#HRD11 – Conference planning

I’ve been at HRD11 organised by the CIPD for the past two days, and it’s been an interesting event. For me, it provides an opportunity to see what’s happening in the wider L&D world, what the suppliers are saying, and what the ‘practitioners’ are saying. I have some very clear points about the sessions I’ve attended which I’ll be writing about later. But, first I wanted to highlight some thoughts on the ‘Planning’ front. This is true of any conference, and not restricted to #HRD11 in any way.

Free WiFi

This seems so trivial, but so important in the world we’re now in. Yes, there was WiFi available, but either you had to pay for it from the venue, or you had to go to a specific vendor who had free WiFi available. Come on now. You want PR for your event? You want people outside of the venue to know what’s happening? You want people to feel they’re not ‘trapped’ by the conference? This is almost a basic need.

Briefing the Speakers

This is two fold. First is to ensure you’ve briefed the speakers about who is likely to be in the audience. For exhibition and for conference delegates this may well be different, but it is important to get a fair understanding. Some of the exhibition sessions I attended were far too basic for my purpose. This means either my expectations were too high, or my understanding of the session was misrepresented.

Second is to try and cater for different levels of experience in the audience. Not seniority mind, but experience. I’m no senior manager but equally I have a lot of experience across L&D and so expect a high level of engagement and learning. Is it possible to have ‘feather-weights’ sessions, ‘mid-weights’ and ‘heavy-weights’?

The Speakers

1) If you have exhibition speakers, and they’re there to represent your brand, make sure you have someone who presents well. How this is overlooked is beyond me. You’re in a space where you will be speaking to at least 100 people for 45 mins, and you haven’t either practised/prepped/realised you’re pretty shit? There is no harm in getting someone to speak for you. You’re there selling a product, so why not give it a good show? Just because you’re connected to the brand, does not mean you are its best representative.

2) For those of you that do choose to speak, get your language right and know your audience. One presenter made a comment “put your hand up for me, don’t hold it behind your back, you’ll look like a retard”. Erm, sorry? Did you seriously just say that? His follow up comment “you’re not allowed to say that now, oh well”. Hmm. #epicfail. In fairness I think the moment got the better of him and he didn’t think it through, but my word is this just plain wrong.

3) If you’re going to get the 100 attending your 45 min slot to do exercises, make sure they’re easy to do and appropriate for the space you are in. Discussions need to be short, tightly defined, with a clear brief. Leaving it open because you want to ‘see how it goes’ is poorly thought through and you should not be on the stage.

The Style of Presentations

*checks calendar* 8th April 2011. What’s that? We’re no longer restricted to PowerPoint as a delivery format you say? We’ve moved beyond the flipchart? Pull the other one! I didn’t see one Prezi, pecha kucha, or any other style of presentation. And we’re meant to be the leaders of information delivery? And we’re meant to be the ones who know everything there is to know about presentations? Attending the various sessions, you really wouldn’t think so.

The Supplier Stands

Dear Suppliers, please find completely new and different ways to make yourselves more inviting. Not one of you made it compelling for me to visit. And using the Twitter backchannel is not the way to do it. #thatisall

Conference Speakers

So this is going to cause some issues. Particularly because it’s just not the done thing. Why am I restricted to one conference session? You run 3 concurrent sessions from 0930-1100 and I can only attend one? Well what if it’s boring me silly and I want to see what the others are about? Sure, there are things around “oh but they won’t understand the full context of the session”, but do you forget that we are adults and fully capable of filling in the blanks? No? Want to treat us like school children who need ferrying and can only attend to one thing at a time? Oh, ok then.

Break free! Take an #unconference approach. Dare to be different. I guarantee it will be a better experience for your delegates and the richness of information being shared will be amazing. Don’t believe me? How do you know different?

And please conference organisers, do not choose a conference speaker just because they are an expert in their field. Please be sure to vet their ability to run a conference session. I’m paying good money to be present, and want a good facilitator present. It doesn’t matter how many groups they work with on a daily basis, a conference session is different. Expectations are to learn something, and go away brimming with ideas.

In Complete Fairness

I enjoyed the 2 days. The interactive board outside the HRD Interactive Zone was a great addition and a great way to showcase the buzz happening in and around the event.

I loved that the #tweetup was taken seriously and given appropriate time during the day. It gave me a superb opportunity to connect and network with those I know in the online world.

The delegate refreshments is a nice touch and makes me feel like I have a small perk as a delegate.

The free brochure is great and helps me to navigate timings of sessions as well as decide the supplier stands I want to visit.

It was a well organised and from my perspective seemless delivery so well done to all involved. Events on this scale are never easy, and I wish you continued success with them in the future.

A Side Note

This event is for L&Ders in the main right? Did you have an L&Der help you plan it?

Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

3 thoughts on “#HRD11 – Conference planning”

  1. Great review of the conference and exhibition – thanks.

    There were a few of us there commenting on the quality of the speakers – if you’re totally nervous or it’s out of your comfort zone perhaps you’d be better getting an associate or an actor to deliver your message.

    Rehearsal is vital – I saw two speakers who got their presentations down to the minute and had clearly practised. One was Peter Casebow of Edentree who was having to deliver someone elses session but still got it right in terms of timings and confidence. The person who really impressed me was Danny Silver of Silver Linings with her Stress Critters who had everything timed immaculately but still gave us all time to interact, reflect and participate (but I’m slightly biased because she learned her brain friendly principles with us).

    The CIPD learning auction was a great idea that I wasn’t able to spend time at but I hear they are carrying it over onto their linked in group. Seemed like great collaboration.

  2. Great piece of constructive feedback Sukh!

    I attended last year but found few of the presentations hit the mark for me. Love your idea of a Pecha Kucha styled session though – that could have huge impact and provide a very efficient channel for everyone.

    It would be great to turn events like these on their heads and turn them into learning & buying events rather than the traditional telling & selling….

  3. Woohoo – lovely feedback I hope the CIPD will listen in and take advantage of your generosity to maker more improvements. On the speaker front – when I get asked I hope it’s because folk know I can do a good job of engaging and facilitating folk (well that’s what they tell me) rather than being an “expert” at anything. Nice one.

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