Recipe for a successful conference

Back after a few days at my Sales Academy in Evian and have been reflecting on what makes a great sales conference. My team and I had been working so hard to make a success of this event and I feel like we made amazing progress. Of course nothing it’s perfect but 2019 has been the best yet and I started to think about how and why that was the case.

1. The first thing for me is a purpose. Following our high performing teams training we settled on our purpose as a management team being ‘Setting The Stage for Success’ what did we mean by that? Simply put, our job is to be the roadies for the team. Put everything in place to help them to succeed. This is what we carried through to the Academy as the theme. Too often leaders are the front men, the ones on stage, our view is that our teams should be up there.

2. Inclusion. This year we really involved a whole range of teams, individual sales teams from every market and division to create ‘Adbreaks’ – 5 minute case studies through out the few days, amazing opp for teams to present best work to a big crowd. We involved speakers from diverse backgrounds, a long list of amazing female talent in the business and both internal and external. All briefed to talk Setting the Stage for Success.

3. Safe space. As the team has grown and collaborated over the years, we have created a very safe culture – led by my wonderful directs with all team members happy to ask questions even to the most senior of Execs who we asked to come over, including our Global CFO and Head of Free Business, as well as the founder of Gimlet. The level of trust in the group has been amazing.

4. Fun.  Not too much, not too little. This year we were in a relatively controlled environment and so bed times were not too late. Lots and lots of fun but not too late and that has a lot of benefits. People were sharper the next day which meant they added more and interacted more. Tiredness leads to stress which can build when you are pulled away from your day job, even for the best content. Hangovers are so 2018.

5.Environment. We chose a venue that was calm, beautiful views and partially isolated and it was wonderful. Our meeting space was light and airy with views over lakes. We had lots of space and we built in time to breathe. Longer breaks, longer lunch, time at end of day to unwind and catch up, all meant people could concentrate and put phones and laptops down. The engagement was amazing.

6. Time to think. Often the goal of these events is based on packing as much in as possible ‘since we have everyone here.’ We have tried this and it does not work. If you want to drive attention during the sessions then making sure people have time to work and relax is vital. So longer breaks, time to unwind at the end of the day before any evening activities are all vital to a good mindset through the week. I was blown away by the attention of the teams this year because we engineered better timings. We also made sure that we ended on a Thursday and not a Friday so there was a working day left.

7. Prepare to be gone. A small additional note to this, prepare for absence well in advance and give air cover. If a business can’t operate with out irate clients for two and half days then we have an issue. Warn clients that you are having a massively beneficial team / learning experience, you won’t be around as normal and anything else should be managed around the event. I would also hope our clients would show consideration, lets face it, everyone does it at some point during the year.

I could not be happier, it takes work, it takes a small army of people to pull it off but the results will show. Don’t start with revenue as the goal, start with behaviours and your people and the rest will follow. I am so proud of the leads we have across EMEA, they bond, they get on, they work independently and as teams. We are in such a good place and the people are everything.

Mentoring: How can I help?

One really important factor that I have discovered since moving from agency to sales is the ability to do more, more easily at my level. The array of things that get categorised under ‘more’ is significant, but on the whole they all have one thing in common, a request for money. I am not exactly sure why, but generally speaking, sales companies find budget to support a whole range of causes. We are asked by charities, by clients, by industry bodies, by trade titles and so on. It is brilliant to be able to do so much to help out and at Spotify we really support a range of different organisations. I have enjoyed that so much for the last two years, it has been very fulfilling.

Thing is, I also feel like we jump around and try to do too much / everything and although that is admirable, it is also perhaps skin deep at times. As a company we can do this to a point, but as an individual it becomes even harder. One person, especially someone who is travelling a lot and has all the usual time pressures cant do everything so more recently I have been considering what is most important to me, and what have I really enjoyed.

A number of years ago I started Speakers4schools presentations, and I have consistently been doing them ever since. I am pleased to say that we then moved from just presenting to working with an extension of Speakers4schools, NextGen who encourage their speakers to create work placements in their businesses. I am hugely grateful to my HR team who have allowed me to do this, and all the band members across the business that supported with their time and expertise. More recently I have been thinking about how to focus my energies and try to do more with less time and what is it that I really enjoy and adds value. Mentoring has always been fun, not the deep, lets meet every two weeks for years type mentoring, but the shorter, more specifics advice that when given could make a difference to someone, and even get them a job, they would otherwise of not had the chance to get.

As I reflect on our industry with a real focus now on gender diversity and indeed wider diversity, I still feel as if we are talking to the same types of groups, we still have not truly  moved the agenda. My personal goal and where I can, hopefully with support of Spotify, is to try and help under privileged young adults who are not getting access to the expertise that some schools or areas do. Speakers4schools has introduced that to me, and I feel it is great in its own right, but would also serve to bring more diversity into our industry and so I wanted to explore how I could help. I need opportunities that can mould around a busy schedule so advice, mentoring, speed mentoring etc is interesting. Today I was amazed at the response to a simple tweet I sent this morning.

