This week I attended the JISC Conference in Edinburgh for the first time as a delegate instead as a member of the organising team. The JISC Conference was a big annual landmark for me throughout my time at JISC and it was never exactly what you would call a fun experience for me – its a great place to showcase new ideas and to push things forward but it is also more than a little stressful and extremely hard work (a fact that more people seem to dismiss each year – alot of people seem to believe in the event fairies who magically make 800 people conferences magically appear!)
So anyway this year was stress free and an interesting experience. I was given a fresh perspective in my role as a delegate and while I admit I did get a bit more involved in the pre and post event team activities than the average delegate I did for the most part keep out of things.
There were alot of big pluses this year so I’ll just run through my highlights;
- the JISC stand – a really, really ambitious design that Greg and the team pulled off flawlessly – certainly more ambitious than would have got approved by me – and all the better for it
- the venue itself – the EICC was streets ahead of Birmingham – the staff are nicer, the wifi is better and the rooms are more suitable. Even the exhibition area that I had long had doubts about worked out.
- the additional online activities this year – the quality of the streaming was fantastic, the twitter backchannel was busy, having bloggers cover the event with both text and audio was great as was the recording of every single session.
- the closing keynote – Ewan McIntosh is a great speaker who has a well practised style and for the most part shares a pretty similar world view as myself – particularly around the power of the web to shake things up. He laid down some home truths in a way much of the audience wasn’t used to. Great stuff.
- the delegates – there was a real buzz around this event and there seemed to be alot of fresh faces. The problem with having the event in Birmingham fours (five?) years straight was that it got a little stale – this move gave the whole thing a shot in the arm.
I quite enjoyed the opening keynote but felt that while she was a compelling speaker she didn’t really balance her talk for the audience – much of the stuff in the final third of her talk seemed the most interesting to the JISC crowd and that stuff felt a little rushed. That said it woke people up and was genuinelly interesting (though she was certainly quite the self-promoter!). The new chair Tim O’Shea was quite a departure from Sir Ron as well – certainly more of an IT guy which I imagine means no more jokes about not being able to use Powerpoint!!
I got to catch up with a load of people who I hadn’t seen in a while and can see why so many people see it as a primarily networking event. For every person I caught up with there were 2 I would have liked to.
All-in-all a great experience and as I managed to tie it into a fun weekend in Dumfries and a good couple of drink-ups in Edinburgh I’m pleased I made the effort..
Congrats to Robert, Greg, Grace, Georgia, Amy, Hector, Kerry et al a really impressive achievement.