This is a blog for IET volunteers and staff to share news, experiences and good practice with other volunteers and the wider IET membership.  Members of boards and committees, and volunteers in all their various roles within the IET are encouraged to update their peers on the work of their board or committee, or to share successes, case studies, news and experiences that might be of interest to other volunteers.  If you would like to write for Volunteer Viewpoint please email to register your interest in posting a blog.

This is not a corporate communication and does not reflect the corporate view of the IET.

Latest Posts

On being shown our allotted 20 by 3 m strip in the marquee, my first thought was “How will we compete with that?” ‘We’ were five willing, but largely uninitiated IET STEM Ambassadors with a budget of £100. ‘That’ was an artfully constructed, expensive-looking 15 m bridge, supported by video projections and a large team of hard-hatted civil engineers from ICE. We were ‘competing’ for the attention of a future generation of engineers.

It was an early July morning in Derby, and thoughts soon turned to more prosaic matters, such as a missing table and lack of power for the soldering iron. With less than two hours until Big Bang East Midlands opened, the IET team were quick to hang the nets and lay out the workbenches needed to turn our zone into the Power Ping Pong Challenge. Building on ball launch pad kits provided by IET Education, the volunteers had worked hard in the run up to the event to design a realistic engineering task.

Posted by StephenPowley on Aug 14, 2013 8:49 GMT
CCUK member Rhys Phillips introduces himself and sums up the recent UK Communities Together event from an organiser's perspective.
Posted by Rhys Phillips on Jul 23, 2013 3:20 GMT
Volunteer Led Events
Some personal thoughts from the recent Level Crossing Seminar held at Austin Court, Birmingham.
This was a joint event between the Railway Technical and Professional Network and the Birmingham Local Network.  As I had been involved in these sorts of events previously I offered to help out, although the previous events had been run through the “Events” organisation.  This meant that in the past I had made the first introductions to possible speakers then left the Events Team to manage the rest of the details (and just turned up on the day to chair :-)

I should like to first say that I am extremely grateful to Deborah and her team, who at the last minute realised I was drowning and helped out with the organisation and without her input this event could have failed.  Due to my pressure of work, an unexpected and extended absence from the UK and a lack of understanding about when (not what) things should be done I dropped the ball and we nearly lost a couple of key speakers.  There was an issue between two of the invited speakers (one wouldn't if the other did!), but that I think is a one off and does not warrant any further debate (apart from my thanks to the IET for their suggestions and support) in sorting it out.

Lessons Learned
My first thought is that if the event were to be a single speaker one evening then the workload on the “volunteer”  would be relatively light, as a “first off” organising an afternoon seminar with 6 speakers is a workload (for a volunteer who probably has a day job) is not be underestimated! So, my first point is to make sure that the volunteer is fully aware of the time commitment that organising an event will involve.

My main error was not to keep in communication with the speakers.  I actually had all six lined up very quickly (October/November 2012) however I failed to keep in contact, assuming that they would keep the date free.  In fact the lack of communication meant that in a couple of cases they almost re-allocated the time and we nearly lost 2 key speakers.  It should therefore be stressed that at least monthly communication should be kept with the speakers to ensure that they remain in touch and there can be no doubts about the viability of the event.

Which brings me to a second point;  Deborah gave me a list of what should be done, I would suggest that for future events (large or small) what would be useful is a timeline to show what should be done when (for example monthly “comfort” e-mails to the speakers).

Thirdly, when gets involved there is even more administration, then there comes the possible interviews (which we never had time for at Birmingham) etc.  This all adds to the workload.  This should no be underestimated.  Again with one presenter, it’s probably OK, with 6, it becomes a much more significant work load!

Fourthly, another suggestion would be to have a number of standard templates for e-mails that can be duly amended and sent out to the presenters for things such as, copyright, inviting speakers, thanking speakers etc.  These do not have to be full e-mails, but maybe a word document with some “standard” paragraphs that can be used. 

Fifthly, on the day unless it is a very simple event I would suggest that staff support is required from the start or registration.  At Birmingham, Angie was able to come across and help eventually, but Mohammed and I had to set out the “stall” and manage registrations (including those who didn’t have a badge and “on the day” registrations as well as introducing speakers to the IT (presentations on USB sticks, lapel mikes etc.) and general welcomes.

