Revitalizing the conference experience – the Service Bazaar

service bazaar

Scandinavia is the birthplace of many an innovation and design masterpiece. When it comes to delivering an exciting new conference experience the story stays the same, Scandinavia, and more particularly Norway in the first week of March this year, is the place to be.

Pioneered by Christian Nissen of CFN People, based in Denmark, the Service Bazaar is a new concept that promises to deliver an exciting way of interacting and learning in the conference environment. The Bazaar was first used for CFN People’s 10th birthday celebrations last year. “We were looking for something different, something that people would remember. Because we were not in the conference business, it didn’t really matter if it didn’t go exactly the way we expected, so we were able to take some risks and really make some fun out of it’” says Christian.

Practice what you learn

The key requirement was that people would be there to learn and to practice what they learned, not simply listen to presentations and watch PowerPoints. “We wanted people to practice what they learned during the day,” said Christian. The CFN People event focused on eight topics that they felt people were struggling with, or were interested in. Eight seasoned presenters were invited to come and facilitate workshops on these subjects.
There were three principles that the organisers felt were critical:

  • Longer sessions – “We felt that modern conferences with shorter and shorter sessions do not really help people get outcomes from what they learn”, for the Bazaar each session was 1 hour and 15 minutes, this allowed people to get a chance to really understand what they are learning about
  • Single topic – each session was to concentrate on one simple practice – such as ‘how to create a good services catalogue’ or ‘how to design a service’ and only concentrate on that one concept, not everything else around it
  • No PowerPoint – all facilitators were told that they could not use PowerPoint – “some speakers were very nervous about this requirement. We have come so far with PowerPoint presentations that people find it very hard to cope without them”, commented Christian
  • Multiple iterations – each workshop was to be repeated three times in the day so that people could choose to go to a number of the different workshops

An unpredictable event

“We decided to call it a bazaar to make people realize that this was not designed to be an architected happening where everything that happens is decided before the event.

The Bazaar is a more organic event, a place where new things can emerge, relationships can develop…a place where you can never be 100 percent certain of what is going to happen.

For the original Service Bazaar in Copenhagen, CFN People hired a church and transformed it into a Bazaar.

Conferences have become predicable and prescribed. You know exactly what will happen at each presentation. You will sit there and listen, watch some clever PowerPoint slides, perhaps ask a couple of questions of the presenter and then wander off to the next session, which will, in essence, be a repeat of the last one.

Christian and his team received some great feedback after the event even though they specifically asked for no feedback! “We actually told people that we did not want their feedback, and this seemed to encourage people to actually give us feedback! They told us what they actually thought rather than just filling out a form.”

Not for everyone

The event was not only a hit with the attendees, the presenters loved the Bazaar too. “We chose people that we knew would thrive in this sort of environment, they needed to be the type of people who would not be fazed by any questions they might receive. You need people who really are good at their stuff, who know what they are talking about.”

The Bazaar is not for everyone, this is for a special audience…there are a lot of people who do not want to be involved to that degree, they just want to sit on a chair and listen and do not enjoy this type of activity. So this will attract a special type of person and will keep another part of the audience away.

“People need to be aware of what the conditions for the Bazaar are, so that you just get people there who want this higher level of involvement.”

“We had a lot of fun, it was a lot of hard work, we had to build a special environment where this could work, but the results were worth it,” said Christian.

A pre-conference option

itSMF Norway is running a Service Bazaar as a pre-conference, optional event with sessions from:

  • Colin Rudd – Service Criticality
  • Mark Smalley – Guerilla IT
  • Reni Friis – How to simplify with Lean
  • Greg Sanker – maturing a basic change management process
  • Rolf Tamber – Nar alt Brenner…
  • Lise Dall Erikson – Requesterant
  • Dave Van Herpen – Easy Agile
  • Marius Lean – Dra meg na backlengs inn i fuglekassa
  • David Cannon – measuring service value

Six of the sessions will be in English and two in Norwegian. Participants will be able to attend four sessions during the full day event.

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Kirstie Magowan

Kirstie Magowan

Kirstie Magowan is the managing editor of IT Chronicles. Kirstie is an experienced journalist and publisher who has been working in the IT Service Management industry since 1999. Kirstie is a regular speaker at industry conferences globally.