THE upcoming Buy Yorkshire Conference has seen more than 3,000 delegates register and nearly 150 exhibitors sign up for the event so far, say organisers.
Headline speakers include Russell Gould, head of Wonga for Business, Jon Mell, European social business leader for IBM, Rob Wilmot, ex-CTO of pioneering Leeds-born internet service provider Freeserve and Michael Fallon, Minister for Business.
The Yorkshire Post is the media partner for the Buy Yorkshire Conference, which is due to run on April 24 and 25 at the Royal Armouries in Leeds and is organised by the Yorkshire Mafia networking group. Yorkshire Mafia was founded in 2008 as a LinkedIn group.
This is the third year it is holding its annual conference, which was re-branded the Buy Yorkshire Conference for the upcoming event. Previously, it was called the Yorkshire Mafia Conference.
Geoff Shepherd, founder, said: “It’s size speaks for itself. It’s huge for a regional conference. We tipped 3,000 delegates last week so we’re on track for about 4,000 to 4,500 registered delegates. We think the speaker will prove to be a really big draw.” Last year, the conference attracted just over 3,000 delegates.
The line-up also includes Jas Hawker, former commanding officer and leader of the Red Arrows, and David Aspin, CEO of Munroe K and owner of White Rose Office Park in Leeds. Further speakers are due to be announced in the coming weeks.
Mr Shepherd said he is keen to bring issues that are topical and of interest to the business community to the stage. Money lender Wonga, for example, has hit the headlines recently over its payday loans.
Mr Aspin is among those who will take part in the Billion Pound Panel, which features business owners from a variety of sectors who have a collective wealth of more than £1bn and is delivered in the format of TV’s Question Time.
Mr Shepherd said exhibition space at the conference is filling up fast. “We’re capped by the physical space of the building we’re in, the Royal Armouries, so we can squeeze 170 exhibition stands in there. We had 155 last year, we’ve managed to find room for another 15. We’ve got 25 stands left. We’ll sell that out this month, early next month.”
This year, the conference is taking on a new dimension as it plans to soon launch a smartphone app, built by Got Focus Solutions in Knaresborough. “They’ve built us an application which basically brings the conference to your phone,” said Mr Shepherd. “It will bring the conference alive before the conference and it will keep the conference alive after the conference.
“So you’ll be able to see exhibitors, interact with exhibitors etc before the conference, all the conference details will be on there too, and after the conference you’ll be able to continue that but all the content generated at the conference will be uploaded to it too.”
People can also use their Buy Yorkshire Conference smartphone app to connect to each other via LinkedIn, by scanning each other’s badges. Mr Shepherd said: “Most conferences operate as an exhibitor to delegate exchange. ‘I’m an exhibitor so I scan your badge’, that’s where the connections are made. But relationships are much broader than that.
“We’ve got over 3,000 people coming to this thing and wouldn’t it be great if we could help them all connect and build relationships? There’s real power in that.”
Mr Shepherd said the decision was made to re-brand the event as the Buy Yorkshire Conference in an effort to reflect the demographic of those who attend.
He said that while initially it mainly attracted those who were members of the Yorkshire Mafia group, today the split between Yorkshire Mafia members and non-members is about 50:50.
He added: “It continues a theme of what Yorkshire Mafia does anyway. The mantra is largely around, we all need to spread our wings but very often the best deals, the best partners, relationships with business are on your doorstep, so it continues that kind of thinking and that message.”
The main sponsors of the Buy Yorkshire Conference are Barclays and Henderson Insurance Brokers. Visit http://buyyorkshire.com/ for more details.