balance

On The Beach pt 1 – A Conference for Everyone

Last week we sent Alana King, Strategist and Tom Willner-Reid, Commercial Finance Manager, to Silicon Beached. Here, Alana writes on the significance, or not, of a conference where all the speakers ‘happened to be’ women. Part 2 is here.

 

Something strange happened this week: I attended a conference (Silicon Beached) where all ten speakers were women. Even stranger, the conference promotion made no mention of the fact that the speakers were not men. And perhaps strangest of all: the topic of the conference was not “working while female” and all its variants (“how to be confident”, “how to be less stressed” or “how to achieve work-life balance,” as if only women have feelings or families).

It was an experiment, according to the conference’s organizer: he invited ten speakers who happened to be women, and asked them to talk about their work, not their gender. Given that the sky hasn’t fallen in and the sun still rose today, the experiment was a success and one I’d love to see the rest of the industry pick up on. (Or, even better than all-women speakers, it would be great to see mixed panels organized and greeted with a no-big-deal attitude.) As you’d expect from any group of 10 human beings, some of the talks were excellent, most were good, and a few not great.

But if I dwell any longer on the all-women line-up, I wouldn’t have learned the lesson would I? So taking a page out of Silicon Beached’s book, I’d like to talk about the speakers’ work, not their gender.

For me, the theme that emerged from the best talks was a reminder that the creative and digital industries thrive when they help and delight real people–not customers or viewers, but emotional, social human beings.

Lindsey Clay from Thinkbox presented some fascinating ethnographic research about TV viewing that reminded us that people watch TV to participate in the shared social fabric of the nation.

Liz Pavitt from Rubber Republic asked us to use the “would you date your brand” filter for whatever we put on our brands’ social platforms (“possibly”, “no way” and “never in a million years” was my conclusion).

Lauren Currie from Snook told us about her mission to ‘invert the pyramid’ in order to get to brilliant service design: that is, prioritize the wisdom and experiences of people who are closest to the service in question, an idea that shouldn’t seem revolutionary but probably is.

Pip Jamieson, founder of The Dots (a LinkedIn for creative people) gave an honest account of the human side of founding a successful startup, both the emotional highs (easy to talk about) and the emotional lows (easier to keep to oneself).

And MT Rainey closed the day with some wonderful stories from her career in advertising, including babysitting Kevin Costner’s dog on the set of an Apple ad, defending Apple’s now-famous “1984” to a hostile board, and a nerve-wracking address to the board of News International in 1997 about whether this internet business will take off and whether it will change journalism, brilliantly and boldly entitled “Crystal Bollocks”.

Most inspiring was her observation that her experiences didn’t seem as remarkable at the time as they do in retrospect, and a gentle reminder to step back and appreciate your professional life as it’s unfolding.