As regular readers may know, I was (I think, constructively) critical of the first ICT4Construction event last October, and as a result of my feedback organiser Recep Saffet asked if I would chair the next edition, on knowledge and document management. After some deliberation, I agreed, and also helped publicise the event through this blog and other channels.
However, the conference – which took place last Friday, 25 March – was (again) poorly attended. Worse, there were administrative glitches on the day that could easily have been avoided by better organisation. I understand some of the (excellent) speakers at the event were also dissatisfied with the event, and I am now having to make it clear that I was only the conference chairman and that I was not involved in its direct marketing, planning or administration. I have also made my views clear to the organiser, who seems to think little was wrong apart from being short-staffed and getting less than 40 people attending. I wrote to him yesterday:
As you will imagine, I regard this as a poor return for the time I put into your event. I expended considerable efforts (unpaid) through my blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and on Be2camp.com, and also provided you with a free place at the Be2awards/ConstrucTALKs event to help you market the event. I also prepared two presentations and devoted an entire day to the event itself. …
Clearly, your own telephone and email marketing was inadequate. This latest ICT4Construction event was (again) poorly attended, yet document/knowledge management clearly remains a topical issue (I received tweets during the day from architects and others who’d wished they’d known about the event beforehand). I counted barely 40 attendees (last minute cancellations are no excuse – they happen at every event), and a high proportion of the delegates were from vendor businesses. Indeed, by the final session, there was just one client left in a room, outnumbered 20-fold by software providers!
There were numerous event management niggles before and during the day:
- As discussed, I tend to avoid holding events on Fridays, particularly whole-day affairs
- The website was not kept updated with changes to the agenda
- You were late arriving at the venue (as conference chairman, it surely wasn’t my place to be helping exhibitors, sorting out the projector, and being quizzed about internet access?)
- I, and several attendees, had no delegate badges
- A delegate pack is not a carrier bag of sponsor literature
- There was no delegate list
- There was no complimentary coffee or other refreshments upon arrival (I had to go and buy my own coffee in the adjacent cafeteria)
- I had to provide my own laptop and presenter device for use by most of the speakers, and therefore had to appeal for speakers to make sure they provided me with their presentations (why hadn’t you asked for these to be sent to you or me by at least 24 hours earlier?)
- There were no speaker microphones, meaning some of the Q&A was barely audible without a roving mike
- Until I pressed the need for it, there was no wifi access – these are technology events attended by people who need to remain connected to their daily working lives
- You disappeared at lunchtime, and were rarely present in the conference room during the sessions (when I organise events, I make it my business to sit in and observe and evaluate speakers, keep an eye on technology, check timings, etc)
- If you were ill, then you should have organised temporary staff to help run the event
- I had no information from you about evaluation forms or about availability of the presentations after the event …
I will spare you Recep’s full response which accuses me of “nit-picking”, chooses to view this as a “whole list of rattling complaint after complaint”, and is disrespectful of a speaker’s contribution, but if you were at the event, am I over-reacting? Was this nit-picking? Did this event deliver what you expected?
Being more positive, I did think this event saw some good discussion of speakers’ presentations (something I was keen to encourage as chairman). And despite the lower-than-expected turnout of delegates, some interesting questions were raised and there were some thoughtful contributions from the speakers and the audience:
- Bentley Systems’s Neville Glanville talked eloquently about ‘Big BIM’ and ‘Little BIM’ and about ProjectWise
- Alistair McLeod of Waterstons delivered an engaging presentation (both he and Neville referenced the Latham and Egan reports, and Alistair also quoted from the more recent Constructing Excellence document, the Wolstenholme Report, “Never Waste a Good Crisis”), including a mini-case study on housebuilder Stewart Milne’s use of MS SharePoint as a knowledge management hub
- 4Projects’ Steve Spark delivered a wide-ranging presentation, having decided not to compete with other speakers on the subject of NEC3 contract administration
- Asite’s Paul Markovits gave a good account of how vendors needed to forget about chasing individual projects and capitalise upon the opportunities arising from developing enterprise agreements.
- Union Square’s Stuart Bell entertained with his references to “fast red Hondas” and “dogs in uniform” (you had to be there!)
- I really liked Kenny Ingram, from IFS, and his football analogies regarding forecasting performance
- Andrew Woolstone (Causeway Technologies) talked about OpenText and how collaboration might embrace social media, and
- Stuart Kings (Sypro) gave a great talk on how delivering a really user-friendly interface might improve contract administration.
But, sadly, I find myself blogging about the event not about the content (and this is a much toned-down rant from one I wrote the day after!). I don’t normally come away from events feeling destructive, but there are times when event organisation leaves one feeling very frustrated.