Friday, 7 November 2014

An Experience of the BCI World Event

I’ve had a really interesting few days at the Business Continuity Institute’s Annual World Event and I wanted to share the experience with those who perhaps haven’t had the opportunity in their careers as of yet to attend. This is my very first visit after missing out the previous year due to an unforeseen major incident at work – nature of the job.

As ever, the views that I’ve chosen to share on here are purely based on my own experience and you may well receive differing accounts for my colleagues and peers (I know I have heard several different views in recent years). I hope to shed some light on this mass gathering event of like-minded professionals and ultimately encourage my peers to get involved.

It’s such an interesting dynamic. The lift doors open and I could already see an eager student firing out his CV to the various stands, and exhibitors presenting to business leads and a sea of consultants keeping one friendly eye on their competitors/associates. However, it’s all very positive, relaxed and friendly.

To set the scene, once a year professionals from around the world, who have an interest in business continuity (and beyond), gather at the BCI Annual Global Event. It runs over a couple of days to which there are various events and activities that you can choose to participate in.

The BCI Annual General Meeting

This year, on the first evening, the BCI held their AGM meeting. For those of you who have a membership you will be able to register for free and attend the event. As you would expect there is a set agenda with the Board as well as an opportunity for support and challenge with attendees. This was followed by an evening of networking at a nearby venue for registered delegates (meaning if you haven’t signed up and paid for the full event you can register to attend).

Unfortunately I was unable to attend so I won’t be able to give you a full account of what actually happens but I imagine it won’t be too dissimilar from other AGMs you might have attended.

The BCI World Exhibition

The exhibition is free to register for and is hosted in a large conference-style room. It’s basically a room full of business continuity professionals and providers, broken in to their own dedicated pods. You can walk from team to team and introduce yourself and see what the latest products are on offer. Also, for those who aren’t aware yet, the BC world is incredibly small and so you’ll soon find that this event presents an ideal opportunity for peers to catch up, sometimes the only chance since the previous year!

There are lots of things going on here and my advice is to go and speak to these people. Ask them about their business and products. The main reason being is that you could one day be in the position where your boss has a budget for BC and you haven’t got a clue about the current solutions out there.

From a personal point of view I really enjoyed walking through the stands. At each stand, the people you meet are, in the main, sales people and so as you would expect they’re approachable and personable. I did wonder at the start just how forthcoming they might be if someone who clearly had no interest in buying decided to turn up and start making small talk. However, from what I could see, they were all willing to stand and discuss all sorts of things and not just new business.

This free event is a learning curve in itself. I honestly thought I was clued up on what was out there but I clearly wasn’t. Next year definitely go and see them! Besides, above everything else they bestow lots of freebies so surely its win-win?

The BCI World Conference

Well this is a little unfair to explain at length because I didn’t actually attend the conference but I did receive a wide array of feedback about the layout, choice and standard of speaker.

This takes place in the same venue as the exhibition but in closed away auditoriums with presentations delivered by a plethora of speakers. There were about 3 rooms from what I could see. The BCI offered such a wide range of topics on an almost hourly basis it would have been hard to choose which room to go to! They covered all sorts of stuff from cyber security to Ebola and it was really varied and interesting from what I can gather. Incidentally, if you have any specific BC expertise or perhaps any strong held views on the subject they invite professionals to submit papers to present at these sessions so it might be worth considering the application next year!

In terms of feedback I heard some funny stuff from the delegates as they left the rooms for lunch on both days. The usual response to my asking how it went was usually “that one presenter was awful but the other one was fab”. I really think it’s down to personal choice and interest.

The Gala Evening and Awards Event

After the first day of the exhibition and conference there is an evening event that you can attend labelled as the BCI Global Gala Awards Night. This year it was at the National Science Museum in London which was utterly gorgeous but this isn’t a tourism blog so I won’t go on!

This black-tie event starts with a drinks reception where people mingle for about 45 minutes to an hour before finding their way to table for a 3 course meal. In the middle of this they present both the honorary memberships and achievement awards. They have the Chairmen of the BCI and the representative sponsors up on the stage giving them out.

We also had some light entertainment in the form of the singing waiters who worked the room signing opera and dancing with some of the audience. It was all good fun!

I have to say at this point that as an advocate of social media, the BCI were rapid on their tweets during the night in relation to who won and what was happening. It was really impressive this year to see such a strong online presence by them so well done if you read this!

I actually attended this event and I usually can’t stand theses forced environments but I have to be honest everyone was very relaxed and friendly and it presented the perfect to opportunity to meet new contacts. I really do recommend it. Naturally if you stand in the corner and don’t engage you won’t get the full experience but I’m not one for being shy!

Overall, the event was a positive experience but I suspect it was more enjoyed by those who perhaps already have close relationships with other that attended. As a junior professional these kind of things take time to develop so don’t wait around, even if you’re shy try your best to get involved and talking.

Summary

The only thing I would have added to this experience was perhaps a speed networking event to maximise the potential engagement. After the two days even someone as open as me still had people on the list I wanted to meet but didn’t get the chance. Not everyone is as forthcoming and they could use this opportunity as an ideal icebreaker. Maybe next year they can run one of these in the first day as one of the seminars? It’s just an idea.

I just wanted to make a final point on my BCI World experience. Over a year ago I wrote a somewhat scathing piece about the “old guard” and made sweeping statements about some of people that are are in the industry. However, on reflection I think the purpose of this blog is to demonstrate learning and development and a key lesson for me here is this experience has shown me that I was unfair to make those statements. Following that particular submission I was inundated with offers of support from senior colleagues but also this event has showed me that my encounters represent only a minority of colleagues. There are lots of supportive good people out there in the industry. Don’t get me wrong, like in every in every industry, we have our fair share of “personalities”, but I was astounded by how many thoroughly interesting people I engaged with.

But all in all it was a very useful experience. Well done to all involved and see you next year!

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