Going back a few years, me and the CIPD, we didn’t used to talk that much. I’ve been a member for around 15 years I reckon and the only time I ever really connected with them was when I was doing my exams. A long time ago… It takes two to tango so I’m by no means putting the blame at their door for this distant relationship – we kept our respective sides of the bargain: I paid my subs, they sent me People Management.
All that changed a couple of years ago. I started to join in. I participated in webinars; I joined the Hackathon; as my Twitter chops developed, I live tweeted events, joined debates and got stuck in. This coincided with what felt – from the outside anyway – like a seismic shift in the CIPD itself. I’m not close enough to know – or want to know – what changed (though a change in personnel at the top often brings about big focus changes) but suddenly I felt that the CIPD had stopped just broadcasting and started engaging.
Against that backdrop, I attended my first ever Annual Conference last year. I remembered reading accounts of the Harrogate conferences in People Management and wondering who the hell went to such events as I’d never met anyone who did. But then I was a standalone HR Manager at the time!
So last year I arrived at Manchester Central without really knowing what to expect from the experience but armed with the knowledge that there would be a bunch of people I’d recognise via Twitter if nothing else. You can revisit my immediate thoughts about it at the time here.
I had free Exhibition tickets so I didn’t attend the set piece sessions but I had some useful product demonstrations and some wandering time around the conference. I caught up with a few familiar faces in real life for the first time. I hung out on the fringes of some of the many free sessions around the floor and heard some interesting stuff. I even got dragged up to speak at one by the inimitable Perry Timms (to talk about my experience of the Hackathon), who later memorably “hacked” the session by using the walls as his whiteboard… I chatted with CIPD staff and even bumped into Peter Cheese. Not bad for a first-timer!
All this is why I’m over the moon to have been asked by the CIPD to live tweet and blog this year’s conference. I have higher expectations this year so I’m going to be harder to please but I’m hugely looking forwards to it.
If you’re on the fence or not sure what value you’ll get from it – like me last year – I’d say you won’t know unless you give it a try. Come along. Chat to some people. We’re all in a broadly similar line of work; we’ve all got stuff in common. At the very least, you’ll go away with some free pens and maybe even a mug!
If you do come along, keep an eye out for me wandering about and please do stop me and say “hi”. I think that’s what they mean when they talk about “networking”, right?