On being a conference director

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Conference Director Aprill Allen reflects on her role and her perspective on the itSMF conference experience. Find out more about Aprill and the conference committee here.

 

 

It seems fitting that five years after I became a member of the Australian IT Service Management Forum, I’ll be attending my sixth national conference, this time as the National Events Director.

My first introduction to the itSMF was as a White Paper of the Year nominee for the 2011 conference in Perth. I knew little about the organisation and knew nothing about service management and the frameworks our members rely on to make a difference in the workplace. I’ve since certified in ITIL Foundation and Knowledge Centred Support Principles. I still don’t know much about Cobit, but there’s always something to learn! As a first-time delegate back then, my most memorable experience—even better than accepting the award—was having long-time members introduce themselves to me and connect me with others who have ended up becoming mentors, advisors, respected colleagues and firm friends.

Our conference has evolved over the years to cope with changing economic pressures and the emerging interests of our valuable community of members and sponsors. Last year’s conference, in Sydney, saw the introduction of a new member-driven review process for speaker submissions. It produced a successful program that captured the interests of local and international delegates and inspired new vendors to become active participants in our community.

I stepped into the conference director role for 2016, after Kathryn Heaton’s significant contribution to every Australian itSMF conference I’ve been to, and wondered how I could possibly make my mark after the somewhat radical changes of last year. So I did what every self-respecting marketing-oriented communicator does: I set a left-of-field theme, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best. When I opened them, at our face-to-face programming meeting last month, I was ecstatic to find that our hopeful speakers had understood the brief and grabbed it with both hands. This year, we have a range of submissions that will surely Shake I.T. Up.

We’ve also overhauled our industry awards to align them with the changes we’ve witnessed in the field. Instead of the White Paper of the Year, we now recognise a Thought Leader of the Year, and instead of Service Desk Project of the Year, we now have the ITSM Capability of the Year—opening up our awards to recognise achievement in problem management, change management, knowledge management, service design and more, right across the enterprise. And our changes to the nomination process have removed some of the red tape and barriers that made a lot of extra work for our members wanting to participate.

So, I haven’t had my eyes closed the whole time. Our five-person conference committee has been meeting fortnightly over the phone, since October, to work through keynotes and invited speaker selection, curate ideas for speaker panels, navigate budget considerations, discuss new content and exhibit proposals, work through questions about sponsorship and programming, and more. Until a few weeks ago, I’d been thinking this National Events Director caper was pretty cruisy. Our small committee has been very effective, and our national office and event managers have been an efficient team in managing logistics and a myriad of ideas. To be honest, I wondered where this workload was that my colleagues on the Board of Directors had referred to. Well, now I know.

Conference planning really steps up about 8 weeks out from conference. There are at least half-a-dozen emails flying around most days—tweaks to messaging, attending to finer details of panels, working through the possibilities of late additions to the program, scouting for award candidates and reviewing nominations, honing in on the details of social events, and other exciting trimmings that contribute to the all-important vibe of community in service management that we all enjoy and appreciate so much as volunteers and industry professionals.

I’ve been privileged to see the itSMF conference machine from several different perspectives over these past five years, and now into my sixth. In no time, we will all be in Brisbane, enjoying the camaraderie of a nation-wide community of service management consultants, vendors, practitioners and IT leaders. I look forward to learning more about our field, reaffirming long-time bonds, and building brand new connections in a few short weeks. Maybe you could nominate one of your service management peers. 😉