itSMF Slovakia: 2016 conference
I’ve just got home from being part of the itSMF Slovakia conference. I’m keen to document what a good event it was. So … that’s the first message – Tomas and his team did a great job, made the speakers welcome and sent away happy delegates at the end of the two days. T
hanks for that but I think it is worth a look in some more detail. Others may find a lesson or two worth learning?
Slovakia is a small country, and so has a small itSMF membership base. Nowhere is booming these days but around 100 paying delegates delivered a decent size audience, and crucially the organisers built an event matched to the delegate numbers and also built upon their knowledge of their members and what they want to hear and do.
Nice to present at …
Forgive me if I start a bit self-centredly, but I enjoyed the time in Slovakia immensely. The speakers were looked after, and made very welcome. And Bratislava is an impressive city, an old centre with enough buildings to admire but small enough to walk around comfortably.
The event was themed around the “Magnificent Seven” film, with cowboys, western hats and pretend six-shooters. I confess that such role-playing isn’t entirely my thing, but the organisers and speakers entered into the spirit and it provided a structure across the event. I forgave them for making me wear a hat indoors, even if that is a most un-British thing to do. But the practicality of that theme really worked – a variety of internationally gathered presenters covering a range of attitudes, knowledge and opinions to present a comprehensive view of ITSM today. Not too tightly focused as other conferences seem to try, but offering something for everyone.
First day was a single stream of presentations – that meant that we got to present to a full room of interested people – none of that nervous wait in the breakout room to see if anyone is going to come to your talk. It also helps in that you can build on previous talks knowing the audience also saw them.
I’ve been to events where no-one talks to you afterwards. I’ve been to others where you get major debates and discussions about every detail. Slovakia – for me anyway – hit that sweet spot between. I had many interesting talks with delegates, mostly exploring and progressing ideas from my talks – not arguing, not just agreeing but developing. No better kind of follow up is possible.
For those delegates who wanted to follow up after the broad series of presentations, the second day was all about workshops, with most of the presenters each delivering a workshop. I led one on ‘customer awareness’. While I had a list of things I could have talked about, I wanted it to reflect the attendees’ concerns and interests. And that’s what I got, there were about 20 of us and the conversation didn’t flag across the 90 minutes. I learned a lot, and I hope the others did too.
Matched to customer wishes
I think what I liked best about the event overall is that the organisers know their audience and set out to deliver something specific. The first day was a standalone offering. Unlike some other events it didn’t feel like a cut down version of something bigger. It was a one-day event with a balanced programme. No need for an expensive end of the day drinks event because many folks stayed on and networked afterwards. The catchment for the delegates was pretty much Bratislava based, and most go home afterwards, not stay in hotels. So customer knowledge means they realise an evening social event is not right for them.
The commitment to play out the western theme was reflected in the interest shown for serious ITSM gaming as presented by Christian and Peter in their presentations. In fact Christian relevantly quoted George Bernard Shaw on the topic “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing”. That seems to work well for the Slovakians.
Last thoughts on this year … and the first on next year
I had never been to Slovakia before, and was surprised by some things. The conference was 90% in English, and that seemed to cause no problems to anyone. Impressive secon
d language performances, better than I have seen before in Eastern Europe, up there on a level with the Dutch and Scandinavians – no higher praise. My personal embarrassment at a total absence of language skills makes me all the more appreciative of the those skills in others.
The scenery, food, wine and – especially for my tastes – Fabrika’s dark lager were captivating.
Mostly though it was the delegates made the event work – they laughed at the jokes, applauded the content, questioned, commented and developed the ideas put forward. The original spirit of itSMF is alive and well in Bratislava.
Thanks again to Tomas Hettych and his itSMF Slovakia team. You can see more details about the event here https://www.facebook.com/itsmfslovensko/?fref=ts. Get ready for next year – I am already trying to think up a reason they should invite me back.