Well that's it: I went to the first day of the event. It left me largely unimpressed.
Many exhibitors, few of which had something really interesting or even an approach that would be worth mentioning. From online virtual networking tools (nice, but I doubt they can deliver on every benefit they claim: human / direct contact is as priceless as direct experience), to bookkeeping packages, to standard mobile telephony services, to software services all were really plain vanilla stuff. Except perhaps a company called Doop, which sells VoIP subscriptions. Interestingly Skype held a booth at the exhibition, as did Yahoo! I found no other significant presence from the major web companies (Google was represented by a "GoogleAds qualified individual", whatever that means...
Conferences were weak insofar as content was concerned and I believe panels left a hell of a lot to be desired. I attended:
- one morning session featuring public and private organizations offering coaching services to businesses. The discussion was not focused, but there were a few interesting remarks by Frédéric Adida, founder of Institut Assaté. He stressed the importance of the human dimension of any business, spoke about the doubts any entrepreneur has to face and gave a couple of interesting insight from his operation. At some point in time the questions from the public became quite aggressive because some of the people were bitterly complaining about their feeling of being excluded from the closed circle of influential Paris-based consultants... The facilitator totally lost control of the session, the vague statement of intention of the session blew-up and the whole thing became unfocused and too political for me. If that type of things is happening even in a conference dealing with a specific aspect of entrepreneurship, then my conclusion is that france is in worse shape than I thought.
- part of a session of human resources, which offered nothing very original and at least showed how ill-equipped many entrepreneurs are when it comes to choosing and keeping the right people for their business. I was impressed with the fact that employee empowerment, open communication and collaborative negotiation (as in "Getting to Yes") were news to most of them. So basically the panel members said a few good things there and ended the session without sweating too much.
- an afternoon presentation which was supposed to cover the topic "how to boost a consulting business", which was my final hope of seeing something more dynamic and realistic (and who knows, sometimes interesting ideas can emerge in suc sessions). In fact, the presentation was a sequence of mini-presentations made by ten members of a Paris based consultants' organization which was looking to recruit new members. 90% of those presenting were actually reading from a text to the audience and only very few gave meaningful insights, but again nothing spectacular.
I might post a mind-map of useful stuff I got from the fair.
Do I regret taking part? Not at all: it gave me the opportunity to do a reality check, to confirm my opinion that Europe is full of opportunities and togo back to work energized because I see more ways to differentiate my business. I also got a few interesting pieces of information for some of my customers. And by sheer coincidence I met an interesting entrepreneur in Paris, although not at all at the fair... I will tell you about her in one of my future posts.