How will it be for you?

<p>Five panellists at next week's BA Conference describe what they hope to get out of the event.</p><p>Bob Jackson</p><p>Gardners</p><p>The BA Conference has covered a wide spectrum of subjects over the years, with many delegates using the forum to expound their own ideals, sometimes to the amusement and enlightenment of the remaining delegates, on other occasions to the annoyance and boredom of the assembly.</p><p>Nevertheless, it does provide a unique opportunity every year for everyone involved in all aspects of our fascinating industry to meet informally and to discuss the business of publishing, promoting and selling books--which is, after all, at the heart of how every single delegate who attends this Conference earns an income.</p><p>True, there are still too many major publishers who take the opportunity for an annual business review with their major customers, as can be witnessed by the shortage of delegates in anything other than keynote sessions, and the numerous meetings taking place throughout the Conference hotel. The Conference would surely be enhanced by the greater involvement by these often key personnel.</p><p>This year, once again the Grand Hotel in Brighton will no doubt form an efficient and effective Conference venue, while the late-night/early-morning attractions of Brighton will prove fascinating for those returning to their hotels in the small hours of Wednesday morning after the usual convivial Gala Dinner.</p><p>Richard Barker</p><p>Gerrards Cross and Wantage bookshops</p><p>I rarely take much to the BA Conference. Maybe the hope of learning something to my advantage, the expectation of getting a thick head, and the ambition to avoid behaving in a way I would live to regret.</p><p>This year, perhaps, my expectations are a little grander than usual. They focus on the BA/PA Liaison Group, which has the potential to be a force for good in the trade, driving change and encouraging genuine cross-industry co-operation.</p><p>To achieve its challenging ambitions, the group must have credibility and it must be sustainable. This year's Conference offers an early opportunity to promote the group and to gather the breadth of support it must have to be successful.</p><p>I hope that the larger, conglomerate publishers will pledge their support--whether they are represented around the table or not. I hope the multiple retailers will have the desire to do similarly--and the corporate discipline to back their sentiments.</p><p>I hope smaller and independent publishers will see value in the objectives of the group; and I hope smaller and independent retailers will realise that, whatever they might vainly hope, the trade will always develop in a manner determined by the larger players. It's better to be on the inside than to be on the outside without representation or influence.</p><p>Jonathan Nowell</p><p>Nielsen BookData</p><p>The BA Conference is not a decision-making forum. Don't expect the Conference to resolve the prices on books debate, or split the consumer's pound in a "more equitable" way, or re-engineer our supply chains. The value of the Conference is that here we (as business people) take temperatures and make contacts; we begin to evolve new strategies, and correct old ones; we debate, we pick up ideas and we listen. As a result our industry evolves, mostly for the better.</p><p>The Consumer Trends session on the Monday morning is the positioning session: this is where we are now, these are some important trends and this is what to look out for in our future planning. Michael Willmott's presentation in this session and Mapping the Future on Monday afternoon should provide us with the opportunity to test and think laterally about our own business strategies. </p><p>For me the most important part of the Conference will be meeting face to face with clients, colleagues and friends in the UK book trade. Through these meetings (and subsequent meetings, often arranged at the Conference) and some business-like plenary and break out sessions on day two, I and my Nielsen colleagues will have greater clarity about the future of our industry and Nielsen's role in that future.</p><p>Finally, I shall continue the great tradition of joining the long queue of hopeful dance partners for Carole Blake on Tuesday evening.</p><p>Jane Streeter</p><p>Bookcase, Lowdham</p><p>I attended my first Booksellers Association Conference in Harrogate in 1998, and was immediately hooked. From the first-timers' meeting through to the Gala Dinner I was made to feel truly welcome and was aware of being part of a very special trade. </p><p>This feeling continues to grow, and the Conference is an annual "must do" for me now, my yearly fix of networking and sharing ideas and views with other booksellers, away from the daily demands of running an independent bookshop. It provides an invaluable opportunity to step back and view the bigger picture and to be provoked, challenged and entertained. The social programme is as important as the working sessions, with friendships forged and renewed year after year. The chance to discuss the issues facing the trade and to share more immediate and specific concerns with other independents is absolutely vital, and many new ideas and ways of developing my own business have come out of such discussions (often very late at night).</p><p>I have also made contacts which have led to author appearances in the shop, and also to a developing and hugely rewarding personal role in the trade.</p><p>Wayne Winstone</p><p>Ottakar's</p><p>Like most people I am hoping to get something from the Conference that is meaningful to our business. In past years I have been as guilty as anyone of using it as an opportunity to have meetings with suppliers and catch up. However this year the sessions have particular relevance for our business--especially Mapping the Future and Promotions and Profitability.</p><p>There has been a lot of debate in the trade publicly and behind closed doors on undermining the price proposition surrounding books. If ever there was a year where a forum should be provided for open debate, then the 2004 Conference is it.</p><p>The other important element of the Conference is the opportunity to meet people and discuss trade issues in less formal settings.</p><p>One message to the organisers: a bigger gap after the Bologna Book Fair would be welcomed by anyone involved in children's books.</p>