BBKA Spring Convention 2019 - Feedback

By Lesley Jacques on behalf of the BBKA Spring Convention Committee

The BBKA Spring Convention at Harper Adams University in Shropshire, 12–14 April 2019, saw around 1,400 participants attending a mixture of lectures, workshops and bee-related retail therapy at the trade show. The feedback from the event has been extremely positive, and it is interesting to learn a little more about the convention attendees so that we can build on the successes of the year and try to address any aspects that were less well received.

Feedback from convention attendees

The aim was to offer a feedback questionnaire to everyone attending the event. This year we had 125 completed questionnaires returned. These included feedback on all aspects of the meeting, some from multiple choice options and some from free-text input. Most of the completed questionnaires (85%) came from those who had full three-day wristbands, either purchased or as stewards/speakers, with attendees travelling from all over the British Isles.

Respondents’ home regions

Of those who had come the furthest, four of the respondents had travelled from Scotland, one from Ireland and four from the Channel Islands, as well as an excellent representation from the southern counties of the UK and East Anglia. A detailed breakdown of the geographical data is shown in Figure 1

Figure 1. Respondents’ home regions.

Previous visits to a BBKA Spring Convention

Our respondents comprised a fairly balanced cross-section of those who were attending for the first time (27%) through to those who had been coming for many years (Figure 2).

Views on the BBKA Spring Convention venue, trade show and catering

The trade show, catering and venue all received good feedback; 93% of respondents rated the trade show as either excellent or good and 95% of respondents said similar about the quality of the catering.

The Harper Adams staff were mentioned on a number of occasions, and praised for their helpfulness as were the stewards who helped throughout the convention. It is reassuring to know that such a high proportion of attendees had a positive experience at the event, and this is also reflected in the figures for recommendation, as 98% would definitely or maybe recommend the meeting to their beekeeping friends, and 93% indicated that they will probably or definitely return next year.

Respondent demographics

The questionnaire asked a few simple questions about age and beekeeping experience. Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents are ‘more mature’ so to speak, with a roughly even split between ‘drones’ and ‘workers’. And while 64% described themselves as ‘seasoned beekeepers’ it was great to see a sizeable contingent of newer beekeepers among the attendees (Figure 3). Beekeepers’ experience varied, as might be expected, with the majority having more than five seasons’ experience, but 11% were relatively new beekeepers (Figure 4).

Figure 3. Respondent demographics; age (top) and gender (bottom).

Beekeeping Experience of attendees at BBKA Spring Convention

*Respondents were either new beekeepers with fewer than 2 seasons' experience, beekeepers with 2–5 seasons' experience or seasoned beekeepers with more than 5 years' experience.

Figure 4. Respondents’ beekeeping experience

Views on the lecture programme

This year’s lecture programme was well received both in terms of the quality of presentations and the variety on offer, with 97% of respondents rating the quality as either good or excellent and 92% rating the range of subjects on offer similarly. The calibre of the international faculty at the convention was thought to be extremely high, with some of the lecture topics getting a particular mention in the feedback; notably Dr Samuel Ramsay from the University of Maryland, who presented his research on Varroa destructor and Tropilaelaps mite, as were the aspects of Asian hornet updates that were provided by a number of speakers. Particularly popular workshops included many of those that covered practical beekeeping and queen rearing techniques as well as candle making, cosmetics and mead making.

Suggestions for improvements: how we will address this feedback

The feedback that is received from the convention provides a really valuable pointer for what works well and any improvements that would be welcomed in future years. The programme is a busy one, and a number of respondents mentioned the difficulty they had faced in fitting in everything that they wanted to do. Several also expressed a strong preference for a longer commercial tradeshow. However, the current Saturday-only tradeshow is at the request of the majority of traders, as spring is a busy time for them. So planning some time to visit the tradeshow, along with booking early for popular workshops, are aspects that are certainly worth bearing in mind as soon as the programme becomes available and booking opens in January.

The on-site accommodation at Harper Adams was the subject of a few negative comments with some individual comments around the quality of the accommodation and facilities. That said, the vast majority (98%) reported accommodation quality to be acceptable or better and 95% considered it to be at least acceptable in terms of value for money. There were also requests for more camping and caravanning space. 

The committee is also looking at other ways to improve participants’ experience on the campus, with participant suggestions including improvements in the vegetarian food options available, improved signage and layout maps, timings for dinners and the possibility of chat rooms all being considered.

And finally...

Thank you to everyone who provided their evaluation of the Spring Convention; the feedback plays a key role in helping to make the event better year on year.