I have completed my first tour at Civil Service Live, a nationwide annual conference for civil servants and other public sector workers. The Cabinet Office asked us to present on the back of us winning the Digital Civil Service Award 2015 for MapSearch.
Not only had I never attended the event before – I was asked to present at all eight sessions, along with my colleagues Keith Hurst and Amanda Light.
This meant two things:
- We were going to improve our knowledge of the UK rail network – The sessions were in Glasgow, Sheffield, Coventry, Cardiff and London. Our journeys from Coventry, Peterborough and Plymouth respectively meant we racked up a fair amount of rail track. No, none of us have shares in Virgin Trains!
- One of us would have a significantly heavier bag – we had decided to take the award with us to each session. It weighs 1.8kg and would make a great paperweight or balloon popper (for its sharp edges).
In March, we started preparing our session about our personal story of taking MapSearch from an idea to an award winner. We focused our presentation on three main areas. Keith presented the background and benefits. I focused on customer involvement and Amanda covered development of the product. At each session, we planned to invite a member of the audience up to the front to try MapSearch for themselves.
After a few edits and a couple of run-throughs with a practice audience, the presentation was ready to go! Scotland was first on the 16 June. A pleasant railway journey from the Midlands, up through the Lake District and Cumbria, took me to the Scottish Exhibition Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow. Our first presentation was early in the morning, to a room of 80 guests. We were pleased to light up the venue with our personal journey of MapSearch.
Next was Sheffield on the 22 June. Amanda was unable to join Keith and I for this one. The venue was the impressive City Hall, although our own piece of the action was a rather small Balcony Recess! Nonetheless, we were pleased to present to a smaller, and more intimate audience this time.
A week later, we were in Coventry (my home city) at the Ricoh Arena – Huge venue, but not a huge room. Amanda was also back with us and for a bit of added pressure, our Chief Executive came to see us in action. We had an IT glitch with the laptop but we implemented our back up plan and showed our YouTube video demo instead. It passed with flying colours.
Cardiff, on the 5 July, saw the three of us at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, where we had a larger audience again. Our warm up involved us trying some of the instruments at the college! After our session had finished, I attended a few sessions presented by other departments.
Our final destination on ‘the tour’ was London on the 12 and 13 July, at the Queen Elizabeth 2 Conference Centre in Westminster. Apart from the usual Westminster tourists who flock to Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament (across the road from our venue), we were competing with crowds gathering to witness the departure of Prime Minister David Cameron and the arrival of Prime Minister Theresa May.
The grand finale for CS Live was equally compelling. It was just Keith and I again for the final four shows over the two days. Although we had to show the video at one the sessions due to an unstable WiFi connection, the other 3 sessions were a great finish with full audience participation.
It felt like the end of a concert tour. It was quite fitting for Keith to begin our last session with “John and I are breaking up the band and this is our final presentation!” Maybe we should have had t-shirts printed? There is always next time.
Overall, a great experience, excellently organised by Cabinet Office and Dods. I recommend it to any civil servant or public sector worker. There are great networking, awareness and discovery opportunities and I will certainly try to be there in 2017.
As for the award, it got a long awaited rest and the pampering it deserved after a month of being shoved in bubble wrap at the bottom of one of our bags.
It’s currently off on a relaxing spa holiday which is where I’m headed as soon as the opportunity arises!