Organising a one-day conference


The Department of Trading is organising a one-day conference for the manufacturers of weighing and measuring machines. In this lesson we look at the work of the committee who are in charge of arranging the conference and see how they make their decisions. We find out how to choose and book hotel facilities and how to keep to a budget. We also look at planning a schedule and at contacting exhibitors and delegates.


Graham Flinston is Assistant Secretary in the Department of Trading. He is British.
Maria Barbero is on an exchange training scheme from the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Italy. She is Italian.

Valerie Tipstock, Peter and Mark work for the Department of Trading. They are all British.


Vocabulary Conference organisation; hotels and conference facilities; calculating estimates.
Skills Taking part in meetings; acting as chairperson; making decisions based on evidence.
Structures Adverbials; modifying nouns; linking clauses.
Documents Hotel brochures; a booking letter; a conference schedule; a formal letter.

Booking conference facilities

9.1 Listen and read

Graham Flinston is an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Trading. Maria Barbero works for the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Italy. She is spending a year in Britain on an exchange training scheme. Listen to what they say.

GRAHAM Come in, Miss Barbero. Do sit down. Now, I've got a little job for you this week. see the meaning I see from your file that you've organised various events in the past - sales conferences, exhibitions, things like that? see the meaning
MARIA Yes. I've organised conferences and exhibitions quite often.
GRAHAM Good. Good. Now, we run short conferences each year for companies who wish to exhibit at overseas trade fairs. For next year we've got to pick the exhibitors for the British stand at the Leipzig Trade Fair in the spring. One of the areas we'll be promoting next year is instruments of calibration - machines for measuring and weighing things - so I'd like you to make the arrangements for the conference of the machine manufacturers. Can you do that?
MARIA Well, yes, of course. I'd be very pleased to do it, but I'm not sure that I could manage it all by myself.
GRAHAM No, no! Of course not! Naturally, I'll give you all the assistance I can. And I've already asked three of our people to work with you on this. see the meaning Here's a list of their names. I'd like the four of you to act as a steering committee, with you as the chair.
MARIA Thank you. Oh! I see that the first meeting is today!
GRAHAM This afternoon, 2.30 in room 513. There’s no time to lose. see the meaning The conference will take place on 2 November. Now, I must also give you some other information straight away. The budget: you must not exceed six and a half thousand pounds for hotel expenses. Five people will be going from the division: they'll want dinner, bed and breakfast for two nights. There'll be up to five hundred delegates. They pay for themselves, except that we lay on a buffet lunch see the meaning, and morning coffee and afternoon tea. You may also find these useful. They're the files on the last three one-day conferences.

9.2 Structure practice: adverbials

An adverbial is a word or a group of words which you can add to a clause or sentence when you want to say something more about it, for example how, where or when the activity occurred.
Adverbials are usually placed at the end of the clause or sentence, or after the object if there is one. We do not normally put anything between a verb and its direct object. For example:

You've organised various events in the past.
I'd like you to make the arrangements for the conference.

You can use more than one adverbial in a sentence:

We've got to pick the exhibitors for the British stand at the Leipzig Trade Fair in the spring.

These examples are all from the dialogue in 9.1. Read through the dialogue in 9.1 again, and see what other examples you can find. Then answer the questions below, making sure that you put the adverbials in the right place.

1 When has he got a little job for her? - this week.
2 What do they do every year? - hold short conferences.
3 When has she organised various events? - in the past.
4 How often has she organised such things? - quite often.
5 What must he also give her straight away? - some other information.
6 What must she not exceed for hotel expenses? - six and a half thousand pounds.

9.3 Document study: hotel brochures

Maria has received brochures from two hotels that the committee chose for the conference venue. Read through them carefully. Make a list of things the committee might look for in a hotel. For each item on your list, say which hotel seems to be better. You can add to your list as you work through the lesson.


9.4 Listen and read

Valerie is explaining the hotel charges to Maria. She has to do some mental arithmetic, because the hotels present the information in different ways. Listen carefully to how she says the figures. Note how the word 'pounds' is sometimes not said.

