This time last year, I wrote a blog for newbies going to the NHS Confederation Conference. I decided to do an update for #Confed2016.
These are my top ten tips for having a fruitful time. By the way, you don’t have to be going to Manchester to make use of it 😉
- Don’t try to see and do everything. Be choosy. Treat the conference like a festival. By all means tweet about what you hear. But do also give the events you choose to attend your undivided attention.
- If you only seek out sessions and speakers to confirm your views, you will waste time and money. Arrive with an open mind. Ask questions. And be prepared to learn new things and to unlearn old ones.
- Some people need no encouragement to network. But if you aren’t confident about bounding up to someone you admire with an outstretched paw, don’t worry. Practice saying #HelloMyNameIs to people who look like you feel – perhaps a bit lost or lonely. And remember what Dale Carnegie said: You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.
- Dress for style AND comfort. These are not mutually exclusive.
- Never forget you are at work. Stay out late if you must. But if someone makes you an offer you feel you cannot refuse, say No. And mean it. What goes on at conference does NOT stay at conference.
- Take breaks. Go for a walk. Have a rest in your room. Do shopping or emails or visit the Lowrie. Drink coffee.
- At the same time, stay focused on why you are there. The NHS is in a bad way. It is not only being slowly starved of cash. Services are overwhelmed because current methods of doing things are unfit to meet the demands of so many people with multiple problems. We need leaders like you to find two or three changes that will make the most difference. And to devote their careers to making these things happen.
- Remember that innovation is as much about stopping things as starting them. That there are no quick fixes. And that culture eats strategy for breakfast*.
- You will meet folk having a hard time. Please don’t avoid them. Despite all the talk about compassion, our beloved NHS has become less compassionate. There is too much focus on inspection, compliance and performance. And insufficient attention paid to recovery, renewal and support. Please spend time with people working in very tough places. Listen if they seem angry or frightened. One day, this could be you.
- Take a look around you. Notice the top of the NHS. How very white and very male it is, despite the NHS workforce being 70% female and 20% BME. Ask yourself why this is so. And if you think it matters, do your bit to help to change it.
I’ve been to a few conferences. And been inspired. I hope you will be too. Have a wonderful time xxx
*This was never actually said by Peter Drucker or Edgar Schein, to both of whom it has been attributed. But it was what they meant. Sort-of.