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Presidential Blog

Embracing the digital age

11 June 2020 | by Dr Hazel McLaughlin

Dr Hazel McLaughlin, president-elect, has written a few words on how the BPS is embracing the digital age, including her reflections on the lessons from the first digital BPS conference and how on-line conferences are set to be such a big part of "the new normal".

"Highly enjoyable and truly thought-provoking" - that was my reflection on the BPS Special Group in Coaching Psychology (SGCP) Digital Conference 2020 on 31 May.

The Global Coaching Conference: Coaching Psychology and the Climate in times of change’ was an excellent opportunity to bring to the fore the latest research and the implications for practice in coaching psychology.

The original intention was a combined digital and face to face event but, given the restrictions due to Covid-19, this became a one-day international marathon event, bringing together delegates from across the globe to discuss and reflect on sustainability and coaching. 

Our thanks go out to our highly professional and engaging host, Professor Jonathan Passmore, and the SGCP organising committee (Tia Moin, Laura Rees-Davies, Dasha Grayfoner and Marie Stopforth) for their excellent work and coordination, not to mention the great support from the BPS events team, especially Mandy Hemsill and Bijal Vaghela, who delivered over eleven hours of content from leading coaching experts from across the globe to more than 400 delegates. 

With such a full international programme, the conference was both action-packed and insightful, inclusive and energising, and full of the latest thinking.

Since lockdown began, the BPS has looked to deliver support and content using the digital medium. We have converted to hosting events online – 26 since lockdown, with a further 43 in the pipeline and counting - and have had to radically rethink how we deliver our training, CPD and events programme.

Clearly the virtual environment is here to stay and we want to make the most of this technology.

I was pleased to see how well the online conference format worked for both speakers and delegates. Originally planned as a part online, part offline conference due to its global nature, the team quickly adapted to move the whole conference online and eagerly embraced the challenge ahead. There are certainly pros and cons to face-to-face and virtual meetings and we took away plenty of learning and ideas on best practice for virtual conferences. 

This was the first full conference the BPS has held online since our face-to-face meeting agenda was put on ice. We are learning from each event and seeking out ways to enhance the administration, booking process and overall delegate experience. 

The overarching theme was sustainability, and this was interpreted through different lenses - individuals, teams, organisational context and longevity of impact.

I was impressed by the sheer quality of the agenda and the raft of keynote speakers and I personally learned something from each of them.

I was particularly energised by hearing Professor Richard Boyatzis as he explored the heart of coaching, dreams, possibilities, and sustained change and will also be seeking out further opportunities to explore Carol Kaufman’s PERFECT scan model and ways to apply the biological and neuroscience research from Lyra Puspa.

As one delegate commented: 

“Thanks so much to everyone involved in putting together and running this epic event today.

Such a great range of presentations and so much to take away. I can only begin to imagine what an extraordinary amount of work went in to make it all come together and run smoothly.

Nice to see some familiar faces online and to virtually meet some new fellow travellers.”

The conference was a real opportunity for inclusion, for building the coaching community and for sharing ideas for future research and interventions. By holding the event online, we were able to involve and connect with people from across the world.

Conversations and interactions on the conference were built upon through the LinkedIn SGCP network page and beyond. New connections were quickly made, without that awkward moment I’m sure we’ve all experienced at a conference where you realise you don’t know anyone in the room at lunch and you end up teaming up with the person having a coffee next to you. 

Finally, the event gave me plenty to consider in terms of sustainability moving forward, for both the BPS as an organisation and more personally. The panel discussion on climate and sustainability provided each of us on the coaching professional bodies with the opportunity to share best practice and to seek areas where we can collaborate in the future.

The pandemic has required us to change the way we work and operate and there is plenty of food for thought on how we can continue to learn and work differently, and fully harness technology and remote engagement without losing the human touch.

The next big event on the BPS agenda is Conference 2020 from 30 June, which of course has also been converted into an online conference experience. I hope to ‘’e-see” you there!

In the meantime, if you want to let us know what you think of online conferences, events and learning, or tell me about your experiences and what would make it work best for you, then please get in touch.


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