MARIA How much is a room in the Grand, per night?
VALERIE £86.50 for a single room, £67.50 for a shared room.
MARIA That's for dinner, bed and breakfast. What about Hunter's?
VALERIE I'll have to add their charges for a room, breakfast and dinner. That's £43.95, call it £44; plus £2.95, say £3; plus £15.50. £44 plus £3 is £47, plus £15.50 makes £62.50.
MARIA So Hunter's is a bit cheaper. What about a shared room?
VALERIE Hunter's only gives the cost of the room, whereas the Grand gives the cost per person. I'll have to divide Hunter's figure by two. £64.95, £65, near enough; divided by two is £32.50. And then we've got to add breakfast and dinner. £32.50 plus £3 for breakfast is £35.50, and £15.50 for dinner makes £50, £51.
MARIA Right. I think all our people will want single rooms. If we go to the Grand, they should give us a 5% discount.
VALERIE Right. Five per cent off £86.50 is - well, 10% would be £8.65, so 5% is half of that, which comes to just over £4.30. £4.30 from £86.50 is - it must be £82-something - £82.20.
MARIA So even with the discount, Hunter's is still how much cheaper, per person?
VALERIE £82.20 for the Grand, minus £62.50 for Hunter's, that's nearly £20.
MARIA That's what I thought. That's quite a small saving, isn't it?
VALERIE Well, £20 is almost a quarter of £82.20, getting on for 25%. If five of our staff are going, we save five times £20, £100 a day. And we can't risk going over budget.

Chairing a meeting

9.5 Listen and read

Maria and the rest of the committee are meeting to decide on the conference venue. Maria is rather a strict chairwoman for such a small committee. Listen to how she tries to make sure that the speakers keep to the point.

MARIA Right, everybody, if we can make a start. Thank you. Now, the most important thing we have to do today is to decide where the conference is to take place - the Grand Hotel or Hunter's. Peter, you've been looking at them from the point of view of access. How easy are they to get to?
PETER Yes. As you know, the Grand advertises the fact that it's convenient for British Rail, it's half an hour's journey from the airport and only ten miles from the M5. It's even got its own helicopter pad.
VALERIE I'd also like to point out that it's got a fifty-hectare dairy farm and its own vegetable garden, supplying its kitchens with fresh produce. see the meaning
MARIA Valerie, I know you want to talk about the catering, but we'll come to that in a moment. see the meaning Peter, how does Hunter's compare with the Grand for transport?
PETER On the face of it see the meaning, not very well. It's a forty-minute drive through heavy traffic to the nearest railway station, and Birmingham Airport is even harder to get to. But it's less than a mile from the nearest motorway junction. Now, I went through last year's list of delegates, and every single one arrived by car.

9.6 Structure practice: nouns

In English, you can use a noun in front of another noun, to give more information about it:

She shut the door. - She shut the car door.

If you use a countable noun in this way, you usually use it in the singular form and add a hyphen: see the meaning

The conference centre has 300 seats. - A 300-seat conference centre.

Rewrite the phrases below, moving the underlined words in front of the first noun. Remember to use hyphens.


An arena with 500 seats


A conference lasting two days


A building fifteen storeys high


A committee of four people


A job with a salary of £20,000 a year


A child who is three years old


9.7 Listen and read

Maria and the committee are still discussing the two hotels. Listen to how Maria tries to keep control. Which hotel do you think they will choose?

MARIA Mark, what was your impression of the actual conference facilities?
MARK Well, there's not a lot to choose between them. see the meaning I think everything depends on whether we have to put all the delegates together to talk to them all at once. If we get four hundred and fifty people this year, as we did last year, then the Conference Hall at the Grand is too small.
VALERIE Why should we want to talk to all of them at once?
MARK Flinston may want to give a keynote speech. see the meaning
PETER That's right. At all the conferences I've been to, he did just that.
VALERIE But that's completely unnecessary!
PETER It's hardly unnecessary! It's absolutely crucial!
VALERIE You weren't even at last year's conference!
MARIA Everybody, please! We do have a conference to organise. Mark, perhaps you could find out if Mr Flinston intends to make a speech at this year's conference?

