Construction IT events need great topics, and good organisers

The recent cancellation of a London construction IT conference underlines the need not just to find the right subject, but also the right organisers.

Two topics in construction IT are currently almost guaranteed to attract good event audiences: building information modelling (BIM) and mobile IT.

Winning with BIM

The UK government’s strategy to promote BIM as a means to better collaboration, lower project costs and carbon reduction, and setting a target for achievement by 2016, has concentrated construction professionals’ minds, and since the end of 2010 events about BIM have been sold-out, standing-room-only affairs up and down the country. This week, the topic has been extended by CIMCIG (the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s construction industry group) whose “Winning with BIM” conference in London on Wednesday is looking at the marketing implications of BIM (disclosure: I am a speaker at this event).

Making IT mobile

Riding the mobile IT wave is COMIT, with whom I have been occasionally involved since the mid-2000s. Over the past year, the organisation has been restructured, given a more commercial edge, and has begun to work with partners to further develop construction industry interest in mobile information and communication technologies – some of which interface with BIM. On this topic, COMIT ran a successful mobile IT event in London last November, and it was involved with a sell-out Building Centre/Woobius Built Environment Apps Awards event last month.

With Constructing Excellence, COMIT was also a partner for a mobile IT event in London next month, but the 25 May event has just been postponed (I learned through a COMIT email received this morning), despite the surge of industry interest in the topic. Why?

Well, it seems the event was being organised by ICT4Construction, whose previous conferences on document management in October 2010 and on construction collaboration in March 2011 have been criticised by me and others for inadequate marketing and organisation. I understand from COMIT that, despite the event being just five weeks away, no contract had been signed with the London venue, no event sponsorships were in place, and – apart from the organiser’s website and some emails (with a mispelt flyer, see above) – almost no event marketing had taken place. To the relief of COMIT and no doubt other event participants (which included several COMIT members), following a crunch meeting on Friday morning, organiser Recep Saffet apparently cancelled the event over the weekend, avoiding a marketing and PR disaster for partners and those due to speak.

First Strategy folded

Upon hearing the news, I had a look at the ICT4Construction website, which confirms the event has been cancelled. The website’s “small print” suggests disorganisation extends a little further. The website footer mentions an Orpington-based company called First Strategy Communications Ltd, which was incorporated in October 2008 with Recep Saffet (previously involved with BTC’s Construction Computing Show 2007) as its sole director. Its Companies House records suggest it never traded (it submitted ‘dormant’ 2009 accounts in September 2010), but it received payments relating to the October 2010 event (the PDF brochure stated: “Make cheque payable to ‘First Strategy Communications Ltd’”), and I have spoken to sponsors from the March 2011 event who told me they also paid the company. In November 2011, the company was served with notice that it could be struck-off, and the company was formally dissolved on 14 February 2012.

Due diligence

I organise, participate in, attend, tweet from, live-blog, photograph and write about events frequently (here is a blog post about a social and mobile business event I attended earlier this year, for example). Event management is a key discipline for successful marketeers and PR professionals, and is often done in partnership with other businesses. In the construction sector, there are many experienced individuals and businesses running major exhibitions and conferences, but I think the ICT4Construction example shows that care may be needed with less well-known organisers. However good the subject or the programme, potential event partners, sponsors, speakers and delegates might be advised to check the background and track record of the people or companies behind the event, and – especially with the emergence of social media feedback – perhaps review any online reviews (via blogs, Twitter, etc) there might be about previous events they have organised.

[This is a slightly expanded version of a blog post originally published on my PR blog.]

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