The CPO Event – and our first conference ratings!

Last week saw the latest “CPO Event”, held at the Park Inn, Heathrow. We’ll give an overview today, and introduce our new event scoring system, and we may come back to some individual sessions in the near future.

The format is an interesting one. Invitees are generally senior, certainly there were many CPOs plus a few “second tier” executives from larger organisations. The mix was probably 80% private sector, and 60% UK based, with around 100 delegates registered (although there weren’t more than about 50 in any session I attended).  The event is free to delegates, but in return they agree to a handful of scheduled meetings with the sponsoring firms – largely software (e.g. Coupa), consulting / research (e.g. Smart Cube) or payments (both Mastercard and Visa were major sponsors).

So there is no “exhibition” area, just presentation sessions and a meeting room for the supplier / delegate one to ones. Delegates appeared to be participating in the right spirit – there were few no-shows – and the sponsors I spoke to were pleased with the discussions. Clearly, they’re not looking to make an immediate sale in 30 minutes, but they felt the opportunity for a chat with some senior people was valuable.

The content was, as usual for such events, a bit of a mixed bag. There weren’t many sponsor speeches but I was slightly disappointed at the Visa and Mastercard presentations  because they seemed a little basic to me. But then I was personally an early adopter of Purchasing Cards, so perhaps I wasn’t the target audience. And to be fair, at least one very senior CPO commented that the “virtual card” concept was new to her, so maybe it was pitched at the right level for the general audience.

The practitioner presentations were generally in the good – excellent range. It was good to hear people with the seniority and insight of Detlef Schultz of Vodafone and Thibaut Eissautier of Diageo, whilst Jim Reed’s passionate explanation of why outsourcing goes wrong was a highlight. Clive Rees explaining with great honesty how he is making progress in an organisation (Ladbrokes) where procurement is still establishing itself was another good session, even if I didn’t get the free bet he offered us!

So, on to our rating. We’ll use a 0-5 scale that many of you will be familiar with from tender evaluation methodologies – where 3 is acceptable with minor issues, 4 is fully meets needs, 5 is excellent with real added value and so on. We’ve come up with 6 evaluation factors.

Venue and comfort – what was the experience like in terms of pleasant surroundings, decent food, accessibility, etc?

Format – how did the overall format of the event meet the delegates’ needs and provide a useful and stimulating experience?

Content – how strong, useful, interesting and innovative was the content provided to delegates?

Networking – how good was the opportunity to network, principally with peers but also (to a lesser extent) with sponsors?

Overall value for money (delegates)?

Overall value for money (sponsors )?

And here is the rating for the CPO event.

Venue and comfort  ★★★

Ironically, Heathrow is a better venue if you’re flying in than if you’re driving from somewhere closer! Marks lost because the Park Inn is pretty soulless and functional, traffic and car parking was a bit of a nightmare for some delegates. But the conference area was pleasant, snacks and lunch were OK, and although I couldn’t stay for the dinner, I heard it was good.

Format  ★★★

Whilst the presentations were generally good, it would have been better I feel to have used some alternatives formats at times. It was very much “chalk and talk”, plus a couple of panel discussions. What about some round tables? Debates? Some pre-event research / surveys perhaps?  Overall, not bad, but a bit more variation would I think improve the event.

Content  ★★★★

Generally good presentations, from some serious people, and I think any CPO would get a decent number of insights and action points from the event.

Networking  ★★★★

The layout facilitated good networking, with a large and pleasant communal  area and decent time allowed between sessions and for breaks. The general senior level of people meant delegates seemed pretty relaxed about talking to fellow attendees.

Overall value for money (delegates)  ★★★★

Free to delegates, but of course there is still travel and opportunity cost! I think most would feel it was well worthwhile.

Overall value for money (sponsors ) ★★★★★

I don’t know what they paid so can’t be sure on this, but the reaction I got from my small sample of sponsors was very positive!

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