9.8 Listen and read

The steering committee is now discussing food. Listen to what they say. Notice how Maria starts guiding the committee towards a decision. Which hotel do you think they will choose now? Why? Why does Valerie still prefer the Grand?

VALERIE So, as far as food is concerned see the meaning, in my experience the Grand at Beecham is certainly superior to Hunter's. And may I add, by the way see the meaning, that I know Mr Flinston thinks so too.
MARIA Hm. Thank you. OK then, we've looked at these two places from the point of view of transport, and facilities, and food. We seem to agree on one thing: the Grand's Conference Hall isn't big enough.
MARK But we ought to bear in mind that we may not attract as many delegates this year.
PETER Mark has a point there see the meaning. On the other hand see the meaning, it is our job to try to attract as many as possible.
MARIA I quite agree. The fact that Hunter's is so handy for the motorway see the meaning and it's got this big arena - don't you think that rather points to Hunter's this year?
MARK May I point out another thing? A lot of the firms that send delegates will want to set up stands to display their products. Hunter's say they can accommodate up to two hundred. The Grand only has four hundred square metres of floor space - you couldn't possibly get two hundred stands on that.

9.9 Structure practice: linking

In 9.5, 9.7 and 9.8 the speakers use a number of words and phrases to link two statements together, either to add to them or to provide a contrast:

... it's half an hour's journey from the airport and only ten miles from the M5.
I know you want to talk about the catering, but we'll come to that in a moment.

Read through the dialogues again, and look for these phrases. Then match the sentence parts below.

1 It's a half-hour journey by rail, a And another thing, they grow their own food.
2 He may not like it, b on the other hand it's our job to attract more.
3 There may not be so many; c May I add that it's also cheaper.
4 I have to admit that it is bigger. d but it's not his decision.
5 The rooms are better furnished. e and it's only ten miles from the M5.

9.10 Listen and read

Maria now brings the committee meeting to a close. Listen to how she sums up, and how she persuades Valerie to accept the committee's decision.

MARIA Valerie, you have seen both these places, and you were at last year's conference - any comment?
VALERIE Well, I have to admit, I suppose, that the Grand was rather cramped last year.
PETER That came across very strongly see the meaning, I thought, from reading the correspondence in the file.
VALERIE But if this committee recommends Hunter's, I think you'll find that Mr Flinston is not going to be very happy.
MARIA Nevertheless, the feeling of the meeting seems to be that Hunter's is the right place. Valerie, all we can do is make a recommendation on the information we have available. And I'm sure you'd agree that we're bound to recommend what we think is right - in the light of that information.
VALERIE Fair enough. see the meaning I've said what 1 wanted to say.
MARIA Right. Hunter's it is, then. At our next meeting, we ought to be able to produce a draft schedule for the conference.

Booking the hotel; announcing the schedule

9.11 Document study: booking the hotel

Maria writes a letter to the manager at Hunter's Hotel to book it for the conference. Read through it carefully. Then make a note of all of the costs of the conference, to fill in Valerie's pencil notes below. You will need these notes for 9.12.

The Manager
Hunter's Hotel
Molton MO6 5RT

4 January 1991

Dear Sir

Calibration Machine Manufacturers' One-Day Conference 1991

We write to confirm our telephone conversation of this morning. Please book the following accommodation on behalf of the Department:

20-21 March 1991
5 single rooms, for two nights, with dinner and continental breakfast. Use of Arena and Display Area from 6 p.m. on 20 March to 6 a.m. on 22 March.

