Get Involved: BGS Meetings Secretary

The BGS is recruiting for a new Deputy Meetings Secretary who will in turn succeed as Meetings Secretary.  Here the current Meetings Secretary, Dr Nigel Stout, who tweets as @Tlocdoc, explains what attracted him to the voluntary role.shutterstock_55310137

I had been a consultant for about 7 years and was beginning to feel comfortable in my role.  Part of my consultant life had been spent working in Sydney and I had recently returned to the UK.  I was therefore looking for a new challenge and saw the advert for Deputy Meetings Secretary on the BGS website.  This was not a job that I had previously considered but the challenge caught my attention.  I was already involved with the Cardiovascular Section of the Society and so had some experience of organising a conference although on a smaller scale.  With the permission (and encouragement) of my colleagues I sent in a brief CV and waited.

A few weeks later came an email from the BGS and suddenly I was the new Deputy Meetings Secretary.  They didn’t tell me that I had been the only applicant and so I spent a few days feeling quite pleased with myself.  This was soon dispelled when I visited Marjory Warren House for the first time.  Under the old governance structure I was part of the Executive Board and so was introduced formally to the great and the good of the BGS.

“This is Dr Stout, our new Deputy Meetings Secretary” was immediately followed by brief and sympathetic laughter and I began to feel a little overawed at the task I had undertaken.  My first role was to assist the local organisers with the Spring Scientific Meetings.  This was easy as I was blessed with local organisers who didn’t need any assistance.  However I was able to find a few speakers for empty sessions and so I felt that I had contributed something.  Reviewing and scoring the submitted abstracts gave a chance to sit with some the leading academics in the society but I found my opinion was kindly given equal measure and I felt that I was starting to feel part of the process at last.

I assisted with two Spring Meetings.  As the Deputy Meetings Secretary I was expected to chair a session or two and so I found myself sharing a platform with the President- elect and about 300 delegates in a session on falls.  I found the process very enjoyable and my anxieties were rapidly soothed.  The secret to chairing a session is some brief preparation, remain as anonymous as possible and always have a question or two up your sleeve in case the audience do not.  Seeing how hard the society works behind the scenes at the meetings and being part of it gave me a sense of satisfaction rarely experienced.

However, it’s the Autumn Meetings that are the major responsibility of the Meetings Secretary.  Topics to be covered are chiefly already established in a rolling programme of CPD and there are timetabled sessions for the various special interest groups.  However, there is an opportunity to shape the feel of the conference, both with choice of speakers within a topic area or with developing your own session.  I found plenty of support for ideas and speakers from the society but I also found that my clinical experience and conference going had given me some ideas that I was keen to explore.

There have been significant changes to the structure of the BGS.  There is now a Meetings Committee and a dedicated conference organiser as the BGS takes on more responsibility for producing the conferences.  However, we maintain close links to the Academic and Research Committee for abstract marking and support in finding speakers and programme content.  The new structure provides much more support for the Meetings Secretary and Deputy Meetings Secretary.  There is collective responsibility for delivering the programme and so any sense that you are ‘on your own’ should be put aside.

I have found my time as Meetings Secretary extremely rewarding.  I now truly feel part of a Society of which I have been a member for many years.  I have had tremendous support from the staff at the BGS, especially Jo Gough and Geraint Collingridge and I would like to thank them and all the staff of the BGS for a very rewarding experience.  There were challenges along the way but as they say in show biz: “It’ll be alright on the night.”

For more information about BGS events visit

Expressions of interest in the role should be sent to by 31 August 2013 and the successful applicant is expected to take office from November 2013.  Applicants should submit a brief CV and supporting statement, not to exceed one A4 page in length.  Applicants must be BGS members and should also submit a supporting citation from their relevant region or national council.

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