By Carol Panza, ISPI Europe/EMEA

The eighth annual ISPI EMEA conference was held in Gothenburg, Sweden, from September 30 – October 2, 2010. (Video highlights may viewed at <>). Four half-day workshops were conducted on September 30 while the conference kicked off in the early evening. The opening session of the eighth conference began with a welcome by the deputy mayor of the city of Gothenburg, followed by a very special session on “The Future of Work,” facilitated by Guus Belkema of YNNO (Netherlands). The session began with a video containing comments and insights contributed by a cross-section of global thought leaders and proceeded with participants discussing ideas introduced and questions raised by the video. It was a fascinating and engaging way for participants to meet each other by sharing their thoughts on the future of work. It was a clear highlight of the conference. Before adjourning to the opening reception, participants were encouraged to form teams for a simulation that would run throughout the conference, beginning the following morning.

On Day 1, a new simulation, based on an actual client engagement, was launched as the opening to the first full day of the conference and formed the core of the conference. This was the third time that our ISPI EMEA conference was built with a simulation and participants once again found it highly valuable. The first day included an inspiring keynote presentation by Sharon Govender, an executive with the Standard Bank of South Africa, and a number of compelling concurrent sessions; and concluded with a tour of Gothenburg, followed by a special opening of the Fish Church to host dinner for conference participants.

Day 2 saw participants continuing to work diligently within their respective teams toward the presentations they would make for the simulation before the start of the first session. The second day of the conference began with an amazing opportunity to listen to and interact with a very experienced and candid senior executive panel. In addition to compelling concurrent sessions, we had a smorgasbord event (similar to an ISPI Cracker Barrel) in combination with lunch, and ended the day with simulation presentations and feedback to teams from our wonderful client team role-players, all expertly facilitated by Christine Marsh and Juan Pablo Ortiz. Throughout the conference there was high energy, involvement, and enthusiasm, including all presenters and participants.

An important part of the wrap for the eighth ISPI EMEA conference was a focus group feedback session, which has become a tradition for us. We wanted to know about:

  • What was good (Good/Continue)
  • How we could get better (Improvement Opportunities)
  • Other comments or suggestions for the future (New Ideas)

Given the intimate size of the conference, the high level of experience and sophistication among participants, and the participative atmosphere of the conference, the feedback session was a logical extension of learning experiences. It was an opportunity for everyone to work together in the spirit of continuous improvement for ISPI EMEA conferences. The 2010 event (including pre-conference workshops and additional participants for the senior executive panel session) hosted approximately 80 professionals and students. Immediately following the conference, we began to receive email from participants. We also sent email to everyone who joined us in Gothenburg, asking our three basic questions to ensure that all participants (including those unable to attend the final session) were able to contribute their feedback. Our keynote from South Africa, Sharon Govender, is a highly accomplished and respected performance improvement professional, who was new to ISPI. She was impressed with the conference and the quality of presenters and participants. The following is an excerpt from the text of an email received from Sharon after the conference.

I found the conference to be very interactive, insightful and energizing. The caliber of presenters, topics and content was a reflection of the committee’s commitment to raising the performance & knowledge bar in a non-traditional yet very welcoming and experiential way.

You have demonstrated that high performance and engagement involves more than a formula or a program. It’s about being intentional about interactions, relationships and human activity…it’s an attitude, not merely a routine!

To Carol and the ISPI (EMEA) committee . . . the Gothenburg chapter may have been written but the series most definitely will go on! All the very best in your future endeavors as you soar from strength to strength. Well done to the organizing committee . . . it certainly takes a team to make a dream!

Thank you once again for the opportunity to be part of your remarkable journey.

Conference feedback was very positive, constructive, and supportive of our continuous improvement objective, building on past successes, and incorporating and adapting innovative new ideas. Request a copy of the 2010 Gothenburg Conference Feedback Report by sending an email (with Gothenburg Feedback Report as the subject) to Carol Panza at

As always, for ISPI EMEA, participants played an enormous role in the success of the conference, which has always been the reason for keeping our conferences small in size. Participants do not just sit back and listen to presenters that hold themselves apart. Our attendees are professionals who actively participate in sessions and contribute value with their questions and comments throughout sessions, breaks, meals, and the other networking opportunities. Presenters remained accessible and generous with their time and insights this year as at previous ISPI EMEA conferences. The improvement opportunities we received were positive suggestions rather than complaints. We thank all presenters and participants for their roles in making the Gothenburg Conference a great success as a learning and growing opportunity for all who participated, irrespective of their role, and for sharing important suggestions to support our continuous improvement efforts.

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