‘Maximising the chances of returning to a face-to-face conference format’

By Anthony Rowlands, Chair, FOBISIA Board & Principal, British International School Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you have decided to postpone the 28th Annual Leadership Conference 2020 of the Federation of British International Schools in Asia (FOBISIA) in Bangkok, Thailand, to November 2021. How will this decision affect FOBISIA as a society, and the Conference?

The postponement of our Annual FOBISIA Leadership Conference to next year was not an easy decision to make. The senior leaders in our Member Schools very much look forward to this event for the professional development opportunities, as much as the face-to-face networking with colleagues and educational organisations that attend. It is a great opportunity also for new Heads of School and new Member Schools to connect with their counterparts for support on a range of levels, but most importantly at the moment, for their own wellbeing. Given we are a growing Federation, this face-to-face communication is more important than ever. We as a Federation have had to look at other ways to bring our members together, including webinars, virtual slow conferencing and in-country face-to-face events.

Will there be any drastic changes made to the Conference next year?

We hope that next year's conference will essentially follow a face-to-face format, with an inclusive programme of engaging world-renowned keynote speakers, workshops, updates from key organisations, exhibiting educational organisations, and networking events. However, there may be scope for some virtual components to be incorporated into the programme, if they prove to add cost savings without taking away from the quality of experience for our delegates.

Would you consider hosting a virtual event instead of cancelling the 2020 Conference?

Our Board did consider the option of a virtual conference, however the majority agreed that with all of the other virtual communication (e.g. meetings, webinars, workshops, training, inspections etc.) going on as a result of COVID-19, and in order to maintain the quality of our conference experience (which is what makes our conferences unique), it was decided that the membership would be better off postponing to 2021 in order to maximise the chances of returning to a face-to-face conference format.

Going back to large in-person events will take some time to get used to. Are you concerned this may affect the number of attendees next year?

We remain positive that our Members will be enthusiastic about attending a face-to-face conference in 2021, which will be a departure from the predominantly virtual existence we have all faced since COVID-19 emerged in March 2020. We are very conscious that all of our Members, including schools and educational organisations, are experiencing financial challenges as a result of COVID-19 impacts; we will take this into account when setting the fee for the event in 2021. Ultimately attendees will be guided by their respective in-country and organisational restrictions on travel going forward as COVID-19 continues to play out.

The MICE industry has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you think this will change our industry, and what measures can be taken, in your opinion?

Venues and airlines need to provide flexible cancellation policies, so that travelling attendees can maximise their chances of attending face-to-face, while also providing fair and reasonable refund policies in case of cancellations due to COVID-19. Also critical is ensuring they follow WHO guidelines for minimising the spread of COVID-19, including distancing measures, regular deep-cleaning, requirements for mask wearing and handwashing etc. in order to keep our community safe and well.

About FOBISIA: The Federation of British International Schools in Asia - With more than 30 years of shared history, the FOBISIA family is a diverse and inclusive community of British international schools across Asia and supporting educational organisations globally.

76 Member Schools & 80+ Affiliate Member Educational Organisations