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Speaking with Purpose 2017 | Reflections On Running A Successful Conference

Learnings from developing / delivering an effective and profitable conference.

Last week, over 150 people attended Speaking With Purpose, a one day conference for those looking to increase their public speaking confidence and hungry to develop their storytelling techniques.

This was my first independently-produced, medium-sized, personally-funded event, with folks attending from Tuaranga, Christchurch, Queenstown, Auckland, Palmerston North, Dunedin and all over the Wellington region.

Here’s what I learned:

Pay Your Speakers

#SWP17 speakers

In NZ, paying conference speakers for their time / talent is not commonplace (unless you’re bringing someone in from overseas it seems).

Committing beyond the usual “we could maybe find a couple hundred bucks for your time” ensured there’s not only an expectation of quality but also a contractual effort from your deliverers. What better way to contribute towards building a trend for valuing this talent and skill.

Thank you again Ali, Emma, Glenis, Michelle, Sarb.

DIY Rules

swp brochure

I opted to run the whole show myself. Apart from paying a few friends on the day for their time to manage operations, I oversaw and did everything, including:

  • design and copy for the website
  • all email newsletters and attendees communication
  • the programme design (see above) plus badge design (see below in ‘lessons’)
  • venue discussions, deliberations, decisions etc

I didn’t use a ticketing service and invoiced everyone individually just to see if it could be done (both saving myself some money in ticketing fees and not passing those costs on to attendees plus allowing for a more personal touch). The seven day payment policy for attendees once they registered (which most stuck to) gave me the working capital which enabled quick payment of the 50% venue deposit (every ticketing service keeps the money till after the event you see).

A lot of the above could’ve been outsourced although it was just as simple for me to do than find someone, explain my expectations and follow up with it all.

Offers & Freebies

20% off

I experimented with the above offer although it yielded only four sales (the Early Bird rate sold out in a couple of weeks in January and 25s-and-under rate a few weeks before the event).

Finding and gifting on freebies to those in the community who do good things already, drove more traffic and sales than any other strategy as they positively shared the event details with their audience.

Was surprised with the small amount of creative pitches received for those who couldn’t afford the attendee rate (got three, reduced rated two). Although a few offered their services for the cost of attending which is an easy yes. Thanks to Francesca for doing the video above, Jane for looking after social, and Trent for taking some wicked pics.

Business Model

DK opening SWP17 for blog

This wasn’t just a money making exercise, although, to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly on top of the meaty risk of covering the $20k venue costs plus speaker fees, printing charges etc., a financial profit was one of the blatant goals.

It took nearly 4.5 months of my time, probably 25 hours a week (then again I already knew every speaker plus have experience of running events via my TEDxWellington and Collider experience).

The total profit reached into five figures with no sponsors to bring the costs down or partners involved to take any of the operational activities on.

A tiny portion of the profits was gifted to the ace One Percent Collective.

Lessons

SWP DK badge

There’s are definite areas for improvement or just things I learned from this endeavour, including:

  • Refocussing success targets—I was very precious about selling out and hungry to do so. Even though there were only 10 tickets left, it bugged me that I didn’t (and not because of the money I would’ve made). Should learn to celebrate what was achieved instead of getting stressed out on this one big goal (see final lesson).
  • Invest in (ethical) PR—I could’ve afforded to pay for someone to get some coverage of the event in gatekeeper publications and in return would’ve probably sold out.
  • Learning to steer—being an MC is not my most comfortable role, although I’m getting better and a good skill to have in the arsenal, it’s still something which needs more honing.
  • Build a team—even though I hired my good pals from TEDxWellington to assist on the day, adding a couple more specifically to look after tech and little minor things would’ve been nice.
  • Find partners / sponsors—see business model above.
  • Celebrate—I just created a medium sized skill based event in a very small market and succeeded on all accounts. Yet I’m struggling to figure out why I can’t celebrate (with grace):

therapy

Future

swp17 feedback

There have been calls to replicate the event in Auckland plus some individual enquiries to repeat for specific organisations. Will follow up the latter to see if it’s viable, and explore the former through some partner organisations like the Council and economic development agency there.

Later on in the year, am looking to develop and deliver another broad skill / topic based event in Wellington and to build on this experience and learnings.

And next year, do it again as looking at the feedback there’s a desire.

