WHAT IF…. we introduced a new conference and event format in nuclear?


By Callum Thomas, Founder and CEO of Thomas Thor Associates and Chairman of KeySource Global


Having attended many conferences and events in the nuclear industry all over the world over the last decade, I have noticed that the vast majority provide an excellent networking opportunity for the likeminded people from the nuclear industry that attend. In most events the messaging and presentations are of a high standard, but audiences for presentations are modest because many people are busy in side meetings with other delegates. The value of meeting peers from the industry and networking is huge, but I can see opportunities to harness significant added value from the events that we all attend:


Reaching a wider audience by filming and publishing talks

Over recent years the ‘’TED Talks’’ have become very well-known online. Their format is simple – a single person standing in front of a camera, speaking in a clear and engaging way for no more that 15 minutes and using no more than a few powerful images on slides to support their talk. We can all learn a lot from the TED talk format. Check this one out from Alistair McIvor at CNL.

Filming is much cheaper and easier these days than in the past. It is understandable that event organisers are reluctant to publish videos of the event when they make their money from delegates attending, but there must be a happy medium where some talks are published (in videos of no more than 15 minutes!). The videos could even carry sponsorship and provide an additional ‘’win win’’ for sponsors and event organisers.

One example comes to mind, a presentation by Dr Ian Chapman where he explained in clear language and great photos some of the incredible new technologies they have developed at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the UK. While listening I thought to myself that everyone in the country should know what they are doing and have pride in the UK’s scientific prowess!


Supporting Diversity & Inclusion

I was impressed to witness at the AtomExpo 2019 event in Sochi, that every panel was made up of 50% men and 50% women. In addition, every panel had at least 3 nationalities and ethnicities represented and included people from industries outside of nuclear. Bearing in mind that there were over 20 panel sessions, this was an impressive achievement. It showed me what is possible if we set out with a strong intent to drive diversity & inclusion. Conferences and events provide the perfect opportunity to promote the perspectives of diverse stakeholders and include all stakeholders in the discussion. It would be really simple to create a charter to support diversity & inclusion in content and presenters which could be adopted by all conference and event organisers in nuclear. Now is the time to act.


Involving stakeholders from other industries

Two stubborn challenges facing the nuclear industry are; the lack of understanding of, and support for, the industry amongst the general public, and the ability to deliver large and complex projects on time and budget. These are not challenges that are unique to the nuclear industry and there is a lot to be learned from the experiences of those from other industries that have tackled similar challenges. At the same time as sharing knowledge and experiences, it would also act as a way to connect with and inform people from outside of the nuclear industry. The nuclear industry often feels like an island, but it does not have to be that way and for the industry to flourish that probably has to change.


Opening up the nuclear industry to the public

There is a general lack of understanding amongst the general public around how nuclear energy works, how safe it is and the positive effects it has on our environment. Over the years I have seen many presentations that provide clear and impartial information about nuclear energy, which would be perfect communications material for the purpose of informing the public. Instead of creating a whole new raft of communications material, why not just capture some of the presentations on video and share them?


I plan to show my commitment to these ideas by implementing as many of them as possible in an event I am co-organising on 18th July 2019 in Manchester named ‘’Diversity & Inclusion in UK Nuclear’’. We plan to film the presentations, using the ‘’TED talk’’ format, invite experts in diversity & inclusion from others sectors and ensure that the event is as inclusive to all as possible.

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