Eight years since it was last held in Edinburgh, the joint conference between the Association of Clinical Embryologists, the British Fertility Society and the Society for Reproduction & Fertility returned to the capital in January with Fertility 2017.
Simon Whitfield, Managing Director of Profile Productions, the conference organisers, explains that 2009 marked a breakthrough for the conference: “It was the first year that Profile organised the event. It really made an impact with a great programme but it was also to do with the city and the venue.”
High-quality hotels at a range of prices, proximity to the airport and good rail links are a few of the reasons that the conference returned to Edinburgh, not to mention the EICC’s track record of successfully staging the event.
“Edinburgh is a very desirable destination – it’s one of about half a dozen cities in the UK that people perk up at the thought of going to,” says Simon. “And there’s no doubt that people also like the EICC.”
This year, delegates and exhibitors particularly appreciated the ambience of the building, as Simon suggests: “EICC is a step above most other major UK venues that can take this event. People feel relaxed and there’s a lot of space to sit if you need a quiet conversation. The dinner was held in the Cromdale Hall and this also surpassed expectations – the caterers did a fantastic job.”
With a full and varied scientific programme appealing to scientists, clinicians, embryologists, nurses and counsellors, the conference aims to provide delegates with opportunities for networking, sharing best practice and continued personal development.
Like its predecessors, Fertility 2017 took place in the first week of January, just a few days after the New Year celebrations, and Simon acknowledges that conferences are not typically held so early in the year: “It generally isn’t a good week for conferences but many of the delegates work at universities so it needs to fall before the start of term. Very few organisations hold events that week and many venues and hotels are empty. Consequently, you can negotiate some extremely competitive prices and modest hotel rates. It works well for everyone.”
“There’s a great advantage to meeting and networking with people from other disciplines as they can all learn from each other”
And the timing obviously didn’t deter anyone: the conference was the largest yet with the number of participants pushing towards 1,000. Why does Simon think it was so popular? “I think that when an event is working well, there is a detectable buzz; delegates move around the building with purpose and feel motivated to participate fully,” he says. “When a conference gains that momentum, attendees will tell their colleagues how good it is and encourage them to attend. We saw a rise of 150 delegates from the last conference, which is fantastic.”
Now that the event has built up a reputation, it is also drawing in more international delegates than ever before: “The event has increased in size across the last five conferences and part of that is the international element. That’s another reason why we need an attractive city with an airport which has excellent links.”
The event was biennial, with the three individual organisations holding their own conferences in the alternate years, but delegates were greeted with the news that the conference will now take place every January: “There’s a great advantage to meeting and networking with people from other disciplines as they can all learn from each other, though we allow time for each organisation’s members to have their own sessions. A bigger event also attracts more well-known speakers and exhibitors – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
From an organiser’s point of view, Simon says the EICC went above and beyond yet again: “What was already good was very good and better for this conference. We’ve always had a high opinion of the EICC but the staff really raised their game for this event – they were particularly helpful and always extremely friendly and obliging.”