CIPS Dinner – Disco Lighting, Past Presidents’ Selfies and Cigarettes for Gunmen

Last night's CIPS dinner was held in a new venue for most of us - the Grand on Northumberland Avenue, just off Trafalgar Square. It used to be a hotel apparently many years ago, then was not for some time, but has been restored to former glories. The bar for drinks was a bit "disco" for my taste, with interesting red lighting, but the dining room used for the event was beautiful and perfect for the 300 guests.

CIPS dinner2The food was very good, service was excellent, President Richard Masser gave a very good introductory speech, playing on the fact that he is pretty much the first real entrepreneur CIPS has had as President, and the after dinner speaker wasn't bad either (more later).  There were quite a few past presidents there - CIPS  is now inviting us to the dinner rather than a separate event, which made for some interesting photos!

My one criticism of the location (which overall scored 8/10) would be that the staff were a little officious in chasing us out at midnight - when a group has spent (I'm guessing) some £30K with you, maybe a few minutes slack on the timing would go down well ... and in the big Park Lane hotels, there is usually another bar we can retire to after the midnight hour! Not here, apparently.

In broader terms, it feels a bit like the CIPS dinner has gone full circle. When I first attended, 20 years ago or more, it was very much the Institute's dinner - for members and friends. It then became bigger but very corporate, with lots of supply-side firms taking tables for corporate hospitality - and some practitioners. But much of that corporate business has gone to the SM Awards dinner - and Procurement Leaders and others - so this event is now very heavily populated by CIPS tables, past Presidents, Fellows and so on, plus the sponsors.

That's not a bad thing necessarily - the networking for many of us was excellent. As I say, an extension to 1 am next year might be appreciated. There were still deep conversations going on as we got thrown out. But we caught up with lots of friends and got ideas for future articles, from collaboration in London local authorities to modern slavery. GEP were a lead sponsor - it was good to finally meet Al Giradi from the firm too, as they look to make waves in the UK with their consulting / software / managed services offering.

One other suggestion - I know name badges are not really a posh dinner thing, but gosh, they would be useful for those of us who struggle with names.  All these people I do know but can't quite remember the names and companies ...

LevinsonFinally, back to our speaker, the unfeasibly handsome Levison Wood.  He was remarkably self-effacing given his achievements, and talking to him briefly he came across as a genuinely nice guy (as well as tough, smart, etc.) So one key tip from him - if you are travelling in dangerous territories, take cigarettes - "gunmen in Africa all smoke and offering them a cigarette defuses the tension" he said. That was based on personal experience too, and a good lesson for procurement people there, we suspect. Or maybe not.

Anyway, thanks to CIPS for our invite and a very enjoyable evening. If the Sainsbury's delivery lorry across the road from my hotel would just shut up (I am writing this at 1.18am) I might even get some sleep.

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