19/06/2017 - 18:56
An OPEN LETTER to all BELTA members regarding BELTA Day 2017!
Dear BELTA Members:
We have begun working on the plans for BELTA Day, webinars and other events for 2017-2018. To accomplish this, the first thing the BELTA Board did was review the summary of the evaluations after BELTA Day 2017. We always use the remarks from the evaluations as a starting point for planning – so, thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the online evaluation form.
Overall, we were very happy with the final results, which you can download and view in the PDF file below. That fact that almost 90% of the respondents indicated that BELTA Day was ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ was amazing. On the day itself, we felt that things were going well and we had a good feeling, and this rating confirmed our feelings. But we know, that we can still improve elements of the conference. Therefore, the purpose of this open letter is to explain some of the changes we have decided to implement based on your reactions and to explain some of the decisions made in preparing the next conference.
Throughout this letter, there are areas in which we still need your help. At various points, we are asking for volunteers to help us out. Please take note of the calls for volunteers and please think about donating some time to help us improve BELTA Day! All inquiries for volunteers can be addressed to John Arnold, President at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you again for helping to make BELTA Day 2017 a huge success!
The BELTA Board
Odisee University College in Brussels has hosted BELTA Day for five years now. We started across the street in the GPV rooms which hold about 100 people. Then for three years, we occupied the 6th floor until we outgrew that area and switched to the 1st and 2nd floors this year. Because we have established a bond with the people at Odisee, we enjoy returning there year after year. We also like the fact that it is centrally located and accessible from just about anywhere in the country and accessible to our international audience. We have considered moving the conference to different areas of the country, but the accessibility issue has been holding us back. Also, because we have worked with Odisee for five years, we have developed a manageable fee structure that works for both parties.
We will be returning to Odisee next year. Of course, the only problem we encounter is finding a suitable date. We have to work within Odisee’s schedule, which is not always convenient for our participants. In the past, BELTA Day has been in March, April, May, and June (the 1st conference). We prefer to hold the conference in March, April or May; therefore, availability is limited. Also, finding a date in that three-month window is complicated by the Open Door Days at Odisee and by other Odisee events on Saturdays. On these days we cannot make use of the venue.
We that in mind, for 2018, we were given only one choice: 5 May 2018. This might not be an ideal date for everyone, but it is saddled between a short month (April) and exams in June, so we are hopeful it will work.
If you are associated with a university or a university college or a secondary school and you believe your location might be suitable for the BELTA audience, please contact us. We would love to set up a meeting with you and your administrators to discuss future possibilities.
Many Teaching Associations have done away with the on-site lunch at their conference, including TESOL France and IATEFL. We are happy to offer lunch to our participants because it gives them some time for networking and interacting with the publishers and partners. We need to employ the caterer linked to Odisee, which limits our choices. But the food has been and will continue to be very good. Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate all dietary issues.
The schedule is always a jigsaw-puzzle. Our main goal for BELTA Day is to offer a full-day, jam-packed professional opportunity for English language teachers. For the past five years, and for the foreseeable future (see TWO-DAY APPROACH below), the conference will only be one day; therefore, it tends to be a long day. But, in our collective experience, our conference day is not that much different from other Teaching Associations. People are free to arrive later or leave earlier if they wish so.
A number of people commented about the length of the coffee breaks and the lunch break; they felt these were too long. This year, the lunch break was extended to accommodate the 5th Anniversary Celebration. That will not be present in next year’s schedule. But, we have consistently tried to balance the time between the talks/workshops and the Exhibition Hall. We have always felt that we needed to make sure that participants had time to visit the publisher stands and to network with BELTA members and speakers.
Another often mentioned comment was the length of the talks (40 minutes). For some presenters, this was not enough time. First, we want to let you know that all presenters are aware of the time constraints and asked to work within them; some do and some don’t. A seasoned presenter will be able to adjust their presentation to fit the allotted time.
