presenters and non-presenters alike. Sadly, due to the snow disruptions that happened in March 2018, one of our keynote speakers, some of our presenters and some attendees were unable to join us, and the conference schedule had to be amended slightly. We were sad to miss our colleagues and not hear their presentations and contributions as well. Despite the weather, we were able to go ahead and heard some fantastic presentations (in person and via Skype) and had some very interesting discussions. It was great to hear from those who presented and attended, and those that could not do so were missed.
My top tips from the day to organise your own event would be:
- Consider what format will best suit the aims of your event. My key motivation for organising the day was to meet and talk with other researchers in the field. Subsequently, I wanted to ensure that lots of discussion time was factored into the day. Having lots of time for Q&A and having a round table discussion was a great way of ensuring everyone had a chance to share their own experiences and discuss ideas with one another.
- Develop an organised schedule but be flexible about how the day will run. Due to the chaos caused by the snow, sadly several of our presenters and attendees had to cancel. I therefore had to make amendments to the conference schedule. While hopefully disruptive snow storms are not the norm(!) thinking about how to be flexible about the schedule can be helpful in ensuring a successful day is still had. For example, I was able to arrange for two speakers, Dr Fiona Vera-Gray and Jaime Garcia-Iglesias, to present via Skype. One of the conference speakers, Amy Gunn, kindly joined the schedule on the day and enjoyably we heard a talk that we were not expecting to hear. With a bit of schedule tweaking, we had a lively and interesting day with lots of fruitful discussions.
- Think about how to use your budget to suit the aims of the day. As the aim of the conference was to bring together researchers in the field, I wanted to ensure that people from across the UK had the opportunity to participate. Subsequently I allocated a large proportion of the budget to travel expenses. Travel bursaries were offered to all presenters and there were some for attendees too. This was a great way of ensuring that people from across the UK could attend, as well as academics from local institutions.
- Factor in breaks and refreshments. I factored lots of breaks and refreshments into the day to try to facilitate a friendly and approachable environment. I wanted to ensure that there were lots of opportunities for people to chat with one another and take a break alongside all of the scheduled activities. It is also nice to be able to offer attendees food, drinks and refreshments when they are presenting and contributing, and have had to travel to attend.
I really enjoyed the process of organising and hosting a BSA PG Regional Event, and I was well supported during the process. Sinead at the BSA Events Team was really helpful and answered all the questions I had around using the funding and organising the day. I found the process of organising and hosting the conference really rewarding and would definitely recommend others to consider doing so in the future.
Ruth Beresford is a Research Associate at Sheffield Hallam University and a final year PhD student at the University of Sheffield. Her research interests include the sociological study of sex, sexuality and pornography, and the use of participatory research methodologies. Her PhD thesis is on women’s experiences of pornography and is being submitted in Summer 2019.