I am one of life’s eternal optimists.

But yesterday morning, as I took my seat at RecFest 16, my usually half-full glass started to feel a little empty.

This just isn’t going to work, I thought, looking around. We were in what I think is normally used as a car park round the side of Borough Market. It was already humid and people were packed together at their tables. Building work was going on opposite. There were rumblings that we were running behind schedule. And, most concerning of all, was the long line for the tea and coffee station. Near-panicked murmurs of, “There’s only one tea stand…” rippled across my table.

Of course, you know how this turns out. The Reconverse team pulled it out the bag, didn’t they. They confounded all expectations and managed to host an industry conference in a car park. They hit that balance of credible content alongside a carnival feeling.

But let’s not skip to the end of the story too quickly.

The first speaker was Johnny Campbell, aka the CEO and Founder of Social Talent, who spoke about the sense of purpose that draws people to jobs. His presentation set the tone for much of what followed: The continued enhancement of candidate attraction and connection.

Samantha Ramsay, Head of Resourcing and Employer Brand at House of Fraser, elaborated on the company’s transformation of its employer brand and its messages of self-expression and opportunity. Matt Alder, in a Silent Speaker session which saw grown-ups giggling at one another gleefully and taking selfies as they rocked over-sized headphones, explored how to get candidates’ attention without flash in the pan gimmicks.

The stand-out moment, however, came during a presentation from Barclays, when one of their former apprentices took to the stage. Jamala talked candidly about her life before finding the apprenticeship scheme – which has since led to her graduating and becoming a branch manager. What I loved was how funny, honest and upfront she was. I don’t know how anybody in the audience could fail to have been moved and inspired by her story – and she got 400 of us up on our feet in a standing ovation.

The mood did dip a little after the last refreshment break. The final presentation of the day was billed as the Headline slot, but I’ve always thought of it as a tough shift for those speaking. By 4pm, people are usually presentation-fatigued. The content, though, was interesting: a case study from Virgin Media and PH Creative that cemented the idea that poor candidate experience can directly impact a business’ bottom line.

When I say I can’t believe the Reconverse team managed to pull this event off, it’s meant as a positive. And I think that was the overwhelming feeling of the day amongst attendees. That this ludicrous idea had worked – and Jamie and his team had delivered a quality conference complete with cocktails and rum punch.

Overall? Kudos to Reconverse. It’s not a word I normally use, but it’s appropriate here. Kudos for giving us something different. Kudos for pulling it off! RecFest 16 was refreshing. And, of course, we’re all talking about where it will be held next year. Odds for the Olympic stadium?

I attended RecFest with a view to blogging about the event. The above is an authentic and truthful write-up for the Reconverse team.