Wednesday, 16 November 2016

#cipdace16 - Reflections...

This time last week I was at #cipdACE16 covering the event as part of the Blogsquad. And my, how quickly a week has gone.

Now that a week HAS passed though, its given me time to reflect on what was a superb event and learning experience.

The event, as mentioned, was superb. Each year the Annual Conference and Exhibition seems to surpass itself and deliver something unique and special, and this year was no exception.

The choice of keynote speakers and the choice of conference session speakers was very good, with my only complaint being that it was genuinely very difficult to choose which session to go to as often, with four options, at least three were things I really wanted to go to. I don’t know if its possible to do anything about this but I had a feeling that I missed out on as much as I got to.

The exhibition was lively this year and the use of space continues to improve. I like the informal networking area at the end which works very well. The free sessions all seemed well-attended but because I was in the Conference itself it made it impossible to get to any of these, and I did want to. Again I’m not sure what can be done but perhaps the sequencing and overlaps could be looked at.

I was disappointed by the lack of engagement by many of the exhibitors, who had presumably paid a lot of money to exhibit. As already pointed-out in THIS POST by Inji Duducu and in the comments on that post by Gemma Dale, most of the exhibitors were not active on social media and missed a trick in terms of sales and overall engagement with attendees. Hardly any really tried to sell me anything (not that that’s easy) and many had no interest in me once they saw my Blogsquad/Press badge, which was a shame because I could have done stuff for/with them.

And the swag haul was a bit same-y too – pens, chocolates, stress toys. Where were the standout offerings to get people to come along? Its more than just a box of Celebrations surely?

There were a LOT more fringe and social activities this year and that was a very good thing, and some took place the night before avoiding EVERYTHING happening on the Wednesday night, but even then there were far too many things happening at the same time on the Wednesday evening and it was impossible to get to more than 1 or 2 of them. Again, sequencing and overlap could be looked at to enable people to make the most of the social aspect of the Conference. Those that I did go to, and those that other people told me about, really seemed to go down well.

To be honest though I’ve lost track of the number of conferences where delegates have told me they get as much from the breaks as they do from the conference sessions, and this was also true at #cipdACE16. A slight criticism is that there weren’t enough long breaks to really get around the exhibition inbetween conference sessions, attend some of the free learning sessions, grab a drink, nip to the toilet, check your phone and do all of those things before heading back into the conference. Not to mention actually talking to people you want to talk to (and exhibitors). From a timings perspective I wonder whether its worth looking at the conference going back to THREE days again like it used to – that way things could be more spread out and you’d not feel like you were sacrificing one thing to get to another all the time. If that’s not possible, I’d look to extend the two days – no reason why the Exhibition couldn’t open at 08.30 and close at 17.30 both days, giving a clear hour either side of the conference to get stuff done.

Manchester itself remains a top location, and the event is really starting to grow into Manchester after 7 years there. This year it felt like we had almost taken over the city in the same way we used to pretty much rule Harrogate back in the day. It gave the whole experience a really nice feel (helped by the Xmas markets starting too).

I enjoyed being part of the Blogsquad again and feel lucky to have been asked. It gives me a very different perspective on the event that few get to experience, and enables me to share my own learning to a wider audience aswell as promote the event.

I enjoy blogging (yes, really) and particularly live blogging from events because it’s the best way for me to ensure the learning is recorded and sinks in.

I also managed to put out 120 tweets of my own across the 2 days along with numerous retweets, and this year added Instagram into my social media output. I ALMOST got Periscope up and running but a medical emergency in one session as I was about to go live distracted me, and I never got chance again.

But, by crikey, being part of the Blogsquad is tiring – with very long days and constantly being “on” even late into the evening. I am not sure I’ve recovered since, although my 2 year old daughter is not one to let me rest or recuperate.

From a personal perspective I learnt loads, as you can see from my blogs, which to be honest only capture perhaps half of what I will take away from the event:

Blog 1 – covering Peter Cheese’s introduction and Margaret Heffernans’ keynote KN1 speech

Blog 2 – covering Steve Head and Matt King’s motivation speeches A1

Blog 3 – covering Neil Morrison, Sukh Pabial and Claire Thomas on recruitment rebooting B2 and a Panel Debate on the Future of Work C4

Blog 4 – covering Lynne Weedall and Valerie Hughes-D’Aeths’ speeches on organisational transformation D3

Blog 5 – covering CJ Green and Amanda Oates’ speeches on rethinking performance management E3

Blog 6 – covering Gianluca Petriglieri’s keynote KN2 speech (partly)

I met so many nice people, many of whom I’d met before, and many of whom I hadn’t seen for ages or was meeting for the first time. In particular it was nice to put a face to the name that is Mark Hendy, to finally meet my mentee Lisa Snell in person, and to spend time chatting with Rachel White, who I’ve known on a personal level for many years but never bumped into at an HR event before. All the rest of the Blogsquad were superb company and did a great job throughout the two days, and the staff at CIPD events/comms were both hard working and very friendly too – thanks to them for getting me involved.

I also enjoyed catching up with, separately, no less than five people who have worked for me in a previous organisation. It was genuinely nice to see them still progressing their HR careers and to see how they are doing now that we no longer work together.

I’ll end by telling you about my most bizarre experience of #cipdACE16, which still doesn’t rival being chatted up by a CIPD Researcher on their stand about 5 years ago, but is still bizarre.

I was in one of the conference sessions and sat on a table with a group of 7-8 others. The woman next to me glanced at my badge partway through, and I later noticed her tapping away on her iPad. I figured at the time that she noticed I was part of the Blogsquad and was looking up my Twitter feed, so I was pleased.

At the end of the session she turned to me and apologised for staring at my badge but explained that she recognised my name and thought she knew me. She further went on to say that she did indeed know a Gary Cookson, and was friends with said person on Facebook, but having looked at their profile during the session and then looked back at me, she realised we looked COMPLETELY different (eg he had hair) and therefore I was not the person she knew.

And not once did she say she knew me from Twitter, or this blog.

I wasn’t sure what to say and said as much. At that, she smiled and left.

Till next time…

Gary

PS in other news, we’re approaching a point in our house where we’ve been there just over 2 years and it needs a fair bit of work doing to it. We have a choice whether to do this and commit to staying there for the long-term, or move. It’s a tough choice!