When our friends at TechSpark told us about the first Bristol Technology Festival, I made a snap decision to put on our own event. I wanted it to be an industry first in Bristol – bringing public sector tech innovation right to the front of the issues list. I get (and so do the other Mantosians) so fired up about making sure the work the tech community is doing to change the public services we rely on. I was compelled to make it happen, Field of Dreams (or, more likely for me, Wayne’s World 2) style. I’ll sum it up like this: industry firsts feel really good, once you’ve got them out there, but I shan’t lie, the build-up to them is tense! If you follow Mantis you’ll know that the event was very successful with an over-subscribed audience, a venerable panel of really, genuinely interesting public servants, business leaders and technologists. The discussion took in citizen need and engagement, procurement, frameworks and financing, regulation and social policy, and thankfully, not an ounce of political opinion. We NEARLY got away with not mentioning Brexit. We ran over by an hour, and the audience was full of questions. New contacts were made. We, as you’d expect, also made a few new connections with companies we’d love to work with. I thought, rather than focus on how wonderful our event was, it’d be more useful to pass on learnings. Why was it so successful?
- I didn’t have a set idea of my ideal panel. I treated the creation of the panel like a choose your own adventure game, using my contacts and my research to find folks that were connected by industry, but from different corners of it. My belief is that if you try and create a panel around one specific person or point of view, it won’t go as you plan it.
- I asked each panellist for a starter question. One of my new favourite questions to ask in meetings is ‘what haven’t I asked you that I should have?’ and I didn’t want anybody leaving the floor without having a chance to say exactly what they came to.
- We stayed vendor neutral. This panel was about public sector technology innovation and Mantis’ part in growing awareness of the work being done in our sector. We also chose not to have clients on the panel either, but invited all of them to come and join us at the debate. Those that did found it very informative, and not being on display gave them the chance to ask the panel more searching questions.
- We made sure the format could work again. Mantis is a public sector technology PR firm with ambition and a really solid set of industry connections. I wanted this Bristol Technology Festival event to be not just an industry first for our local market in the South West, but something that will be as relevant and interesting in other areas. So, watch this space.
People, businesses and Government are investing in public sector technology innovation, both financially and emotionally, across the South West region. It was a privilege to bring the community together for the first time last month. See you next year.