Meet the EMBL Events Team: Meredith

This week we meet Meredith Willmott, one of the Course Organisers at EMBL-EBI focussing on organising the on-site, and now virtual, courses. Meredith is no stranger to the team, previously having done an internship in the training team in 2017 before returning to a new post in 2019.

At EMBL since: April 2019
Number of organised courses: 9 to date

Meredith standing in front of one of the 'm' signs in Amsterdam
Meredith standing in front of one of the M signs in Amsterdam

Favourite place in Hinxton area?
My favourite place in Hinxton is the grounds on the campus, it really is beautiful and it’s so nice to be able to go for a walk during lunch and take a break from my desk.

EMBL-EBI south building - home to the EMBL-EBI on-site courses
EMBL-EBI south building – home to the EMBL-EBI on-site courses

First thing you do before a course starts and first thing you do after a course finishes?
First thing I do before a course is to double-check my to-do list to ensure I have completed everything before the delegates arriving. The first thing I do after a course has finished is to give a big high five to the scientific organiser for another successful course.

If you weren’t a course organiser what would you be?
A wedding planner! I love the thought of being involved in someone’s big day and making it perfect for them.

What are the challenges/differences of organising a virtual course?
I think the biggest challenge is not meeting the delegates in person as this is one of my favourite parts of an onsite course. Also remembering to smile while on camera!

How have you adapted your role during lockdown?
My role has changed a lot in lockdown, going from onsite courses to virtual courses has its challenges, and it takes a lot of testing and back and forth. Another adaption which isn’t part of my role, but sharing an office/spare room with my partner has been a big change.

If you were a superhero what power would you like to have?
I would like to be able to be in two places at once! Running the courses is often very busy and it would be great to be able to do 2 things at the same time.

And finally, what is your favourite film?
Father of the Bride, I have loved this since I was young and it still is my favorite film. 

Upcoming events Meredith is organising:
Structural bioinformatics 2020 – Virtual
Applications close 18 September

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Meet the EMBL Events Team: Charlotte

This week we meet Charlotte Pearton, Events Lead at EMBL-EBI. Charlotte manages a team of eight events, marketing and administrative staff who work on the EMBL-EBI training programme.

This is a picture of Charlotte Pearton, Events Lead at EMBL-EBI
Charlotte Pearton, Events Lead at EMBL-EBI

At EMBL-EBI since: 2015
Number of events organised:
39

Favourite place in the Hinxton area?
The campus is beautiful. The woodland paths are great to walk through in all seasons, but especially autumn.  In summer, the flowerbeds are a real burst of colour.

Across EMBL, the events teams have been facing the challenge of virtualising their work and events. 

What are the differences in organising a virtual course compared to the usual face-to-face format?
Firstly there was the timeframe! We had to put a structure together very quickly. Also how to adjust the content to make it workable and engaging, and how to maintain good comms and networking. Our first virtual course was a great success and we will continue to build on this experience; we are embracing the challenge.

How have you adapted your role during lockdown?
I have maintained a daily structure and routine.  I am in almost constant contact with the team via Slack, Zoom etc. We have all become increasingly proficient in the art of the on-line meeting over the last few months!

What is the first thing you do before a course starts:
I’ll run through my checklist of preparatory tasks, make a note of anything I need to remember, take a deep breath, a sip of coffee, and also some comfort in the fact that our events are a real team effort and I’m not in this alone!

And how about the first thing you’ll do after a course finishes?
At the end of each course, I enjoy the sense of job satisfaction. I love the cyclical nature of events, at our face-to-face events I love waving people off knowing they have had a great experience.  You really build a rapport with your speakers and delegates – it starts months before they arrive, then really develops during the week they are actually with you on campus.  By the time they leave you can really feel the sense of warmth and genuine appreciation.  It’s a great indicator of our success.

That is something we are still finding with the virtual courses I am pleased to say. Even if the wave goodbye at the end of the course is now through Zoom!

If you weren’t a course organiser what would you be?
A world-famous author of fiction… probably something dark like crime or horror, and writing under a pseudonym to keep an air of mystery! In reality, I’ve always veered towards events in an educational field.

What is the strangest/funniest thing that has ever happened in a course?
We organised a ‘sabrage’ to celebrate 10 years of training – seeing Cath (Brooksbank, Head of Training) wielding a sword to slice the top off a bottle of champagne outside the training rooms isn’t something you see every day. It was great fun.

Cath Brooksbank wields a sword to cut the top off a bottle of champagne at an event to celebrate 10 years of the EMBL-EBI Training programme
Cath Brooksbank at the ‘sabrage’

If you were a superhero, what power would you like to have?
Teleportation! An early morning walk on the beach in the Seychelles, fine dining and shopping in Paris in the afternoon, party all night in New York.  Green travel!

And finally what is your favourite book or film?
I couldn’t choose a favourite book or film very easily, but I did revisit a 2008 documentary recently which always has me gripping the sofa – ‘Man on a Wire’. The story of Phillippe Petit, who tight-roped across the US twin towers in 1974. Just a fascinating story on many levels – watch if you dare!

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