Public sector skills conference | No X Factor

This morning’s papers were reeling with whether or not Britney Spears’ performance on The X Factor was the comeback she’d hoped for. Her miming clearly put fans off despite a raunchy dance set. While I don’t usually compare Saturday night TV to public sector skills conferences, I think on this occasion there are some stark similarities in how each was received.

As I arrive at the Public Sector Skills Conference in London‘s QEII conference centre, it struck me this was not going to be the ‘buzziest’ event of the year. The auditorium was half empty – did they not sell enough tickets? Nor was there any blaring video or music to kick-start the speakers’ presentations. Patronising though this can be, it seemed a little odd and low-key without it.

More importantly this lunchtime, after talking to several delegates at the event, it has all become clear to me what this conference is lacking: the X factor. I begin overhearing chants of how the audience had been let down by the presentations so far and weren’t enticed by what they saw. The main content lacked imagination:

1. The breakout sessions were ”too vague” according to one delegate, and “not juicy enough” according to another.

2. Even as I write this I overhear one unlucky delgate on the phone to his office. Quote on quote, he says: “It’s so boring you just want to peel your face off.”

3. Another guy I met in the incredibly long lunch queue just now. He tells me he has never been on a London Underground tube before. Heck, this is more interesting than the conference itself. How can you be about 40 years old and not have been on the tube?

4. The fact I got diverted about whether or not it’s strange not to have taken tube journeys before says it all.


Sound familiar? Then write in with your conference anecdotes – what makes a good or bad conference from your point of view?

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