I have just returned from the fascinating and enjoyable IT Directors’ Forum 2011 (ITDF11), a major technology conference, organised by Richmond Events and held aboard the luxurious P&O Aurora cruise ship.

At first, I was worried that being stuck on a ship with dozens of suppliers and potential suppliers would be less than enjoyable, but I need not have worried because it was an excellent experience, and one that I highly recommend.

The standard of the event was very high – from the initial cocktail reception, through the excellent keynote presentations and all the way on to the well- organised supplier presentations, it was obvious that the team behind it really understand how to put on a show that is relevant for the audience – and that delivers real value.

Specifically, when compared to other events, several things stood out at ITDF11.

First, the calibre of the attendees was very high, with CIOs and IT directors from hundreds of major organisations across a range of industry sectors, creating great opportunities to talk about the issues facing technology leaders, and the chance to share experiences with peers.

The quality of the event organisation and management was superb; the whole thing ran like clockwork from start to finish and the organisers must be commended on pulling off such a logistical feat whilst making it fun for the attendees.

Last but not least on the list must be the quality of the speakers and facilitators – they were outstanding and the sessions that I attended had the right level of research, insight and thought leadership; I have already started using some of the models that I picked-up at the event, and discussing projects and challenges with some of the great contacts that I made.

Not surprisingly, one of the main topics of discussion over the three days was the cloud, with many delegates talking about their plans to adopt cloud computing, despite the uncertainty that some still have.

Skills management for talented IT professionals was also high on the list, with many technology leaders thinking about how best to keep their most valuable team members as we come out of recession and economic growth returns.

All in all an incredibly stimulating event, and one that I look forward to attending again in the future!