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Our Approach

#252 The Communication Champions Conference 2019 & 2022

What did we do?

In 2019 and 2022, the Norwich Opportunity Area organised two large-scale conferences focused on upskilling early years practitioners to better support children’s early speech, language and communication development.

Both conferences were well attended by schools, settings and wider professionals and the full day events played host to a variety of local, national and international speakers.

Since then, the Norwich Opportunity Area have received an abundance of positive feedback, with many practitioners requesting that the Communication Champions Conference becomes an annual standing feature for early years CPD.


‘Lots of helpful advice, enjoyed v much. Lots of ways we can improve our setting’

‘Chance to meet people. V impressive day, flowed well, nice mix workshops, speakers and delegates. Messages to take away – Elizabeth’s ideas about settings and Mark’s ideas on parental engagement’

‘We have staff with very different roles in school who have attended- everyone got something out of this and enjoyed the day.’

‘All speakers were astounding and left you thinking.’


“I just wanted to say thank you and your team for putting on such a fantastic conference yesterday. It has boosted my enthusiasm at a time where we are nearly at the end of the term when we are all exhausted.”

“It was great to network and see people that we perhaps haven’t seen in a very long time. I enjoyed the breakout sessions and thought half an hour was a great amount of time. I’d love to do it again next year.”

“Thank you for all the hard work which went into organising last week’s conference. It was a really useful and inspiring day!”

“Thank you for an inspiring event. It was great to listen to experienced practitioners and like-minded thinkers!”

“The conference was an incredible event, very useful and inspiring.”

“Just a quick email to say how wonderful the communication conference was! I absolutely loved it and am looking forward to all the hubs next year. They look fab!”

Summary of impact

2019 Conference:

Approximately 150 people in attendance

109 people completed the evaluation form

94% of attendees rated the quality and content of the delegates pack good or excellent.

95% of attendees said that the extent to which the conference objectives were met was good or excellent.

100% of attendees said that the conference met their personal expectations.

2022 Conference:

226 people in attendance

148 people completed the evaluation form

Delegates rated the conference 4.5/5 for being informative.

Delegates rated the conference 4.4/5 for supporting their knowledge and understanding of children’s SLC development.

Delegates rated the conference 4.2/5 for improving their confidence to support children with SLCN.

98% of delegates said they got what they expected from the conference.

Delegates cited a wide range of elements as their favourite part of the day but most commonly, they praised the quality of the speakers and workshops.

Steps taken

For both conferences, the first task was to source a suitable venue that could accommodate 200-300 delegates. We were mindful of finding a venue with sufficient room for breakout spaces, as well as a main auditorium or stage. On top of this, particularly when planning the 2022 conference that was advertised as a county-wide event, we were mindful of choosing a venue that was close to adequate parking facilities and/or several public transport routes.

Once a suitable venue had been found, we then secured an event date that didn’t overlap with any other significant events in the NOA, NCC or school/setting calendars. From here, we drafted our conference agenda, whilst also researching various speakers that had been recommended to us by colleagues and peers. This was the most important aspect of the planning phase, and much time was taken in ensuring that we chose professionals that both had high levels of expertise in their chosen field, as well as experience of giving large-scale presentations. We were also mindful of choosing topics and themes that felt relevant to our mixed audience and we reflected on all conversations we had partaken in during various Communication Champion projects, to help us gradually narrow down our varied list.

As we successfully began to source our keynote speakers, we then looked to fill gaps in practitioners’ knowledge and understanding by planning a range of interesting workshops. We sourced our workshop hosts in the same way as our keynote speakers, allocating them to our available slots.

From here, we focused our attention on finding a caterer and a tech team (where necessary) and advertising our event on different platforms. For both conferences we released a ‘save the date’ flyer around 6 months prior to day and then we released our ‘book now’ flyer around 3 months after that. For both conferences we used the Eventbrite platform for booking and information sharing, and for advertising, we used our pre-established communication channels such as emails, networks, and newsletters. In 2022, we also reached out to some external education groups such as VNET and Educate Norfolk, to help us reach a wider audience.

Our next focus was to organise an array of exhibitors for the event and to design some of our documentation for the day. In 2019, we provided each delegate with a welcome back containing a pen, paper, printed agenda, evaluation form and accompanying information. However, in 2022, in an effort to be more conscientious of our carbon footprint and the environmental impact of mass printing, we decided to go paper-free, only using printed resources where absolutely necessary. To aid this style of working, we made a much greater use of technology (e.g., using QR codes to link to documents such as the agenda and questionnaire) and we offered to share pdf versions of speakers slides after the conference, to relieve delegates of hours of notetaking.

Throughout the planning process, my team and I ensured we booked in regular meetings and checkpoints to help us monitor planning progress. As much of the work happened simultaneously, we often took responsibility for our own areas of work so as to avoid duplication. Time management and organisation skills were critical for this project, as was the ability to manage a range of competing priorities.

Overall, both conferences were very well received by the delegates, and this is reflected both in the feedback we’ve received and the levels of attendance at both events.

What would we do differently

Planning a large-scale conference involves a huge amount of time and coordination therefore, it is advisable to start the planning process as early as possible; ideally 12 months before the event. It is also extremely helpful if you have the help and support of a team due to the variety of stakeholders that you need to liaise with. Lastly, by creating a finance spreadsheet and regularly keeping a track of your spend, you can minimise the risk of overstepping your budget. This is very easily done when looking at catering and technology options therefore it is advisable to seek a number of quotes before committing to a particular provider.

Following the 2022 conference, feedback also suggested that the afternoon keynote speech could have been condensed or more ‘upbeat’. Alternatively, some delegates suggested that all keynotes should be in the morning so that all workshops can be hosted in the afternoon which would help to offset the ‘post-lunch slump’. We did find that some delegates left the conference around 3pm so it would be worth considering if that is more of a natural finishing time for a full day event, as opposed to 4pm.



Spend: £10,000

Planning time: 10 months

Staff involved in planning: 5


Spend: £15,000

Planning time: 8 months

Staff involved in planning: 2

Resources to do something similar yourself

Communication Champions Conference - Agenda

Communication Champions Conference - Evaluation Form

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

Being a Communication Champion - Bignold Primary

Cecilia Basnett, EYFS Lead and Communication Champion at Bignold Primary School talks about being a Communication Champion.

Being a Communication Champion - Catton Grove Primary

Three members of staff completed Communication Champion training during the original NOA project. They worked alongside our dedicated, in-school speech and language team to identify and support children who have speech, language and communication needs.


Norwich Opportunity Area Team