The HR Juggler

Summit To Think About

Posted on: October 16, 2011

A terrible pun of a title, which I couldn’t resist. This week I attended the Human Resources Summit in Lisbon. I was filled with some trepidation before the event, particularly because of the dynamics of the set-up: suppliers pay to attend, which funds the flights and hotel accommodation of the delegates, who therefore attend for free. Not only that, but there were a series of half hour one-to-one meetings between practitioners and suppliers that were  tightly scheduled and mandatory. I approached the event with an open mind, but I really wasn’t sure it would be for me.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. I met some fantastic people and have come back with my head full of ideas, thoughts and plans.

What I enjoyed most was the networking, both with other senior HR people (there were around 50 in all from a wide variety of organisations) and with suppliers, who were (almost!) without fail engaging, interesting, thought-provoking and likeable. I didn’t manage to speak to everyone over the two days, but had stimulating and useful discussions with those that I did.

The key-note speaker on the first night was rather underwhelming, however the quality of conversation with other participants mostly compensated for this. I selected two strategy sessions in advance of the conference, which were both excellent. It was an extremely well organised summit, a beautiful and fortuitously sunny location and a genuinely engaging and enjoyable event.

And the dreaded one-to-one meetings with suppliers? Mostly fine. I rarely felt as if I was being sold to, was often very interested to hear what types of services they offered and got to know them as people in a reasonably relaxed environment. Whilst it wouldn’t be everyone’s choice to do that type of event, the suppliers were evenly split between those that were regulars at such summits and those who were trying it for the first time. The regulars felt that it was a good investment and that building relationships in this way with senior HR people was effective and bore commercial fruit over time.  Many of the ‘newbie’ suppliers were as anxious as the delegates about the ‘speed dating’ concept of selecting who to talk to in advance and were keen to interact and get to know others on an individual basis.

All in all, it was a good opportunity and one that I enjoyed. I even got to meet a couple of Twitter buddies for the first time, which was a highlight.  Something to think about further, for sure :).

7 Responses to "Summit To Think About"

Sounds interesting – we’re all human after all eh? The concept still feels somewhat forced to me, and like you say – not everyone’s choice. I’m pleased to read about your experience.

I frequently get the hard sell treatment from a company calling themselves trying to coerce me into paying to meet with potential buyers of my services, at one to one events similar to that which you describe. The last time they hassled me I allowed the sales pitch to develop to the point where they finally told me what ‘investment’ would be required. £14,000. Maybe I’m lacking entrepreneurial spirit on this one but that seems pretty steep to me. I note that the organiser of the HR Summit in Lisbon don’t publish their charges. Alison have you any idea what the suppliers you met paid to meet you?

Cheers – Doug

Thank Doug. Yes, I would hesitate to recommend it to everybody, as there is an element of quite intense networking, which wouldn’t suit all tastes. It may well also depend on the mix of individuals you get on any one event that determine how good the experience is.

The supplier payments were discussed fairly openly at the summit by the suppliers themeselves and it was clear that there were different packages on offer, depending on how many meetings you wanted to hold with delegates. The figure you quoted would be at the bottom end of the range and my impression is that there were higher packages that involved presentations, sponsorship of the event etc. In the interests of being balanced, the suppliers who had been to a summit style event before said that this was the best and most relaxed type of its kind, because of the organisation behind it, the fact that they had 30 minutes for each conversation with a delegate and the potential to build relationships. The ones that returned also said that it made commercial sense to them, because it would be impossible for them to get a similar number of meetings in such a short space of time with senior HR people and that they got a substantial amount of business from it, but rarely in the short-term.

That said, it is clearly a substantial amount of money and wouldn’t be for everyone. I found it quite a fascinating insight into how these things work really.

Most importantly Alison – I’m very pleased you have found a set up which seems to work, and I’m glad to read that fees etc were discussed openly, that’s encouraging in itself. I’ll keep my eye on the organisers as you never know it may be something I want to play with at some time…

I’m really glad you enjoyed the event and found it useful. And got to see Lisbon – bonus! I had the opposite experience recently. About 9 months ago I went to a similar event (for HR, L&D and OD), in London. It was a big disappointment. Show off speakers, aimless and poorly facilitated ‘strategy sessions’ at which people spoke but no one listened, pushy suppliers, and unhelpful organisers. I decided that life was too short to suffer and left and went back to work half way through. Oh, and it made me think how much Connecting HR Unconferences are the total opposite of this.
Sorry – that sounds like a proper whinge! in short, I guess these events vary in quality.

Not a whinge at all – makes me feel really glad that my experience was a positive one, but just goes to show they can be very variable. Thanks for commenting.

Hi Alison, glad you liked it and got value from it. did you ever do the Richmond Events? They were similar only on a cruise ship – the oriana and another whose name escapes me. I went as both a delegate one year and a few years later as a supplier. There were a lot more people then – several hundred HR folk. The networking was good and the partying… well all i can say was i was a bit shocked at how ordinary hr folk behaved!

As a supplier, we paid £25k. It was a lot of money. It works best for the product suppliers – software etc as they only need one deal for it to pay for itself. You also need a clear proposition.

How about we hold next years connectinghr in somewhere like lisbon, and organise speed supplier networking for the day before the unconference and charge suppliers £20k a pop?! 😉

[…] So, I took a couple of trips: one to New York with work, the other to Portugal for an HR Summit. Neither sounds remarkable in itself, but both were significant as I had never previously been […]

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