The Italian connection

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The industry prepares itself for Europe’s premier educational and networking conference.

One of the most eagerly awaited events of the year, the 10th OPI European Conference, is only one month away and details of the line-up have been released.

Hundreds of delegates are due to descend on Rome on 7-9 May for a jam-packed schedule which, fittingly for an anniversary occasion, looks set to go down as one of the biggest events OPI has ever held. The theme, looking at the future of the OP industry and its many sectors, is prevalent throughout with many opportunities for forward-looking businesses to keep up-to-date with developments and work out strategies to take advantage of them.

Leading from the front will be Jeanette Huber, consultant of the Zukunftsinstitut, the best-known institute for future and trend studies in the German-speaking area of Europe. As a leading European analyst with a reputation for predicting future and global mega trends, Huber will be bringing her expertise to the office products market in the keynote address.

OPI Europe is the only pan-European conference that will look at these trends and what they mean for the office products sector. This focused arena is an ideal and unique opportunity to share these ideas and understand the implications of outside influences on the sector.

That said, the event is firmly focused on office products. After Huber’s enlightening speech, delegates will hear from speakers from many of the major resellers in the industry, including Alpha International, Corporate Express Italy, Egan Reid, Euroffice, Gruppo Buffetti, Office 1 Superstore and Plaisio, along with other industry experts, all sharing their knowledge on a variety of topics.

Structured networking sessions combined with plenty of opportunities to talk in an informal setting will enable delegates to meet more attendees and build their personal contacts portfolio. The event will kick off with a golf tournament on Wednesday 7 May to add some friendly competition to the proceedings, followed by a welcome party later on that day. Over the next couple of days, there will be more networking opportunities during coffee breaks, lunches and a gala dinner – the latter is bound to throw up some surprises (previous years have featured jugglers, fire-breathing and waiters on stilts) – to ensure delegates have plenty of time to meet other executives.

This year also sees the introduction of a professional facilitator to help create an environment of informed conversation without interfering or enforced feedback. In addition, OPI will be introducing a World Café concept to the business sessions. At any event, there is often as much experience in the audience as on the stage and OPI plans to access this knowledge. Delegates will be able to learn from the whole audience, not just the speakers. The café concept interactive process will use key questions and conversations to enable attendees to harness the collective intelligence and build dialogue across the whole group. At the end of the session, delegates will have learned more about existing opportunities as well as having made some key contacts.

OPI Europe 2008 also sees the introduction of a reduced rate for first-time attendants, allowing new delegates to experience the conference for the first time and judge for themselves. After nine previous European conferences, OPI is sure that once a delegate has attended he/she will attend again and again!

‘Interactive’ networking
However much email is used within the world’s offices, the office products industry relies on personal relationships. This makes conferences, exhibitions and industry associations a valuable way for an industry executive to network. However, arriving at a meeting attended by hundreds of people and having to introduce yourself can be a daunting task, especially as a first-timer.

It is vital that delegates not only get to meet their peers, but also have the opportunity to discuss real ideas and issues and not feel restricted to small talk. With this in mind, OPI has enlisted the help of professional facilitator Christine Thompson of BellThompson. OPI Europe 2008 will be introducing several structured networking sessions beginning with the welcome party at the very start. "Interactive networking is the key to conferences and events. I have worked with many international companies and these activities have always proved to be the most popular and fruitful in the long term," said Thompson.

At the reception of the welcome party, delegates will be introduced to several industry peers and, with the aid of some structured activities, will soon have met many more. OPI wants to communicate to attendees the major themes of the conference from the very start, so the big opportunities and challenges from across the region can always be a part of the thought process. This is not a feedback session and there is no embarrassing public speaking, but instead a genuine chance to meet and get to know industry colleagues.

Along with interactive break-outs, the regular networking social functions, as well as a golf tournament, delegates cannot fail to come away with an extensive network of future partners.

OPI Europe 2008 will take place on 7-9 May at the Sheraton Golf Parco de’Medici Hotel and Resort in Rome, Italy. For more information visit www.opi.net/europe2008 or contact Janet Bell on +44 20 7841 2941.