By David Emanuel Martinez
Bulgaria was the location for this year’s EuroFM conference, which coincided with the organisation’s celebrations of its 30th year as well as the 10th anniversary of the Bulgarian FM Association.
This was not my first EuroFM conference or my first visit to Sofia; but I was a little intrigued at the choice of venue, being the top floor of the Paradise Centre, a shopping mall. It proved to be a good choice.
The conference arena – I’ll call it that as it is a 360-degree central platform with seats all around – worked to bring speakers closer to delegates, enhancing the sense of being involved and engaged. And I was quite impressed with the programme. First and foremost, the content was actually on point, in terms of ideas, messages and delivery. The conference language is English, a challenge no doubt for some as this is an event that draws from nearly 50 countries, but that sense of engagement with the speakers was very helpful.
Before the main programme had even started EuroFM Ambassadors, a new initiative to create a select group of representatives from each member country, held a reception at Sofia’s Town Hall. Now, we have in the past attempted to get MPs to come and speak at Workplace Futures, to reassure us that the government takes FM seriously as a sector – only once have we managed to get ‘someone’ to turn up! But in Sofia, the Mayor of the city, which is the capital of Bulgaria, was fully supportive and the Deputy Mayor formally opened the event, together with a senior representative from the Ministry of Economy.
To listen to these government officials explain how important the FM sector is for investment and growth in Bulgaria was simply truly reassuring and impressive.
A part of EuroFM’s mission is to bring educators, researchers and practitioners in FM together. The association enjoys representation from 23 countries in Europe, covering the spectrum: research institutes and universities, service providers and national FM-related associations. The aim is to bring forward the FM profession and to come to a better mutual understanding of the discipline and industry by sharing FM knowledge. The conference delivered on that objective.
The tone was set with a welcoming speech that reinforced EuroFM’s view on transparent, open and mutual trust in relationships with other FM bodies. It was refreshing to hear from an FM organisation that is not political or protectionist in its approach, or singularly concerned with its own agenda and strategy.
The conference programme set out to address all the issues that are current in our sector, but approached them from many different perspectives – from a truly global standpoint right down to the specific interests of researchers and students.
There were no corporate logos or sales pitches in evidence. Presentations covered all the big issues – the new ISO standards, building design and technology, sustainability and even the workplace debate. In the case of the last of those, Chris Moriarty, director of insight at BIFM, gave a superb presentation notable for its honesty about the ambition to achieve ‘proper’ recognition for FM and the changes the institute is looking at to further the cause.
Overall, conference bingo proved to be not much of a challenge over the course of the programme, with all the buzz-words cropping up with some frequency: AI, automation, blockchain, sustainability, best practice, millennials, workplace, agile/flexible/co working, and I believe Peter Drucker was quoted at least four times.
That aside, if you are thinking of attending a conference next year – and there are quite a few to choose from – I would highly recommend EFMC 2019. If you are interested in filling up with knowledge, content and insight, as opposed to selling your wares or services, this could be the event for you.