I spent Wednesday at the PM Forum Annual Conference which this year was titled “Relationships” – as a result of my observation when I wrote about the event last year that it appeared to be the predominant theme whether we were talking about culture, clients, service quality, selling or brand.

The first panel session comprised an academic (CRM/KAM from Cranfield) and three technology suppliers talking about leveraging and monetising relationships. Lee Bryant of Headshift (personally my favourite speaker at last year’s workshops) was delightfully strident in his views.

One particularly interesting idea was from Andy Honess at Qlik Tech who described a system where the time spent with each hospital patient was analysed to enable patient level costing and consultant effectiveness analysis – another factoid was that thoracic surgeons were 30% more productive when their performance data was made public – imagine if these tools were applied to lawyers, accountants and surveyors!

For the first breakout, I joined a select group of marketing leaders to hear what Max Landsberg (writer of The Tao of Coaching) had to say in the sales coaching masterclass which he titled “Creating heroes”. Others reported considerable enthusiasm for the tips picked up at the pitching session run by Allen & Overy and PricewaterhouseCoopers and many liked the insights provided by the Eversheds team on classifying client service and value by rocket science, core and routine.

The highlight of the day for me was the first afternoon session. Looking and sounding amazingly like a young version Pierse Brosnan, the charismatic Octavius Black of Mindgym exploded onto the stage fired up no doubt by his recent coverage in The Guardian. It was many, many years ago when I first met Octavius when he was relatively junior at Smyth Dorward Lambert and I must say that the years have been very kind to him. With such a short slot he made maximum impact by selecting a few key ideas and communicating them with vivid stories, interesting anecdotes (interestingly using Malcolm Gladwell as a key source) and various audience participation exercises.

My next breakout was to hear Roger Delves, a former mainstream advertising man turned academic, from Ashridge talk about power and influence and how to be a (political) player. We observed that so often in professional firms results win over adherence to values and that mavericks were tolerated because of their significant financial contribution.

Last year, I found the client panel the most valuable session and I was not disappointed this year. It was an impressive line up of panellists (Sir Paul Judge of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Ian Sears of the Office of Government Commerce, David Illingworth of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Neville Eisenberg of Berwin Leighton Paisner and Paul Edwards of DLA Piper) and they spoke candidly about their experiences of being the client of a professional service provider, their concepts of value and what they most disliked about professional advisers.

The full review will appear in the next edition of Professional Marketing magazine.