Review: CIPD Conference 6th-7th November 2019

Reviewing the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition

Without a doubt, the CIPD conference is the biggest in the diary for people within the HR profession.  The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is a professional association for human resource management professionals.  This year, the venue was the Manchester Central Convention Complex. Manchester Central is an expansive space, and thus perfect for this event.  Furthermore, it is very easy to access by the free bus or tram from the major stations. As a conference venue, Manchester Central did not disappoint.

First Impressions of the CIPD Conference

As with previous years, help was plentiful on entry. Moreover, security was visible yet non-evasive.  This event draws thousands of people from within the HR profession. This was clear to see by the long queues waiting for the 9 am opening.

Photo collage from CIPD Conference
CIPD Conference photos

On entering the venue, the large exhibition hall was the first area to navigate.  As you would expect, the exhibition stands were impressive and varied.  The big organisational players were very notably within the mix. Primarily, this was dominated by Sage and Workday. They were showcasing their HR platforms for whole organisation people solutions, alongside various learning and development organisations. Also, of note were workplace drug and alcohol testing. Lastly, a number of charities were available.
There were also a few interactive exhibitions. Innovative stands to draw you in. This included novel demonstrations through VR. As you would expect, primarily, this exhibition is to promote and sell solutions. Yet, it was a professional performance and without any pressure.

Navigating the Venue

If you got the chance to consider the programme, it included a helpful guide to aid with the navigation of the CIPD conference exhibitions.  On the outside of the exhibitions were discussion areas. Talks were provided about HR approaches and products available.  Furthermore, there were coffee stands, mobile phone charging points and an area to relax.

More photo collage of CIPD Conference
More CIPD Conference photos

It was noticeable, however, that general seating seemed to be lacking – without it being attached to either a session or networking.  The member’s only area was small no doubt making way for other exhibitors.  Saying that the area was expansive and easy to navigate thanks to the helpful signs.


Attendees could access the full programme of events through the CIPDACE app.  This was helpful in determining locations of talks and workshops.  The workshops themselves book up very early. The opportunity to do so was available months in advance.  Consequently, delegates who had not made an advance booking were unable to attend the sessions.

Pictures from CIPD Conference
Attendees could access the full programme of events through the CIPDACE app

As usual with the CIPD conference, keynotes were a big draw. The focus of this one being the future of performance management.  I opted for two sessions.  Firstly, a 50-minute workshop on employee attraction. Secondly, a workshop lasting two hours on organisational change and resilience.
The first presentation was by a senior CIPD staff member and the electronics company Phillips.  This considered a project for candidate attraction and their approach.  This was a well-delivered session with tangible outputs.

CIPD Conference Booths
CIPD Conference Booths

The second session on organisational change and resilience spanned two sessions. and therefore took up the afternoon.  The presentation was provided by Professor David Denyer from Cranfield University.  This was a powerful session which provided new insights into leadership and organisational change.  This session was as interactive as it was thought-provoking. In fact, alone was worth the visit to the CIPD conference.  Whichever element of HR you are serving; these workshops provide contemporary views and learning and suggested ways forward.

Conference Video:

The video below was recorded at the CIPD conference:

Final Thoughts

The CIPD conference is a big deal in the Human Resource world.  Whether you are looking for a supplier, networking, contemporary thinking, all the elements were there.  In short, the CIPD conference was a success bar a few small irks.  Due to its popularity, planning is key to ensure you get the very best from your visit.  Location wise, this worked very well. Manchester Central is perfect for such events.
Engaging and relevant, the time invested was well spent and produced some good learning that will inform now and into the future.

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