Talking Tech 2018

  • Photography by Paul Harrison Photography
  • Photography by Paul Harrison Photography
  • Photography by Paul Harrison Photography
  • Artwork by Rebecca Osborne
  • Artwork by Rebecca Osborne
  • Artwork by Rebecca Osborne
  • Artwork by Rebecca Osborne
  • Artwork by Rebecca Osborne

This event certainly highlighted that the East of England is leading in the Tech revolution. With over twenty of the top industry thought leaders and revolutionaries in Norfolk joining us to share their knowledge and expertise. They gave us clear directions for now and the future, of how to expand our use of technology to support, develop, maintain and grow all our businesses in this accelerating environment. It was a really positive and energising day which helped to brush away to gloomy and negative myths about technology.

There was a great buzz at the event with over 180 people attending from all different sectors, wanting to learn more about the current thinking and debates too. So many topics about the world of ‘tech’ were discussed, shared and highlighted. The event helped to break down the barriers to understanding about the new and current technologies, their uses, and how we can apply new technologies to develop our businesses to support, grow and upskill our workforce.  

Chris Sargisson our Chief Executive, got the event off to a great start with the introduction of ‘A paper free event.’ This year is the first year the Chamber worked on creating a ‘paperless event’ with the support from Thyngs. All the event information is stored on a re-useble card for each delegate, then you swipe or use your phone camera and the key event information pops up on your phone - Brilliant!

The first speaker of the morning was Mark Donaldson, CEO from Mark’s talk was focused on ‘how to improve your business decisions’. He gave a number of really useful insights into how SME’s can and should embrace technology, as well as ensuring your workforce is supported with educated about technology and the key business goals. His four key tips 1. Customers 2. Products 3. Cash and 4. Pricing, were very useful to supporting and growing all sectors and SME’s. 

Following on from this was the first panel discussion, on the topic of ‘Virtual and Augmented Reality,’ with Peter Brady, CEO of Orbital Media, Dr Sabar Sami, University of East Anglia, Ryan Baxter from Viewing and Matthew Martin, Immersive VR. This panel discussion provided a fascinating insight into how VR is being currently used to support in the healthcare industry with particular focus on its aid in dementia research and training surgeons. Our audience sent in their questions throughout the discussion using an online platform called Slido. This brought up other topics such as education, training, marketing, ethics and whether the panel believed VR was ‘all the hype’ or if it would never be fully adopted like the 3D TV. It was a unanimous agreement that VR and AR were here to stay, and grow. 

After a great discussion, it was time to move the focus towards technology in marketing. Our second keynote speaker of the morning was Rebecca Lewis Smith, Co-founder and Managing Director of Fountain. Rebecca told the audience that “90% of the data that is currently in existence has been collected in the last two years”. She followed this by encouraging businesses to automate as much of their marketing as possible whilst making sure that the technology used is tied together. Ending her presentation Rebecca emphasised the need to keep measuring, improving and reviewing your marketing strategies, given the rapid changes to marketing tools. 

Up next was Mark Cook. Mark is the Digital Marketing Director of Candour and his keynote presentation focused on search engines and the future of digital marketing. Looking back, Mark highlighted how Google is changing from a search engine to an answer engine. Using keywords from websites to create knowledge panels means that users don’t have to go to your website anymore to get the answer they’re looking for. Mark encouraged businesses to label their data for search engines using Schema; a collaborative community designed to structure data on the internet. 

After a knowledge filled morning, our speakers and audience then took a break from the conference. This enabled them to not only process what they’d learnt so far, but to meet some of Norfolk’s brightest tech companies in our specialist exhibition. Our exhibitors this year were:


Once all of our delegates were refreshed the main conference resumed. Host Chris Sargisson welcomed them back into the auditorium by making sure they were all awake with a quick tech themed quiz. The second panel discussion was then introduced bringing together Paul Grenyer CEO of Naked Element Ltd, James Gulliver Managing Director of Netmatters, Claire Riseborough founder of Step into Tech and Nicky Lawlor co-founder of Cyberfen to discuss and debate the tech skills gap and gender imbalance. The panel addressed the need to bridge the gap between education to higher education and work by creating a community to support young people with the right connections and support. The panel discussion then moved onto the gender imbalance in the industry, something both Nicky and Claire feel very strongly about. Nicky said “the root of the problem is the image of the industry. Women hear cyber security and imagine hoodies hunched over a laptop and armoured vehicles. Women can do the job, but it’s bringing in women.” From this, Claire added “you just have to go into a toy shop to see the problem. The mechanical, engineering todays are in the blue boy’s aisle, and the girls is full of domestic games and dolls in the pink aisle.” 

Continuing the theme of educating young people, our next speaker was Katherine Wood, CEO and co-founder of Phonics Hero. Katherine’s talk concentrated on how she took her offline company, online. Giving an insight into how Phonics Hero starts, Katherine urged businesses to “find your hacks”, try “freemium model” and to engage with your offline customers as much as online. Starting up users would pay a fee to use Phonics Hero, but when Katherine decided to make it free and market this online, it went viral seeing trail users grow from 50 to 3,500 in just 3 months. With this growth Katherine has been able to spend more time volunteering in schools being close to those who use Phonics Hero. 

Welcomed on stage next was Callum Coombes, CEO of Safepoint speaking on the future of the workplace. Asking the audience whether they felt the future was Dystopian or Utopian, many had a negative dystopian view; something Callum was on a mission to change. Agreeing that while many jobs were at risk from technological innovations, Callum highlighted the need for more skilled workers, showing that whilst admin jobs may reduce by 20%, the need for healthcare staff would rise by 30%. He gave the audience some useful tips to make their current working lives more efficient, using tools such as QuickBooks, Google Docs and even Safepoint. These simple, time saving solutions allow businesses to give back to their employees through wellbeing. 

Our final panel made their way to the stage ready to answer the audience’s questions on disrupting industries. Joining the panel was John Fagan, CTO of Axon Vibe, Arthur Soames, Business Development Manager of Hummingbird Technologies, Simon Coward, Managing Director of Hethel Innovation and Michelle Monck, Director Client Marketing Services at Xerox. The panel had great focus on the uses of AI in disrupting their industries including agri-tech, customer service, marketing, transport, engineering and many more. 

Closing the event, Chris welcomes Fiona Lettice, Pro-Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Fiona’s talk ended the conference on a positive note, encouraging them to embrace how technology allows firms to do more with less. Agreeing that in the past many jobs have been affected by new technologies, but overall job creation has been greater than job loss. “I am a keen advocate of responsible research and innovation – I believe that we need to ensure that we develop these technologies including multidisciplinary and diverse perspectives to consider the future of work, privacy, ethics and society and ensure that science and technology works for society.”  

The main conference came to a close with a feeling of positivity for the future of technology in the room. Throughout the event, we had live graphic recording artist Rebecca Osborne drawing the talks The close gave attendees to view to final drawings, which are available in our side gallery. 

Attendees got to enjoy our exhibition over lunch, then had a choice of two workshops to finish the day: Preparing for Industry 4.0 with Stuart Easton, Transparent Choice or The Future of Your Digital Brand: Get Your Customer to make the Emotional Choice with Michael Stiff & Aaron Fickling, ALL is FLUX.

Thank you to all who attending Talking Tech 2018. Norfolk Chamber were pleased to host over 180 businesses at the event, as well as our expert speakers, fantastic exhibitors and our sponsors. With thanks to Breakwater IT, Barclays Eagle Labs and Rebecca Osborne for sponsoring the event, and to Zing Insights who were our research partners, collected feedback to help us improve the event year on year. 


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