Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Natalie Lamb and the Institute of Water Annual Conference 2018

I was lucky enough to attend the Institute of Water Annual Conference 2018 because I won my registration fee as part of my prize from the International Water Association Young Water Professional UK Conference. I was really grateful to attend this conference because I had never been before (it was £228 for a student, £480 for a member or £576 as a non-member this year, a bit out of my PhD budget, if I'm being honest). And that is exactly what this post is about, my honest opinion about the event.

Photo Credit: Institute of Water Conference Preview

Day 1

The conference kicked off on Wednesday 20th June, with a "Meet The Leaders" event. This consisted of two panels of leaders, experienced members of the water industry, that were asked pre-set questions and questions from the audience. This was exactly what I was expecting from the event.

  • +I particularly liked the questions like what the biggest risks they have ever taken were. 
  • -I would have preferred if there was just one panel because the same questions could have been used for all of them.
  • +The organisers were really trying to make use of technology during it, getting the audience to ask questions of the app
  • -The audience members who submitted questions on the app were then asked to read the questions that they had asked, which I thought made the app not as useful as I was expecting it to be.

Next, we were lead to a larger room laid out in tables (as apposed to the smaller lecture theatre we had previously been in). You had a number on your lanyard which determined which table you were sat on and which leader you were sat with.

On my first table I was sat with the leader Marcus Rink, Chief Inspector of the Drinking Water Inspectorate of England and Wales. He was a great choice for a leader and answered all questions with great thought. There was a game of networking snakes and ladders, which we played as a table because we only had 20 minutes. Each box you landed in had a networking question in it.

  • +It provided some good discussion 
  • -We only managed to have three goes as a table. I felt the session could have gone on for ~1h.

We then swapped tables. I was sat with the leader Linda Williams, HR Director at Dwr Cymru Welsh Water. Again, she was an excellent choice for a leader, she seemed really nice and had been very open and honest in the panel session. We were playing a game where the leader was a character and had to ask yes/no questions of the participant to guess who the character was.

  • +It was very much an ice-breaker and we were all talking on the same level, overcoming any nerves
  • -I felt like like it didn't work very well for a networking event. The focus was on naming the character, rather than asking the questions  

Day Two

The second and full conference day started with a welcome address and keynote speaker. Half of the day was spent discussing circular economy and half the day was on water and the environment, with a small section about innovation in between.

I was particularly impressed with Phil Berry's presentation on circular economy. He spoke about the circular economy as a whole, rather than in a specific industry, like other presentations I have seen.
I also especially liked the discussions surrounding water and the environment, with this being my field of knowledge. I was able to ask multiple questions surrounding the topics.

Overall, I really liked how the day was split up into presentations, debates and discussions. It really helped to break up the day and keep it feeling fresh and different.
+I thought the TED talks were a great idea
-I would have preferred to be told more details about what was going to be spoken about in each section

Day Three

Day three was, unfortunately, the last day of the conference and a half day. It started with young water professionals doing a presentation about their experiences at a conference in Cape Town (which I loved!), then there was a debate and finally presentations and discussions surrounding digital futures.

I especially enjoyed the TED talk by Gillian Doc. It wasn't necessarily focused on water but gave everyone an insight into how the future would love. It was very big picture, which resonates with the work that I do. Plus, I'm a massive sci-fi fan! I really enjoyed it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this day too. I enjoyed the digital section much more than I was expecting to. It just shows how important it is to attend things outside of your field and you may end up really enjoying them!
+I enjoyed something a bit outside of the field
-I would have preferred another full day!

Entire Event

In terms of the whole event, I would recommend going. This conference is very good if you want to hear about a very wide breadth of topics within the water industry. I think it could have done with more of a social media presence and I would have liked to have seen more academics go.

Out of 5, I would score: it 

  • Pre-event information 1/5- I didn't really know, other than the title, what each section was going to be about. I would have liked to have a few lines of description.
  • Registration 5/5- I thought the process was quick and easy.
  • Conference content 4/5- I would have liked to have seen more topics for discussion with the panel.
  • Speakers 5/5- I thought the speakers were excellent.
  • Delegate information 1/5- Just because I didn't know what each section was going to be about.
  • Value for money 3/5- I thought it was an excellent event but I did think it was expensive. I found it a bit embarrassing when people were asking me why I didn't attend the meal too (£90 with no student discount and it's something I would have to pay for myself).

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