21 March 1991
Use of Meeting Rooms nos. 1-8.
Coffee and biscuits for 480 people in the Display Area at 9.30 a.m. (cost, £1.20 per person).
Buffet lunch for 420, in the Huntersmoon Banqueting Room at 12.45 p.m. (cost, £7.50 per person).
Tea and biscuits for 300, in the Display Area at 3.30 p.m. (cost, £1 per person).

Our estimates of the numbers requiring lunch etc. are based on previous years' experience. We will inform you of the actual numbers expected one week before the conference.

We understand that you will give the Department a discount of 60 per cent on the hire of the Arena and Display Area. In addition, a discount of 7.5 per cent may be deducted from your invoice, provided the account is settled within 30 days.

We look forward to receiving your confirmation of these arrangements in writing. If you have any queries, please contact Miss Maria Barbero on ext. 3171.

Yours faithfully

Maria Barbero
for Assistant Secretary

1 £
2 £
3 £
4 £
5 £
6 £
7 £
8 £
9 £
10 £
11 £
12 £
13 £
14 £


9.12 Listening practice: calculating the final estimate

Maria has to tell Graham Flinston what the total costs for the conference will be. Before she does this, she checks the figures again with Valerie, who uses her pencil notes above. Listen to what they say, and check your figures from 9.11. Note that Valerie tells Maria not only the figures, but also how she calculated them.

MARIA Can we just go through the figures again before I report to Mr Flinston?
VALERIE I've got the figures here. First accommodation:
Next, the facilities:
Now for the catering:
Adding up the three totals gives us seven thousand and twenty pounds. Less seven and a half per cent for payment within thirty days is five hundred and twenty-six fifty. That leaves six thousand four hundred and ninety-three pounds fifty pence.
MARIA Hm, that is more than we paid last year. The bill then was just on six thousand pounds. I thought Hunter's was going to be cheaper?
VALERIE Well, if you allow for seven point seven per cent inflation, six thousand times seven point seven per cent gives six thousand four hundred and sixty two, so in real terms this year's total is within about fifty pounds of last year's.

9.13 Listening practice: the conference schedule

Peter is telephoning Maria with the provisional conference schedule. Listen to him, and write the schedule in three columns, showing the time of each event, the event itself, and where it will take place. Use the form below as a model.


9.14 Document study

This is Maria's letter to firms which enquired about the conference. Read through it carefully, and then answer the questions in 9.15.


Calibration Instruments: One-day Conference for Machine Manufacturers: 31 March 1991

I have pleasure in enclosing the Conference Schedule, and would like to draw your attention to the following points.

  1. see the meaning We are obliged to set a limit of 200 on the number of firms participating, and we have already received over 300 enquiries. Applications will be dealt with in strict rotation see the meaning and will only be considered if accompanied by the conference fee of £200. Therefore, if you have not yet sent your remittance, please do so without delay. Cheques should be made out to "Department of Trading 0T3 Account" and crossed. In the event of cancellation or non-acceptance, fees will be refunded in full.
  2. Each firm may send not more than three delegates, who must be nominated on the application form. Substitutes may be allowed at the organisers' discretion. ID badges will be issued at Registration and must be worn at all times. Badges are not transferable.
  3. The Display Area will be cleared from 1800 hrs on 20 March for the setting-up of display stands. Stands must be cleared before 2300 hrs on 21 March and all traces of occupation removed. see the meaning
  4. Other conditions are set out in the enclosed leaflet 234/77/9.. You are reminded that failure to comply with these conditions can lead to your application for any future conference being refused.

I wish you s successful and enjoyable conference, and lock forward to meeting you at Hunter's Hotel.

Yours faithfully

Maria Barbero
for Assistant Secretary

9.15 Reading for key words

What words in 9.14 indicate the following?

1 Applications are not likely to be accepted unless cheques are enclosed with them.
2 Some applications may be refused even if cheques are enclosed - the conference might even be cancelled.
3 You cannot give or lend your identity card to anyone else.
4 People who take the place of people named previously.
5 If the organisers agree.
6 If you do not obey the rules, you may not be allowed to come to next year's conference.