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Natasha Joyner, International Association for the Study of Obesity

Bowing out

Healthy lifestylist Natasha (Tash) Joyner, gave up jogging to music rehearsals with a double bass strapped to her back and joined the International Association for the Study of Obesity instead. Now she’s made it to Head of Events of the rebranded World Obesity Federation and has put her musical ambitions on hold. She talked to Rob Spalding

RS:  How would you describe event organising, as an artistic or scientific undertaking?

NJ:  I would definitely lean towards the artistic! As event professionals we are always looking at new ideas and implementing creative techniques and unique ways to create the best event possible for all involved.

RS: As a former member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and a double-bassist of some note, did you ever consider a career in music?

NJ:  Throughout my education I was unsure of the career path that I wanted. I really enjoyed music and studying at such a high level but when thinking about how I pictured my working life I wasn’t sure that being a musician fitted in terms of a work life balance or where I wanted to be in 25 years time (what a millennial response!!!). The UK was entering the recession when I was at university, so it really made me think logically about what area of work to pursue.

RS:  How did you become Head of Events for the World Obesity Federation?

NJ:  I initially started at World Obesity over four years ago as an Events & Admin Assistant and really enjoyed working in that portfolio. It felt natural to progress within the role and with such an interesting organisation. Since rebranding from IASO, World Obesity amended job titles to better reflect the roles of our team here in the London office.

RS: When it was the IASO what was different about it?

NJ: Before the rebrand, World Obesity was less public facing. Now it has diversified its projects, including launching World Obesity Day which takes place on the 11th October every year. This is a great opportunity to engage with our Members and also the general public that may not have heard about us and what we do. Another way we do this is through our ‘Image Bank’ which addresses issues like stigmatisation. And we have newly launched a Healthy Venues accreditation scheme where venues can get accredited so that associations can select a location for their conference based on the ethos of the venue. We encourage all Associations to demand healthy catering at reasonable prices from their conference venues; to initiate active transfer alternatives between hotel and venue and introduce ways to reduce sedentary behaviour for participants on site. Holding a healthier meeting means participants are happier and more productive and the meeting will, ultimately, be more successful!

RS: Who are its members?

NJ: World Obesity has member organisations in over 55 countries and represents over 30,000 individual members who, in turn, represent scientists, policy makers, medical and health professionals working in the field of obesity research, clinical management and education.

RS: What are its objectives?

NJ: World Obesity’s mission is to lead and drive global efforts to reduce, prevent and treat obesity. We collate, conduct and disseminate world-leading research into obesity, its impact, causes, treatment and prevention. We influence the policy of academics, government and business, at global, regional and national levels. We bring rigour, consistency and credibility to the field through educational programmes, practical training, publications, conferences and accreditation.

RS: What is your major work-related concern at the moment?

NJ: From an events perspective we are still experiencing tight budgets from both industry and institutions that fund participants to attend. And although there are lots of great advancements, particularly in the event technology sector, you have to balance this with the overall needs and budgets of the whole organisation.

RS: Have your opinions about your organisation changed?

NJ: Having worked at World Obesity for close to five years now I really see the relevance in the work that we do. At first glance it seemed quite inwardly focused. But now I understand how each department’s goals overlap and how this translates to the wider aims of the organisation and the public. One example would be the work our policy and advocacy team has done on nutrient profiling resulting in traffic light labelling which the public sees without thinking every day in its local grocery store.

RS: Do you have a huge staff, swanky west end offices and a chauffeur?

NJ: I wish! We are a very small team of 10 located close to Kings Cross, London. We don’t have swanky offices and a chauffeur but I really value the other benefits that we have as an office. We currently have flexible working that allows us to go to the gym at lunchtimes and we have showers on site so people can cycle or run to work.

RS:  And when you get home, what’s your idea of heaven?

NJ:  I live in north London very close to the Arsenal football ground. It is a running joke in the office that I am out almost every evening after work checking out an exhibition, art gallery, or trying out a new restaurant. One of the things I love about London is the cultural offering the city has. If I am at home I can usually be found in front of my sewing machine. In such an electronic age I find it really rewarding making something with my own hands.

RS: If you changed jobs would you stay in the meetings industry?

NJ: Yes – I really enjoy it, in particular working within associations. I find associations have such a depth and complexity that organising their events is constantly challenging and exciting.