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Business 2012 conference: Too cold! Disorganised! And where's Branson?

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The Business 2012 conference at the O2 is off to a shaky start, partly due to its star guest

Come and see Branson! The biggest business show of the year! The truth? We’re mid-way through the three days of Business 2012 at The O2 and frustrations are running high.

Day one was supposed to feature a VIP event starring Sir Richard Branson. Well the bearded one showed up and did a Q&A. The verdict?

Bill Wright of Brand Intellect, who had paid £95 and £21 travel to get to the event, tweeted that Branson was “on stage for five mins, what a laugh!”

“People who paid £700 stood next to people who’d just walked in off the street. Many people angry #fail,” posted Richard Milloy on Twitter.

One lady paid £1,000 for her ticket and was reportedly fuming with the perfunctory nature of the show.

These are just a handful of the anecdotes I picked up. And the networking event with Sir Richard afterwards?

“VIP elite event – one drink, no Branson absolute crock of shite,” tweeted Nicki Hesford, owner of the Miss Fit UK group of brands for big busted women.

“Not cocktail more mocktail,” fumed commercial artist Joanna Gilbert, who added it was a “waste of £100”. She later tweeted Sir Richard directly to complain.

Oh dear! And on Day Two morale is still struggling.

“Pretty shoddy organisation. Huge number of problems yesterday. And it is really cold. Much too cold – you can quote me on that,” says Peter Willett, exhibiting with the coaching service Business Doctors.

As I stroll round the exhibition it looks to be going okay. The action is taking place under the canopy of what used to be called the Millennium Dome. In fact it is more accurate to say we are in a far corner of the complex, “essentially in the car park” as one exhibitor put it to me. There are around 120 stands, and a maze of 8 foot walls which create improvised auditoriums for the guest speakers.

Attendance looks about right. At midday a queue of 20 people trying to register. Hard to deny that’s it is nippy. If anything it is colder inside than outside where at least the sun is shining.

Rachel Wilkes, co-founder of the translation service Asset Language Management, gives me her verdict: “The facilities are poor. We were queuing just to get a cup of coffee.” And the temperature which everyone is moaning about? She laughs. “It was so cold yesterday that people were leaving in droves.” Her colleague Carmen Foyer says, “We do expect to get a lot of business and to get our brand out there. But next year we are trying somewhere else.”

Did they make it to the Branson event? Carmen shakes her head. “We didn’t stay. Too cold! And no one could tell us where it was or when the event started. We heard there weren’t cocktails, only cava served in plastic cups. It’s not what you expect.”

Any redeeming features? Well, I also heard plenty of positive stories. Many of the guest speakers spoke to packed rooms. Some of the big names, such as Nigel Botterill and Brad Burton, went down a storm. And these speakers are the real reason people turn up to Business 2012.

Luke Smith, founder of Croud which is running Google’s stand said: “We had well over 150 half hour sessions with small businesses yesterday and I think we’ll hit that today. Really good event, other than where it is and how cold it is.”

Sales consultant Warren Cass, who is speaking at the conference tweeted: “Loads of talent & quality brands involved with #Biz2012 – ignore the negative comments, come and make things happen for yourself.”

Which is surely sound advice.

If you want to see for yourself, Business 2012 will run until 8pm Wednesday 20th March. Book online for a free ticket. Just remember to pack your woolly hat.




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