Watch this space.


And finally, the event was wonderfully wrapped up by Ali Jacs, summarising the whole day in one superb poem:



Any successful presentation is not judged by what is said,
but by what the listener received.
So tell me,
What have you received?

Today we’ve heard from some of the best
To help us put our storytelling to the test
Under the microscope of enquiry
To dig down deep
into our own stories

DK brought us the practical slide deck tips
To present like a ninja-boss
To make each word pop like a hot toast out of the toaster, perfectly done
Emotions wrapped up inside each and every word
And in every slide, a story

When it’s all said and done, at the end of the day,
What’s the word you want people to remember?

Speaking with Purpose
Kaupapa

Sometimes the quietest people have the loudest minds
And Dr Michelle Dickinson is one of those of those indeed

She started out as Santa Claus
Pulling out gifts of introverted wisdom from her sack,
for us to all receive
before revealing her true identity

Nano-girl!
The character she became to overcome
The sweaty palms and heart beating like a drum
Those balled up words that caught in the back of her throat

Nanogirl,
the superhero conjurer
Who can turn sabertooth tigers
Into a room full of kittens,
And with that, the warm, furry, fuzzies of connection began
to weave their way through the room

Michelle reminded us that successful presentation is not judged by what is said
but by what the listener received
And I don’t know about you,
But I received the glorious image of a room full of kittens,
And that’s pretty freaking awesome in my book

Sarb Johal reminded us,
That we should tread with our verbal footprints
Ever so carefully
Social relationships are not rocket science – they’re far more complicated than that.

With so many parts of the brain to process the stories we hear,
Language can be a bridge or a barrier across the spaces in between
For my interpretation of your “we”,
May be more than simply you and me
It could be,
my friends and not you,
Or we as in I,
Or we as in you
Or we as in every liked minded person on Earth
And all in all these situations, “we” has been found wanting in authenticity

And always remember,
Whether you’re finger tapping, gesturing or playing with intonation
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Never communicate that you are nervous, you’ll only be atrocious
if you don’t believe your message, your body will betray you
Be Mona Lisa calm, and you will always be tremendous
Just simply tremendous

Now just as that energy loan shark from the morning’s caffeine hit
was knocking on the doors of our attention, to collect….

Emma Hart took to the stage, to take us on a journey
Beyond the stats
Beyond the facts
Beyond communication just for relevance
Into communication for elegance

Whether we seek to shift the world with our words
Or just to stop being bullied in the boardroom
The metaphor is a tugboat
that can begin to turn the course
Of the freight liners of our predominant narrative
pulling us from the dull oceans of the mundane
Into the vast, limitless seas of visual language
Where we share our stories with intent

The less words, the more meaning,
Talk like you talk, not like you write
Any if all else fails, find your inner Eminem or Lauryn Hill
And channel the rapper within

To close us off for the evening,
We turned our attentive ears,
To Glenis Hiria Philip-Barbara, a living, breathing story of culture
The woman who last year inspired me to set out on a journey
Towards kotahi miriona kōrerorero i Te Reo Maori
One million conversations in Te Reo Māori

When you start the narrative of your life,
Where do you begin?
A good place to start is with the purpose
The foundations of your story
Kaupapa
Ka-u-papa
Literally to hold fast to your foundations
And Glenis’s middle name Hiria means to be held

So let’s hold these words like the gift of language
Balanced on the tips of our tongues
Or like snorkestral maneuvers in the wharenui
Punctuating the darkness until the early morning light of te rā whiti
Let’s store them in the treasure trove of our voicebox,
To call upon anytime we need to find our kaupapa

We each hold individual strands of story
That have unravelled behind us throughout our past
But when we weave them together,
With purpose, passion,
Presence and conversation
We get a beautiful rope of storytelling creation

One of the key lessons I’ve learned in telling stories is to be succinct,
So haere ra, ka kite ano koutou,
to both the introverts going home for a nap
And those heading downstairs for a drink

New Zealand Is Calling | Land Of The Long White Cloud & Opportunity

adventure

Come on over.

Since arriving over five years ago, Aotearoa definitely feels like home.

