It’s 23 years since my first and last visit to the CIPD Annual Conference. I was a student member last time around – 1992 – and had a great time. Older and maybe wiser this time, I still found much to savour and enjoy in my one hectic experience of Day 2.
On the way back to York, where I was staying, I reflected on the fact that at my last CIPD Conference there was no internet, no Twitter, no email, no Facebook , no mobile phones etc etc. And yet what really endured from that conference back in the early 1990s, and this one last week, was presentation and the spoken word. In 1992, I was bowled over by Rosabeth Moss Kanter ‘s long and eloquent closing keynote and the chairing prowess of Peter Hobday.
Last week, I was impressed by all the speakers and the leadership of Peter Cheese. Working backwards, in her keynote closing address, Herminia Ibarra was incredibly humorous and self-deprecatory, while encouraging us all to be brave and escape our comfort zones. Paul Matthews made me rethink what capability is all about. Linda Kennedy McCarthy bestowed some hard-won wisdom on how to have influence in HR and demonstrated right in front of us that you can be both tough and empathetic. She could probably sell hot soup in a heatwave.
I think the session on Diversity and Inclusion would have worked better as smaller workshops, but I admired Stephen Frost’s chairing skills – and his stripy socks.
My gong has to go to Dave Coplin of Microsoft (a company whose products frequently frustrate me I might add). He was engaging, funny, informative, profound and quite brilliant. What was he telling us? In essence, do not be a slave to technology. Turn the damn thing off (phone, tablet, computer) and live in the moment. We have the tools but it’s up to us to use them effectively.
Now, just as in 1992, there is no substitute for high quality face-to-face communication.