How to plan an Annual Meeting workshop: 5 tips for success

Did you know that you can now submit an idea to run your own workshop at the BES Annual Meeting 2023? Here are some tips for writing a successful proposal to be a part of the programme at Europe’s most welcoming ecology conference. 

A group of women glancing upwards towards the upper right corner of the frame at the BES annual meeting
This year we are encouraging workshop submissions with a creative angle

1 – Share your skills 

Do you have a particular skill that others would benefit from? Sharing is caring! When planning an interactive workshop, consider what skills ecologists need that won’t be covered in posters or oral presentations.

Past workshops have included creating engaging video content with just a smartphone, using COMADRE & COMPADRE databases, analysing metabarcoding data, bioacoustics monitoring, and using social media for science communication. Whether you have experience with a specific programme, working between multiple disciplines or developing fieldwork practices, the opportunity to teach attendees is valuable to both you and them. 

2 – Get creative 

This year we are encouraging workshop submissions with a creative angle. The ability to think about your work creatively is key to communicating science, and past workshops integrating science and art have proved very popular among attendees. Tapping into your creativity can also provide a break from a busy day of talks and networking, allowing participants to decompress whilst learning something new.  

“Delegates are always very friendly, open minded and supportive of new ideas

We wanted to run a drawing workshop at the BES as we were interested in trialling an alternative method for participatory research” said Matilda Dunn, co-organiser of the Drawing for Nature workshop at BES2022, “We thought the BES Annual Meeting would be an ideal place to run this workshop as delegates are always very friendly, open minded and supportive of new ideas… Participants really welcomed the opportunity to have a relaxing space outside of the busy conference setting and take part in something a little different”. 

3 – Keep it simple 

A great workshop proposal doesn’t need lots of equipment or a complicated set up to deliver engaging activities. The benefit of running a face-to-face workshop is that you will have your participants’ undivided attention, allowing you to engage them in activities without worrying about technical problems. We encourage proposals which connect with participants in creative ways using simple materials, making the most of the opportunity to meet in-person. 

A man writing on a large sheet of paper
The opportunity to teach attendees is valuable to both you and them

4 – Think of your participants 

The BES Annual Meeting attracts a broad range of delegates both in terms of sector and career stages. Therefore, while successful workshop applications may be aimed at a specific group, they often also provide learning opportunities and clear benefits to a wider demographic. At BES2022 Dr Izzy Jones and Dr Chris Pollard ran the workshop Policy Power Hour: Essential tools for navigating the science-policy interface. Although it was aimed at early career researchers, they found that many senior scientists and policymakers participated as well. 

 “It was great to see how folks approached our workshop activities, considering their experiences (or lack thereof) when engaging policymakers.” Izzy and Chris commented: “In one example, a supervisor attended with their PhD student, and it was clear that the former was a bit surprised that their student was struggling with how to communicate about their project to a policy audience. This was a key strength of the BES workshop format: not only learning from the materials we provided, but learning from each other’s points of view.”

A woman holding 2 white pieces of paper beside her
The BES Annual Meeting attracts a broad range of delegates

 5 – What’s the goal? 

Submissions are currently open for two types of workshops at BES2023: one-hour lunchtime workshops or longer pre-conference workshops the day before the general programme begins. These longer workshops are ideal for teaching a skill requiring time for practice or a longer discussion delving into the details of a topic.  

However, just because the lunchtime sessions are shorter doesn’t make them any less impactful. Applications are assessed on their learning outcomes with successful proposals displaying a clear set of goals which can be achieved over the course of the workshop. Delegates should leave a workshop having gained something tangible from it, whether that’s a new perspective or skill. 


If you have any questions or would like to discuss the feasibility of a workshop, get in touch with the BES events team. 

BES2023 is taking place at the ICC Belfast from the 12-15 December. We are delighted to be returning to the Northern Irish capital and would like to thank Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland and Visit Belfast for their support. 

The logos of the supporters of the BES annual meeting