It happened, all the speakers turned up, it was very successful (56 registrants for a niche event outside of London!) and the feedback was very positive. 
Would I do it again?  Doubtful!! It is a serious amount of work, I would need some assurances that more support would be given by the IET if we ever organise a similar sized event again (event if volunteer led).  This type of event is not a job for “one man and his dog” (and for those of you who know me, I have lots of dogs!)
Posted by Peter Sheppard on Jul 16, 2013 3:25 GMT
I know – I’m not a volunteer (well, not for the IET anyway) – but I hope you forgive me using your volunteer blog to tell you something that the staff have been doing to raise awareness of volunteering and how important it is to the IET.
Posted by Sandra Godman on Jun 17, 2013 12:38 GMT
I was sent the following from a group that is currently going through some change and I thought that it was rather appropriate to us and what we are doing.

What do you think of what has been written?

I was listening to a Government Minister on TV last week being slated by a member of the public for not listening, and his explanation was exactly the one we often have to give to our members. Very simply that he has a hundred different lobby groups, all wanting something completely different from him, and whichever opinion he decides is the most workable, the other ninety nine groups will accuse him of not listening.

At classes, many of you come to us with suggestions and ideas, and we're always grateful for that. But the bit you don't get to see is that in every class we have a dozen different groups of members who would all like to get something completely different from that class.

The reality of course, is that most of the time, most of our members are mostly happy with most of the things we do. So the difficulty for us is that every time we make a change or introduce something new, although many members like it, some don't.

So, here's the dilemma: If we change things there's a danger we'll upset people, if we don't change things there's a danger we'll upset people. (And of course, because we're all human, some people will be unhappy whatever we do)

Peculiarly, when we're making decisions about how and when to make changes, the decision very often comes down to which decision will upset the fewest people. So please bear with us as we try different things, and trust that as far as possible we'll try to keep as many people happy as possible. Also be aware though, that in the nicest possible way, we always have to factor in that any changes we make won't suit everyone. The status quo is not an option. We have to change, and we have to do different things in order to still be here for all of you in the future. We'll make a few mistakes along the way, but we'll be bigger and better once we've figured it all out.

Don't stop talking to us. We need to know what you think, good and bad, but we'll always need to balance all the different opinions we get and make decisions accordingly.”

Posted by Virginia Hodge on Apr 11, 2013 3:17 GMT
I’ve recently been asked this.  My answer was enjoyable, challenging, hard work, stretching, CPD – see Alan Watts' latest blog about the March Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting ( – and providing me with an excellent insight into the work of the IET.

What makes me say this?  I joined the BOT in October and gave a presentation at my first meeting on the Volunteer Talent Support (VTS) project which I had taken over from Naomi Climer (one of our Deputy Presidents) during the summer.  Was this a baptism of fire I ask myself?  Looking back after 6 months, yes it was, but it helped me introduce both the VTS and myself to the Board.

The pace of work within the BOT is staggering.  The meetings last for 3 hours 8 times a year starting at 1630.  For two additional sessions the BOT meetings are combined with Away Days in November and May.  The meetings are structured around a rolling agenda so all of the work of the IET is covered during the year and this is combined with lengthy discussions on subjects like Savoy Place refurbishment.  After the meeting the President hosts a dinner, where discussion continues regarding various topics that have either been discussed during the meeting or on something that the President wants to raise.  These usually break up around 2100 due to people needing to get away for trains etc, but sometimes not!

How do I describe the actual meetings?  Focused is the best description that comes to mind.  Since the agenda typically has 15-20 items on it, we spend the time on issues of concern and accept items that don’t provoke discussion.  The discussion surrounding Savoy Place refurbishment shows this.  However, like for other boards and committees the Trustees are expected to have read the papers and to have prepared questions to ask where they have queries against the papers submitted.

The Board of Trustee minutes are published for members to see at:
Posted by Virginia Hodge on Mar 15, 2013 10:11 GMT
Posted by Virginia Hodge on Feb 28, 2013 9:04 GMT

Most Recent Comments

Excellent report Stephen - fantastic achievement - well done to all involved.
Hi Lisa, yes we did have a lot of fun! It was loads of work and utterly exhausting, but considering we'd never done it be...
Sounds like you had a lot of fun! :o)
What a great insight into the extensive effort involved in organising such an event and, more importantly, into the...
All the reports I have had demonstrate what an interesting and valuable event this was - not just for those that were t...