We will continue to play with the schedule, exploring the possibility of having 45-minute talks or 50-minute talks, which means the double sessions would be 90 minutes or 100 minutes. As long as we believe that we have enough time to ensure everyone can eat their lunch and visit the Exhibition Hall, we will continue to search for the right balance.
It is a long-range aim for BELTA to have a multiple-day conference. Many of our fellow Teaching Associations, including TESOL France and TESOL Spain, have a multiple-day conference. At this point in time, we do not believe that a two-day conference will be successful. Once more participants realize the value of attending BELTA Day, then we will consider a two-day conference.
But, we are willing to test the waters. Beginning next year at BELTA Day 2018, we will offer a Pre-Conference Event (PCE). This will take place on Friday. Next year, it will be a half-day event. We are exploring the idea of making this PCE focused on the areas that don’t normally show up in our regular conference schedule, like English for Specific Purposes, Literature, Academic English and Business English. This concept is still in the pre-planning stages; we will have more information about it in September.
We are also in the talking stage to bring an internationally-recognized conference to our BELTA Day 2019 that would act as a PCE to our main event. This would let us know if offering a two-day conference will work here in Belgium.
The Call for Proposals for BELTA Day is always released in September. For the past five years, we have received a number of proposals from people we personally know and people we do not know. We are always happy to receive proposals from a large variety of people in Belgium, throughout Europe and the world. Unfortunately, we cannot personally vet each presenter; sometimes, we have to hope for the best. We run the risk of getting someone who is not a good speaker. That is the risk that every conference takes. The bigger problem is that the description supplied by the speaker does not match the expectations laid out. This is something that we can and will attempt to control in the future.
Also, BELTA Day itself has a mixed audience: there are secondary school teachers, teachers from University Colleges and Universities, Business English teachers, freelance teachers, etc. We try to choose a variety of talks/workshops so that at least everyone can find at least one talk/workshop in their field. Most of our chosen talks/workshops are for a general audience or contain information that can be applied to a variety of situations. To meet the demands of some of our members, we are exploring the possibility of offering a PCE that will address specific and specialized areas. (See TWO-DAY CONFERENCE above)
We will add three additional boxes to the online ‘Call for Proposals’ submission form:
The first box will ask the speaker to identify the target audience for the presentation. This information will be included in the programme.
The second box will ask the speaker to list three key words that summarize the talk/workshop. These will also be listed in the programme.
The third box will be used to further vet the proposals received. Right now, the speaker has to submit a description of the workshop (this description appears in the programme) along with answering two questions, which also appear in the programme. These two things will stay.
But we will add a third box in which the speaker has to give an outline of the proposed talk/workshop, including identifying theoretical versus practical aspects and lecture versus interactive/hands-on activities. This information will be used by the committee that reviews, ranks and decides on the final inclusions.
This should help us to make more careful and focused decisions.
We are looking to expand the committee that reads, ranks and decides on the final choices in conjunction with the Board. We would like to add up to 5 members-at-large.
If you would like to be part of the decision-making team and have some time in January to read and discuss the proposals, please let us know. We will gladly accept your help.
The redesigned BELTA website was extremely important to both us and our participants. We will continue to use it as our primary means of communication. We will also use the newsletter to communicate information two or three times, beginning as registration opens, up to and including one week before BELTA Day.
This year, we will make sure that all the information is present on the website from the day registration opens; this includes the ‘MEET THE SPEAKERS’ area, which is the best place to go to decide which talks/workshops you want to attend.
This, of course, means that both BELTA and you have a responsibility. BELTA is responsible for making sure that all the information is up on the website in a timely fashion. It is your responsibility to check the website prior to attending BELTA Day for up-to-date information.
If you haven’t done so already, make sure you bookmark the BELTA Website.
If you have additional comments or suggestions for ways we can improve BELTA Day to meet your needs, please let us know.
|BELTA Day Evaluation Summary||6.99 MB|