Saturday, 28 June 2014

The marvellous medieval Perfect Information Conference


It was a Tuesday evening in early May and I found myself at Coombe Abbey, as you do, being led down a dark corridor by a silent hooded monk. Candles flickered, casting eerie shadows across the tall imposing doors and thick walls. Sumptuous tapestries and velvet curtains muffled the sound of heels clattering across the stone floors as we were led towards our seats to be entertained and fed. The occasional 'huzzah' rang out as soup, chicken legs and salad were passed down the long wooden communal tables. Mead flowed freely. A couple, rather incongruously, practised their ballroom dancing as the rest of us tried to work out how to eat our medieval banquet minus cutlery.

Coombe Abbey

An interesting venue is just one of the selling points the Perfect Information conference is known for. It also has a reputation for a combination of friendly people and an interesting programme. So, I was thrilled to find out I had won the PI and SLA Europe award to attend and to deliver a workshop about a project I have been involved in at my place of work.

The conference consisted of about 100 people so was much smaller than conferences I had attended in the past. As a result of this it felt much more intimate and I found it easier to talk to and get to know people. To complement this, the conference was very interactive; there were plenty of activities to do, small workshops to attend and online software to ask questions and answer polls with.

While I was the only academic librarian there, I found all of the sessions I attended relevant as they focused on various types of communication skills, continuous improvement, leadership, big data - all very transferable and applicable skills and topics. Each one led to much debate and discussion.

I was informed in one session of how people are moving away from using major search engines like Google to more specific sites such as BBC Good Food and TripAdvisor, leading to a more personalised service and responsive design, and inevitably to services like Everything.Me which promise to deliver information "at the right place and at the right time".

In another, I learned about Neuro-Linguistic Programming and how aligning yourself with (but not mimicking) the person you are with can help create rapport and trust. I also became acquainted in a subsequent lecture with some more Japanese improvement terms (mura and muri)  to add to my collection - I'm a fan of Kaizen -  which relate to processes and how they can continually be enhanced.

This last lecture tied in quite nicely with my workshop, especially the sections on capturing the voice of the customer, continual improvements and communicating value. My workshop, delivered twice, focused on the work that my institution, Brunel University Library, has done so far in trying to achieve the Customer Service Excellence Standard and many of these themes overlapped. I was rather nervous to start off with but both groups really engaged and it led to many interesting conversations both during and after the workshop.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Perfect Information conference: it was a beautiful venue, contained a good mix of informative sessions and I met some lovely people there. I would like to thank those who gave me this opportunity and I would definitely recommend this conference to others.