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CIPD conference and exhibition review


CIPDIt's over, we finally got home (7 1/2 hours in traffic and rain, the weekend in warm baths), so it's time to take stock. Make sure you read our report on the Keynote Address, but meanwhile, here are some views we canvassed on the exhibition:

"I would rank this year's Harrogate show as one of the most balanced of the last few years - gone were the over-hyped stands we've seen in the past, and although there were still a number of large, extremely well put together stands in existence, there was a good balance of providers covering all aspects of HR, from employment law to employee benefits, stress management tools to payroll specialists."

"Training providers were well represented, with experiential learning, management development and team building making up the bulk of the services on offer. In the past, we've seen a lot of gimmicks on offer to draw people to stands, but this seemed to have been toned down considerably. A nice feature was the Software Showcase which provided a series of short sessions from providers on software issues - although it could have benefited from being located in a quieter position."

"The 'chill out' zone also seemed to go down well, with a number of delegates queuing up for massages during the show."

"As ever, an extremly well organised show which brings a whole 'HR village' together in Harrogate for three days each year. But a plea to some of those who organise the stands - please think carefully about how the stand is manned, and consider providing your representatives with some training before they go. There's an old video starring John Cleese which goes into the do's and don'ts of manning an exhibition stand which a number would do well to take in the lessons on offer. Among the things we noticed were representatives looking over their shoulders while talking, respresentatives who didn't listen and, on one stand which will remain nameless, the entire stand's representatives slouched on sofas deep in conversation with each other every time we walked past."

"A daunting sight at first: five halls of exhibitors, everything from financial services to vibrating chairs, including childcare vouchers, immigration advice, membership associations, software, public bodies and government departments, advertising and design providers, museums, every mode of personal development, ditto recruitment… Conference sessions on just about anything that can affect the working side of our lives, most of them insisting that EVERYTHING is changing faster than we realise. Which just goes to show how many directions HR has to face in! However, confusion was minimised by the ultra-professional organisation and management of the event.CIPD

"After three days discussing online HR outsourcing, managing in the white space, emotional intelligence, positive health services, interim solutions, human capital development management and the like, I can't summarise the show on a thematic level. So that leaves the scrounging. There were many entrants for the best confectionery, but after a very conscientious effort by the judges, the prize went to the French fancies turned out by the in-house chef at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds."

"Freebies were plentiful. Gee were very generous with the ever-popular monitor rear-view mirror (and some good mugs), there was a good selection of squeezy things (best in show: green pear from Penna). Karma Kids handed out mandarin-scented play dough, and there was a choice of yoyos (best: Warwick Conferences). Qwiz scored with the bouncy ball with motion-activated lights. Jupiter Advertising solved our overload problems by giving out natty silver shoulder bags for putting your swag in."

"Biros were as usual the favourite branded items, and we hope to have enough now to lose two per week at least until HRD 2003. It was difficult to pick out winners in such a crowded market, but for combined attractiveness and usability, Tomorrow’s People just about put a nose ahead. As the day wore on, the wine began to flow, and among many convivial exhibitors, Evans Roche and Reed were particularly hospitable to the weary and sore of foot. I was unable to try out the massages in the Chill Out, because they were always over-subscribed, but those lucky enough to experience them were impressed. And extremely relaxed. However, I can vouch for Hela’s extraordinary vibrating chair, which spirits away your tensions through movement and music. Difficult to describe, essential to try, and far more effective than you would imagine a machine to be."

"The size of the CIPD annual conference and exhibition amazed me, 5 halls crammed to bursting with the creme de la creme of the HR, recruitment and training vendors is always a daunting prospect but this year it seemed subtly different. Gone were the gargantuan e-learning stands with their million and one demonstration screens and the fresh coffee, ice cream etc that we have come to associate with them, and in their place were more moderate but equally intriguing vendors."

"After the first recce it became apparent that the number of free pens was going to far outweigh the koosh balls and the discerning amongst us had already made comprehensive notes on who was supplying or handing out reasonable quality wine. Another tour of duty had the CIPD yellow bag at the point of bursting with the best of the freebies, and the ocassional piece of literature lending me the appearance of a peruvian sherpa for the rest of the day as I tirelessly lugged the hoard around for a third time."


"In terms of impact I found the majority of the stands deeply uninspiring, there was little innovation in their build or appearance.....and then I discovered Funeralcare, tucked away in the ghetto of hall Q with their blue and white painted coffin. My first thought was why???? but then I realised that if you go to Harrogate for 3 days you are more than willing to pay for someone to bury you and preferably as soon as possible."

And finally, one slightly tongue-in-cheek response:

"Why Harrogate? What is there that inspires the CIPD to drag us southerners that far north? Surely it cannot be the solitary appeal of Betty's tea shop, is there nowhere closer that could accomodate the movers and shakers within HRD in the UK while still providing home cooked food and handmade chocolate? Harrogate, it has to be said, is a beautiful town and the kind of place we all aspire to retire to... and I think that's where the problem begins.
Harrogate is great if your idea of a relaxing evening is acquiring a blue rinse and walking your whippet, but if you are looking for an enjoyable evening out on the town then you may as well jump on a train for Leeds. Despite our best efforts in the local drinking establishments to instill some kind of 70's retro dance craze we had to resort to trudging into Carringtons in order to find somthing in Harrogate that after 10pm still had a pulse. All in all the conference/exhibition was a great success and after considering this I was drawn to an inveitable conclusion. Had the CIPD held this in any other conference venue then we may have been tempted to 'explore' the local shopping mall or 'sample' the local ale. By holding it in the retirement capital of europe they ensure that even the most hardened shopper/drinker is forced to seek refuge with like minded people if only to remain sane."

What did you make of CIPD in Harrogate this year? Post your comments below.


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