HRD Exhibition 2009

I spent an enjoyable and full-on day at the London ExCeL this Wednesday for the CIPD 2009 HRD Exhibition and Conference. I was researching others working with stress, team building and leadership and visiting friends at the training exhibition.

There was plenty of what I’d call “old business” on show – dull stands using boring big words and people impersonating David Brent or US-style positive thinking gurus. Authenticity, “Conscious Business” or “Human Business” involving moving beyond adversarial models is still far from the norm. I listened to one presenter talk about negotiation who said he didn’t believe in “win-win” and used the word “opponent” a dozen times. He’s not my opponent, I don’t believe his world-view will result in anyone “winning” or that it’s what’s needed to get us out of the current mess. Just a fervent prayer…

Good Training Stuff Wot I Like

Happily there was also some really good stuff around. I spent some of the day helping out my friends at Because It’s There who’s photos of executives up mountains and space hoppers got people’s attention (pictured above)! Leadership IS NOT a PowerPoint presentation and these guys get that taking people to their edge. Equally colourful were Best Stand Award winners Sundial who host and lead team building events. The bus pictured went around Europe with the founder, her family and a donkey in apparently.

I was drawn to sustainable business experts Impact, Just Add Water who had a creative stand and have a equally nice website, Steps Drama – something I’m exploring myself this year, Blue Beetle who have some great branding and turn training cliches on their heads for a ironic British market. See this advert from their site for example:

Get Rubbish Training Now!
Experts in Rubbish Training. All sorts of rubbish training available. Visit…

Stress Management Training

A stress training competitor I respect In Equilibrium was present, The Healthy Working Partnership have a nice feel to them and it seems the Samaritans have gone corporate as well, to help people with the current pressure. They’re heroes as far as I’m concerned and I wish them well….Did I just use the word competitor…I don’t really believe in competitors to be honest which is probably why I enjoyed chatting with the exhibitors and wont be needing the Samaritans myself (financially and emotionally OK for now) My take is that if you have a unique offer you don’t have competitors. If you don’t…why bother. I didn’t see anyone else putting an embodied training approach front and centre.

Team Building Training

In regards to team building Mind Adrenaline have some inventive activities ranging from graffiti sessions, to The Apprentice mock-ups to “Saarcki and Saarcki” media simulations. MTa International showed me some colorful experiential training materials that are worth a look. There were also several groups there doing foodie cooking as team building – thanks Food at Work Ltd for the chocolate 🙂 as well as some corporate drumming specialists.

Fellow Brightonians Cactus were the only other Sussex training company I saw though I may have missed others.

Business Psychometric Testing

Having a psychology background myself it was intersting to look at the array of tests and assessments available there. The Belbin work is always a winner (being a “plant”/”shaper” I immediately renamed this category on hearing about it) and reminds me of what I saw working in outdoor education team building. The video below doesn;t have great production values but will give you an idea if new to it. The PCl business psychologists and Paradigm Psychometric guys also had some interesting tools. The “somatic assessments” my training company does looking at people’s bodies and movement would be a great support and addition to these methods.

Training Trends

I chatted with quite a few people and it all agreed that visitor numbers and overall sales were down but a greater proportion of those there were buying – especially in the public sector which at least for now still has some money. I saw more hard selling “business as usual” than I would have liked, maybe the recession hasn’t bit hard enough yet to make people look at their paradigm and shift to something that’s better for business and everyone else. Old business is broken guys, wake up!

So what was the buzz about this year? “Capacity building” was a phrase I heard a number of times. Asking “How exactly do you change a culture?” seemed also popular and Sir John Whitmore’s impassioned speech on how courageous coaching is a necessity in these troubles times was well received. I didn’t see everything as was only there for a day and as ever other views and comments are very welcome.

I enjoyed the event and recommend it to anyone buying or selling training. The venue was pretty average but workable. I certainly met some great people doing interesting work. For me what was apparent is that the training world is just beginning to respond to the economic and wider situation, and I hope this adaptation continues. As a trainer it’s tempting to pretend to have all the answers, what might be needed however now, is for the HRD world to admit and be OK with not knowing the answers for a while. Or is that me not not-knowing?


Training So What: Some good stuff but room for improvement on the whole
Personal So What: Proud to be in the growing 10% working with authenticity, body, heart and spirit. But then everyone thinks they’re the leading edge 🙂