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The response was fantastic not a ‘likes’ count, but people passionately responding and making suggestions, and it served to highlight how many amazing things are happening, and so I thought it would be great to list out all those responses so everyone has a chance to identify opportunities that they may like to get involved in.

Female mentoring with BloomUK http://www.bloom.org/the-exchange

Brixton Finishing School for underprivileged young adults http://www.hoxtonunited.com/

Media Trust http://www.mediatrust.org

IAA Speed Mentoring sessions http://www.iaauk.london/events/iaa-mentoring

DevelopHer – Elevating women through community based opps http://www.eepurl.com/bJAKKL

Creative Mentor Network http://www.creativementornetwork.org

Mediatel Speed mentoring http://www.mediatel.co.uk/newsline/2019/05/02/sign-up-for-free-speed-mentoring-2/

There are others no doubt, so add in the comments if you want to keep it all in this article. Bottom line, there is the chance to give your time, and there are different routes you can take, but for me it is time to focus and I am excited to explore how I can help!

We all need to ‘Grow’ up – Don’t forget yourself.

When you take a step back and really assess how you spend your day, it is clear that most of us fail in investing in ourselves. More importantly as leaders of teams and organizations just when we need our own selfs to be in the best shape, it gets harder to do and less focused on. Well I was lucky enough to join 30-40 other people from across the media agency landscape on a two day session organized by AOL. The programme was supported by some incredible people like David Bell – a legend of the industry (ex IPG), Jim Stengel – ex CMO of P&G and guest appearances from Tim Armstrong, fresh back from a run in Santa Monica and Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever.

Two days spent with leaders from across the media agency landscape, reflecting, discussing, debating and laughing about our industry. The sessions covered many topics from mindfulness to pitching, to self improvement and more. One thing that struck me above almost all, we don’t invest in ourselves enough and these two days, unexpectedly brought me to think more about what I am and do than perhaps any other in recent memory.

Through the two days we had a chance to reflect on what we do, how we do it, what our bosses do and how they do it. We had the chance to discuss some gritty industry issues and the implications for all of us, and we had to put to test some things I would probably have never done myself – practicing mindfulness routines for one! The whole time you were thinking and listening to all these industry greats and they focused the mind. We heard from all of them and their routines and there were some constants. Some constants that we all agreed we don’t follow ourselves well enough, but if we don’t do it for ourselves, how can we inspire others to do the same and succeed in their own right. About now I could write one of those LinkedIn posts ‘ten things successful people do’ because we heard from a number of them. The fact that Tim Armstrong fitted a session in with us on Skype between a run and board meeting said it all! I won’t though because I am certain more of you on both sides of the Atlantic will be doing these sessions and I don’t want to ruin it for you!

Everyone was encouraged to think about what they would change as soon as they got back to the office, and everyone took different things out of the two days but for me it was clear that we must act, we must all move from talking, thinking, suggesting to acting both personally and from a business perspective. Being deliberate as one member mentioned made a lot of sense, have a plan and stick do it, especially around the areas of health, holidays and giving oneself time to think. I enjoy exercise and it is important to me for my own mindset and well being in life. As Keith Weed said, you have to do what helps you whether it’s sleep, exercise or anything else, if it makes you operate better then you should do it. Too often I hear people feel guilty about going to the gym or people are quick as they go off on holiday to say ‘they will be on email’ no. Go have a break it is good for you and good for your teams.

As we moved through the sessions and the people in the room got to know each other better, to discuss more openly and I have no doubt have a warm bond with AOL and the team they brought in, it struck me how smart AOL had been. They were investing in us, more so probably than many people had had from their own businesses as regards their own self improvement. We spend so much time focused on others, we forget ourselves and the message was loud and clear – that has to change.  Importantly it also made me think about our own relationship with our clients. We do education days, we do news letters and trips to Silicon Valley and so on but I am pretty certain that we have not invested in our clients as we experienced over the last two days and that is an important point. As agencies we have to adapt, structure and restructure to keep up with everything around us but we have to bring value at all times to our advertisers and really invest in them as people as well as businesses if we want to build relationships and have a top table seat.

My head continues to whirl with ideas and I am still scribbling ideas, I have some homework to do as well which I really look forward to doing, that must be a good sign! If you are invited to attend the next AOL ‘Grow’ I recommend it, as a cynic about most courses, I can say this one will help you Grow.

PS – please make sure to ask people one thing that may not be known about them and to share. In our small room we had heroes, hostages, police cell dwellers, a man who had been trapped in a lift with Michael Jackson and more..