The Inaugural ACCBE experience

So here is the thing with conferences that claim to be for Africans and Caribbeans. It quite often doesn’t please everybody. Some Caribbeans felt that it was too African despite the programme reflecting otherwise. I thought we were all meant to be African but I guess not. I have my own set of complaints (air conditioning, random security issues at the door, lack of lunch or even water etc) but there are some that I think are more general. I think we can all agree that the white wine at the Women’s networking event was truly dire though, right?

As an inaugural event it has a few things to work on before winning the customer over but it certainly was the ideal place for those that are thinking of going “home” or doing business with Africa or Caribbeans outside of the UK. The focus on finance was strong.

But back to the things they could do better. First of all ACCBE wasn’t that well publicised. I heard about it through word of mouth but was surprised that as an organiser of a black network I hadn’t been informed.  I contacted them about a press pass and got it. Yes it was a free event but I wanted access all areas.

It was at the Grovesnor House Hotel on Park Lane. A lovely venue but little to no reception in the basement unless you were on O2 (yay me) or Vodaphone. For the T mobile and 3Gs it was going to be a long 4 days. For those that wanted to profile their online businesses, this was not for them.

Hyde Park was also the home of the Olympic triathlon so on one day a 40 minute journey took double the time. I guess the organisers weren’t to know that there was a small event like the Olympics on during that time? I was pleased for the central London venue for once but given that lunch wasn’t on offer it was a good walk to Selfridges for a proper lunch. Then another security check. No water allowed in the building apparently. What a nuisance.

I got there on day one and saw a sign to the Media Hub. Great, I would grab a pack and read it later.  This turned out to be 2 long tables with table cloths and nothing else. No press pack, press release or even someone there to answer questions or arrange interviews. I get it. We were going guerrilla on this one.

The seminars varied in quality. We were spoiled by the presence of Henry Bonsu who was a proper facilitator of the panel discussions. Sadly it wasn’t as consistent for the rest of the week. By Thursday I had lost the will to live. They had some good speakers including government officials from the UK and the Caribbean. African speakers tended to be from the private sectors. I can see where the energy of the organisers was focused. Not on customer experience but getting in the experts.

Most disappointing of all though was the foot fall for the event. There just weren’t enough people there to justify the exhibit stand prices which I heard were as much as £20,000 for a large stand. Hmmm good job they had sponsors such as Cisco and Courtville Business solutions there to make up the short fall.

I met lots of people through informal networking but if I’m honest it was clear that some people were just there to make comments – not ask questions and hand out business cards without qualifying whether or not you had anything to talk about. A word of caution, if you were looking to use this as a mixer then there were certainly a good mix of men to women. But you had to have a business or an angle. Some women I saw there were really just there for men. It’s cute but you have to be able to say something besides the one girl who said she had gone to Barbados for 2 weeks and was going to retire there? She was in her 20s. Talk about long term planning.

But yes, a strong start but more work needed on marketing and customer experience. And maybe, just maybe 4 days was 2 days too many. Just a thought

Were you there? What did you think?

© Chelsea Black