Well, it’s certainly been a challenging time for IATEFL over the last few weeks, as we know it has for all of you, facing this awful virus and its effects. The association has battled to make the right, informed decision on whether we would be able to go ahead with the 54th IATEFL Conference and Exhibition in Manchester next month. As the days went by it became increasingly clear that going ahead with the event would run the risk of putting delegates, exhibitors, stewards and staff at risk and so, even though UK Government advice at the time was still suggesting we could go ahead, the Board of Trustees decided to postpone the event nonetheless.
So why did we defer the conference rather than just cancelling it?
So many people put so much work into making our IATEFL conferences successful. Speakers carefully propose, plan and prepare the range of plenaries, sessions, panel discussions, forums, debates, workshops and poster presentations which make up the content of the programme. Key individuals and groups including our Conference Committee, Proposals Committee, Special Interest Groups, Scholarships Committee, filming team and so many other wonderful volunteers put so much time into making the four days of the conference, as well as pre-conference events, an enjoyable and valuable experience for delegates. All of this work is so appreciated, and would have been such a shame to see lost.
With this in mind, IATEFL took the decision to preserve the agreed programme for the conference, and just change the dates of the event to a time when we hope this awful global pandemic is behind us. Once this decision had been made, it then followed that all our accepted speakers should have their sessions automatically accepted for Harrogate, and that all delegates who have already paid for their registration would have their booking honoured in March next year too.
A significant cost
This decision has, however, been a very painful and costly one for the association. We spend all year paying our full time staff, planning and marketing the event, incurring operational costs and many other expenses which are now unrecoverable. At the same time, along with the majority of similar events, our insurance policies do not cover these extraordinary circumstances. As such, we are still forced to pay in full for the conference venue and a range of other services which needed to be in place in order to run the event, although the Head Office team have been working round the clock to minimise as many of these as possible.
Coping and looking forward
We are determined, however, to get over this unprecedented challenge, continue to support our members and the wider community of English language teaching professionals, continue to provide resources, publications, online events and many other benefits to our members, and also work towards making the conference in Harrogate one of the best we have ever run.
At this time we know many of you may be struggling, but if you are in a position to support one of our charitable initiatives, or indeed help the association continue to support its members around the world by contributing to our general fund, then we would be hugely grateful of any support you can give. You can do this by visiting our website to find out more about our work and the funds you can donate to.
We’d like to finish by saying a huge thank you to all the wonderful people who have posted messages of support for IATEFL’s difficult decision regarding the conference, and saying they are happy to have their bookings honoured in Harrogate next March. We’ll get through these challenging times by sticking together, supporting each other, and continuing to develop ourselves, our profession and our learners.
IATEFL Board of Trustees and Head Office