TechSmart 2016: The Verdict

Last week, independent CRM consultants Hart Square launched a new technology summit, TechSmart 2016, aimed squarely at the the not-for-profit sector. Its stated constituency, the professional membership or NFP organisation evaluating the CRM, website integration and associated technologies marketplace – but not sure where to start.With educational strands on CRM and CMS (Content Management Systems); events and integration; and email marketing and social media there was plenty to see. And in a variety of formats too, like TED-style speaker presentations, case studies, speed networking, roundtable discussions, ‘Lightning Talks’ by suppliers. As a former trade association CEO, with some experience of transitioning from pretty clunky but familiar processes to an all singing all dancing CRM system, I guess I represented the target audience, if not the demographic! If the agenda was a little over-engineered – like the lunchtime Bento style boxes then none of the predominantly youthful audience seemed to mind.

But, with so much packed into the schedule, difficult choices had to be made between presentations. And like lunch, the event had the feel of a taster menu, with information meted out in bite-sized portions. Or perhaps a series of appetisers. With exhibiter stands providing a running buffet of more robust fare. But as with buffets, the stolid favourites are sometimes enlivened by new flavours, tastes, and textures. Some of dubious origin, some eliciting surprising reactions, and others disturbing the digestion. But generally this was wholesome fare. Filling enough to satisfy the appetite of most membership associations, but not so radical as to prompt indigestion!

Once or twice I sensed that the technology was desperately seeking a problem to solve rather than the other way round. I also relished some conversations that were so replete with superlatives that the goal was clearly world domination rather than organising a few members! On the whole, I was more in tune with Ahmed Eltohamy, founder and Managing Director of smartImpact who, during his Ted-style talk, dispensed with slides and talked in real terms about the what, why and how of measuring member engagement through technology. I also found the case study by ciber’s Angela Vickery, and WaterAid UK’s Simon Capper, on the complexities of large scale NFP project implementation came closest to my reality.

So, from a delegate’s perspective I’d rank the event, the location, and the organisation a success. Just a few tweaks to the agenda perhaps, otherwise I’m eagerly anticipating a repeat performance. But how was it for the exhibitors?

I spoke to smartImpact’s Nick Rosewall after the event, and he said, “As sponsors of last week’s event, we were impressed with both the quality of the event and the information available to delegates. It was a brand new event in the NFP and membership sector and focused on providing a high level of technology learning and insights.”

We were certainly busy throughout the day and into the networking drinks in the evening discussing the various challenges facing membership organisations and how they can be addressed via the various technologies we provide.

Overall, it felt as though the delegates at this event gained additional knowledge, learning about various new technologies and what technology can do for them. We were delighted to be able to explain to the delegates the benefits of having a CRM system over a membership database which was well received by all the delegates. We are looking forward to being part of next year’s event and contribute more to the knowledge of the community. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the team at Hart Square who were involved in this event.

Jenny McTiernan, ProTech Chief Operating Officer, was equally positive when she told me, “ProTech really enjoyed attending the first TechSmart event, organised by Hart Square. I am sure it will grow and become a must-attend for NFP professionals looking for the help and advice on the technology solutions available in the market, designed to suit the specialist needs of the NFP sector. Hart Square did a great job in bringing together technology vendors who really understand the unique and often complex requirements of these like-minded organisations.

The keynote presentations were interesting and informative and the 20 minute TED-style Talks were an innovative idea for this kind of event, ensuring that presenters had to really focus on their key messages.

The ‘tap’ technology for exchanging contact details was also a first for us and is a really smart way of connecting with interested parties post event. ProTech is looking forward to connecting with those organisations whose requirements we specialise in, particularly in the Professional Development and Education / Learning Management area.”

Finally, Gordon Brewster of ASI summed up his reaction thus, “TechSmart 2016 was a very good event. In advance, the professionalism and effort Heart Square were putting into the day to make it a successes, was apparent. Anticipation was high and it was not a let-down.

The venue was very good. The layout of the exhibition area and the seminar rooms worked particularly well and provided excellent opportunities for delegates and vendors to engage with each other easily. From our own perspective we had excellent discussions with numerous professional bodies and membership associations. Delegates were eager to engage (the build up to TechSmart encouraged that), understand more about iMIS, the Engagement Management System from ASI and learn about the benefits it provided.

From a delegates point of view I would imagine it hard to work out what sessions to attend, what to skip and what speakers to listen to due to the excellent range of topics available.
Overall however an excellent day.”



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