Are We Getting What We Need From PropTech Conferences?

COLUMN – June 2023

Are We Getting What We Need From PropTech Conferences?

Have we really not made any progress in 10 years? 

It certainly felt that way when I attended some of the big built environment conferences over the past couple of weeks. Despite the impressive names and headliners on stage, the comments from panellists and speech-givers were the same empty, corporate-buzzword-bingo platitudes that I’ve been listening to since I started in this industry. The sentiment remained around the need to properly define the problem, the importance of change management and the misnomer that older generations don’t care about tech… Should we not have sussed some of this stuff out by now? 

I think audiences (particularly paying ones) deserve better. Some actual lessons, successes, and failures need to be shared for the greater good of our industry. Speakers owe their audiences something more than unprepared pre-recorded answers or sales presentations disguised as thought leadership.

Despite my disappointment, there was standing room only at a lot of large venues. Are they polite? Perhaps I’m just a grump? Maybe I expect too much? Maybe folks are only going for a trip out or a way to log their CPD hours?

One of the things that surprised me most was how gung ho everyone is on artificial intelligence. One of the most popular presentations was around the impact that ChatGPT could have on construction. I have no doubt that it can write great specifications, contracts, technical notes and more. I’m just not sure how ready we are for that. We still struggle with commissioning a building management system properly. I do live in hope though… for me, I’d love to see our buildings get more fun, to be a bit more Downton Abbey. I love the idea of having a ChatGPT butler called Carson that knows the best way to adapt spaces before I do, or anticipates my needs for refreshments. I would love to see how owners and operators instil a unique sense of personality to their spaces.

I suppose my big takeaway is that despite all the dross, there’s a great optimism around technology in our industry even if we’re not the best at implementing it! 

So, if you’re thinking of speaking at a conference again – or if it’s your first time, think about your audience. What would make your speech the most interesting, entertaining or knowledge-packed thing in their day? Could you get some feedback from your captive audience on something you want to test out? Have you got a niche point of view to air? I think a conference is a great place to do that – those attending are already in the industry and they’re there to widen their horizon – so help them do that.

In Dr Marson’s monthly column, he’ll be chronicling his thoughts and opinions on the latest developments, trends, and challenges in the Smart Buildings industry and the wider world of construction. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, you’re sure to find something of interest here.

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About the author:

Matthew Marson is an experienced leader, working at the intersection of technology, sustainability, and the built environment. He was recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering as Young Engineer of the Year for his contributions to the global Smart Buildings industry. Having worked on some of the world’s leading smart buildings and cities projects, Matthew is a keynote speaker at international industry events related to emerging technology, net zero design and lessons from projects. He was an author in the Encyclopaedia of Sustainable Technologies and a published writer in a variety of journals, earning a doctorate in Smart Buildings.