This year’s ISM was a tale of two groups: providers (attending to meet potential customers and man the conference booths) and practitioners. Aside from the venue, I would say that the practitioner feedback from those I spoke with was universally positive. The break-out “track” sessions were above average with better quality control than I’ve seen at ISM before (the only negative feedback I heard was not being able to get into rooms at the start of talks because they filled up and closed before). My own session started five minutes early because the room was at capacity, and this was not uncommon for others.
The keynotes, which included energy mogul and free market comedian T. Boone Pickens and Moody’s Chief Economist Mark Zandi, were enjoyed by nearly all I spoke with (except those that were offended by Pickens’ personal stories and humor which did not portray President Obama in the best light). Still, most attendees loved Pickens, and the calculated decision to have him speak worked in ISM’s favor in the end, at least from my vantage point. ISM’s Tom Derry did an exceptional job on the Q&A side with Pickens and steered him away from the most politically sensitive areas (though Pickens humor did still come through at points).
The provider impressions were a bit different (at least from the sampling of people that I spoke with). Even though the attendance was up this year, a number were not as happy with the foot traffic and level of attendees making their way through the floor area compared with 2013. Still, the relative low cost of coming to the event brings out providers in droves, and a number I spoke with brought up the “bargain” cost relative to Procurement Leaders, ProcureCon, and others. This also has the effect of bringing out new providers who would not otherwise attend conferences. Of course these were early impressions based on a sampling from the first night (the conference runs through today), but they’re worth noting nonetheless.
With better planning based on a local venue for the 2015 event (it will be held in Phoenix – ISM’s back yard), I have no doubt some of the vendor concerns over the floor traffic will be addressed. As for everything else, especially from a practitioner perspective? More of the same, please.