19 November 2014 by Martin Duggan, FIA General Manager

Without having seen the official feedback results yet, the people I have spoken to so far have said this year’s AGM & Lunch was possibly the best one so far !

We have stuck to an event formula which is tried and trusted. We have a two hour AGM followed by a drinks reception and a then a lunch which includes a few awards and an after lunch speaker. We have learnt that the speaker is the most important part for a successful event and that they need to be funny !

Christine Hamilton brought her husband Neil (the man who lost the 5th safest seat in the land!) as support as she was recovering from ankle surgery and it was interesting to see his face as she laid into him with some of her jokes. Whilst not up to Gyles Brandreth standard the ‘wife from hell’ gave an interesting insight into life behind the scenes. I think Christine was a bit like Christmas, the build-up and intrigue are probably the best bit, whilst the day itself is good but does not quite live up to the hype.

Christine Hamoilton

Phil Toase our ‘Maurice Bean Memorial, Life Time Achievement within the Fire Safety profession’ award winner graciously accepted his award and told us that now he is fully retired he could tell exactly what he thinks, and that fire brigades should not be charging and trading and that third party certification is the way forward. This is just what we wanted to hear and we didn’t even need to twist his arm. Whilst Bob Choppen’s honorary membership award will be presented at next year’s event as our award winner was unable to bet here on the day, we were delighted to recognise Frank Fitch’s contribution as one of UK’s leading foam experts, with honorary membership. Frank whilst almost fully retired still represents the UK on CEN (European) standards committee.

Phil Toase
Phil Toase

The venue is one of the things in the formula that we like to change but we have now exhausted the locations that are affordable and can house the large number for a drinks reception and lunch and accommodate the AGM for approximately 120. We have been at 8 Northumberland before. It is the most central London venue of its type and therefore works well for travel but it is tight to fit us all in. Next year we are at the much larger ‘Brewery’, another venue we have been to before.

We used a lot of info graphics in both the Annual report and the AGM presentations this year. They also seem to have gone down well and are great to use as slides rather than getting stuck with text, and for the second year running we used video interviews to break up the format. It was strange to have Colin Todd sat next to me whilst we sat watching him on the big screen. To be fair Colin is great at presenting, being interviewed live or via video but at least by video I can keep him to time!

Our Chairman, Mr Harvey, does a very good job at hosting and is so easy going that I tend to forgive him when he goes off script. A script that is very carefully worded and has many hours spent on it!  He makes the interviews run smoothly and we were bang on time this year.

There were some major constitutional changes agreed. We introduced a new affiliate membership which we will roll out in the new year. This aims to bring us closer with some of the key stakeholders by bringing them into the fold. We split membership categories ‘C’ and ‘E1’ to help level out the turnover banding which relates to turnover and clarified what turnover is counted. Those that are affected by the changes in category will see a saving whilst all others stay at the same rate that was set in 2007. The Chairman also announced that we plan to hold the subscription rates for another 5 years, barring the usual caveats and massive inflation!

We introduced a ‘suggestion box’ on the dining tables this year and promised a bottle of champagne for the best suggestion. With 31 entries which is 8.6% of those attending it was worth doing and we now have a selection headache. The first review of the suggestions was interesting with many relating to activities or positions we have or are currently working on. This tells us we need to communicate more and we may drip feed these into focus messages over the coming months. Some of the suggestions included an FIA mascot (a man sized costumed version that the General Manager has to wear on stage) and releasing an FIA single, a cover of YMCA ‘it’s fun to work at the F – F I A. Let’s just say, those two suggest that the writer probably does not need the bubbly!

Roll on 11th November 2015 when we will do it all over again.