The annual congress of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) has come a long way since the inaugural event in 1958. Then it was held in a London hotel and attracted 150 delegates and 17 exhibitors. But for the past 21 years, the event has been staged at the ICC Birmingham and now attracts more than 8,000 visitors and 250 exhibitors.
The BSAVA is run almost entirely by volunteers and organisation of the annual congress is handled by two committees, made up of practising vets and academics, and just three full-time members of staff.
Owing to the size of the event and the strength of its industry exhibition, the BSAVA is restricted in its choice of venue.
"There aren't many, if any, other venues in the UK that could host our event. We have more than 250 lectures during the four days as well as a very successful exhibition," says Kay Pringle, marketing manager for the BSAVA.
Despite returning to the ICC Birmingham every year, the BSAVA has never believed that the venue takes its business for granted. "We've been hosting the congress at the ICC consecutively for the past 21 years and each and every year we're always impressed by the ICC and NIA teams who work tirelessly to deliver this superb event for us," explains Pringle.
This year over 100,000 hours of professional development were amassed in a programme of lectures featuring more than 100 speakers. Concurrently with the congress an exhibition was held at the NIA and in excess of 250 exhibitors showcased developments in the veterinary industry.
The BSAVA Awards and a special presentation to mark the 250th anniversary of veterinary science took place on the first night of the congress. The social programme is also a big draw and this year was the first time tickets sold out before the congress started. Strictly Come Dancing stars Anton du Beke and Erin Boag, comedian Michael McIntyre and band The Feeling provided the entertainment at the banquet and the party night.
The congress has been hailed as the best yet. BSAVA saw a 16 per cent increase in delegates, from 5,026 in 2010 to 5,816 this year, and many exhibitors have already rebooked for 2012. Pringle adds: "One exhibitor saw a 400 per cent increase in sales leads, another received orders worth more than £5m, while many gathered information for almost 4,000 potential customers."
The BSAVA will host the World Congress in 2012 and will once again return to the ICC. BSAVA president, Grant Petrie, said the congress had surpassed all his expectations. "It was a tremendous honour to preside over such a truly world-class congress. I was immensely proud to see more delegates and more exhibitors than ever before, together with a fantastic social programme and networking opportunities."
Organisation: British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA)
Event: Annual Congress
Group size: 8,000
Date: 31 March - 3 April 2011
Venue: ICC/NIA, Birmingham
April 2010: ICC Birmingham confirmed as the venue for the BSAVA Annual Congress
August 2010: Delegate registration opens
27 March 2011: Build for the event begins
31 March - 3 April 2011: Event takes place