Convening a symposium

Thinking about putting together a symposium?

The majority of presentations at the annual conference take place as part of a symposium, a collection of multiple presentations (typically 4 or 5) focusing on a specific clinical or research area. Anyone can put together and submit a symposium, and doing so is a great opportunity to make contact with, meet, and speak alongside the people in your field whose work most interests you. However, if you have not put together a symposium previously, the idea of doing so can seem daunting. Here we put together a few tips and ideas for first-time symposium convenors to help get you started:

  1. You should aim to have 4 or 5 speakers, but remember that you will already start with one: yourself!
  1. You could start off by contacting a colleague or other people you feel fairly sure will be planning to come to the conference – once you have 1 or 2 other speakers it can be easier to find the final few, and they might have also have suggestions for others to invite. You are particularly looking for people who have new research or data to share.
  1. Remember that convening a symposium is a great way to make new connections. Don’t feel shy to email people you’ve never met out of the blue with an invitation. Think about who would you most like to speak alongside in a symposium, and simply send them an email. Most people appreciate being invited to take part in something, and even if they can’t make it, by sending the email you’ve had a first friendly contact. They might also suggest someone else you could invite to join (e.g. one of their colleagues or PhD students).
  1. You could also take a look at the keynote speakers and workshop leaders, as you know they will certainly be at the conference. Try sending them an email to ask whether they or someone from their team would be interested in taking part. Again, even if they can’t join your symposium, this can be a nice way to make contact. A keynote speaker may also make a very good discussant for a symposium, so you could also suggest this.
  1. Ask each speaker for 2-3 sentences that you can use to make a summary abstract for the symposium submission (individual abstracts are only requested after acceptance). Once you’ve drafted your abstract, if possible send it round to the other speakers for feedback and suggestions – they might have some great ideas, and this also helps make everyone feel more involved in the planning of the symposium.
  1. Don’t worry if you start putting together a symposium but can’t find enough speakers by the time the submission deadline comes: you and any other speakers you do have can still submit your talks as open papers. As accepted open papers on related topics will tend to be grouped together into themed symposia, it might be that you end up talking in a symposium together anyway!
  1. Don’t forget that all speakers must register to present – other conferences are a little different, so if it is your speakers first time at BABCP, make it clear that all presenters must register and pay the fee to attend, which will change dependent on their BABCP status and how much of the conference they plan to attend.

Sometimes it can take a little work to find speakers for a symposium, but it is also possible to put one together in a couple of days (or hours even!) The main hurdle is getting started – once you have sent out your first emails it can all go very quickly.

You can find more information about the formal aspects of symposium submission on our submissions page – please read this carefully (and look at the example submissions) before submitting. And if you have any questions feel free to contact:

Milly Robinson (the conference assistant) via – she might be able to answer your query directly, or can pass it on to someone else who can.

So have fun putting together your symposium, and we look forward to receiving your submissions!