Due to the international audience and network I’ve been luckily enough to accumulate over the years, here’s a couple of ways to get your bums over here, live the dream and add value to this progressive little nation:

Looksee Wellington

If you’re in the tech industry then *Looksee Wellington gives you no excuse to explore opportunities in the creative capital. If you’re free 8-11 May 2017 then hurry and submit your details to the site:

“…we’re bringing 100 of the best people we can find to fill 100 great tech jobs right here in Wellington. It’ll be four days of pre-arranged job interviews, meet-ups and exploration, with all flights and accommodation paid for. At the end of the week there’ll be offers to jobs you never knew existed in a place with a lifestyle you never thought possible.”

Edmund Hillary Fellowship

*Edmund Hillary Fellowship is the brainchild and result of the good work my pals at Kiwi Connect has been doing. Be sure to check the small print though as applications can set you back $850-$3,000 if applying from overseas (although this is cheaper than other visa routes):

“Global Impact Visas (GIVs) is an innovative new visa programme that aims to give visionary entrepreneurs, investors, and startup teams a platform in New Zealand to build, incubate and support ventures with global impact potential.”

Other paths

There’s the Traditional Visa Path which can be an expensive and sometimes lengthy route. Check out the skilled migrant category as definitely the most advantageous route.

There’s a few incubators and accelerators who I’m sure are open to overseas interest like: FinTech NZ, Mahuki, R9 Accelerator to name a few.

Oh and you can always buy your way in like Thiel.

*Looksee is not exclusive to overseas folks and will be taking applications from anyone outside the Wellington region and Edmund Hillary Fellowship is also taking applicants from NZ residents also.

Speaking With Purpose | Announcing A New Wellington Conference

Maya Angelou words quote

Raising the skill set of presenting / public speaking / storytelling.

Am triple excited to announce Speaking With Purpose, happening on Monday, 27th March 2017, at the fantastic Roxy Cinema:

A one day conference for those looking to increase their public speaking confidence and hungry to develop their storytelling techniques.

The event will feature inspirational keynotes plus masterclasses and workshops so attendees can broaden their professional skill set.

Inspired by my recent tenure overseeing nearly 200 events in fourteen months, there’s an opportunity to assist and develop presenters here in Wellington, the wider region and New Zealand as a whole.

Have seen so many folks stand and speak about their particular topic then struggle with the storytelling aspect of their message. Or suffer with nerves and other nuances which detract from the talk in some. Or fail to understand the importance of a well crafted slide deck in assisting their delivery.

This conference is for them.

It’s the wrong time to be announcing any kind of new initiative, let alone a medium-sized conference, however, just couldn’t keep it under wraps till the new year.

Check out the current impressive line-up who will be sharing their wisdom (more to be added soon):

swp speakers 2017

The early-bird offer along with the 25s-and-under registrations rates are currently active under a first-come-first-served scheme*:

swp prices 2017

As already mentioned, the day will include a mix of keynotes and workshops focussed on deconstructing presentation styles, understanding the psychology of what makes a good talk, exploring models of speaking, other good practice insights and delivery methodology. On top of the usual food and refreshments and networking opportunities.

*At the time of writing, over half of the early bird spots have already been registered, so please act quick.


Would truly appreciate you sharing the above announcement:

  • with team members, colleagues, friends, family members etc.;
  • via any newsletters, blogs and / or communities;
  • through your online social media networks.

Thank you and hopefully see you there,!

Collidering On | Refocussing On The Creative Purpose

Crafting creative collisions elsewhere.

Tomorrow is my last day managing Collider, a programme which is transforming the city into an internationally recognised Smart capital.

In fourteen months the project has notched up *nearly 200 events with over 5000 attendees averaging quality rating of 4.2 and above (out of 5).

An epic piece of foundational work—developed from a standing start with no precedent—focussed on raising capabilities and literacies via a plethora of tech, creative and digital seminars, talks, roundtables, meetups, masterclasses, workshops etc.

Due to managerial changes and iterations of the original aim, my personal purpose and values no longer align, so the time has come to allow someone else steer the ship for the remaining Wellington City Council funded initiative.

Huge thanks to my previously line manager, the collaborative Jessica for her guidance and steerage, the partnership of Caitlin for her tireless enthusiasm and spirit, the superb colleagues and friends, Monique, Jeff and Petreece, plus the wider BizDojo whanau (and of course all the facilitators, speakers, stakeholders, partners etc which made this a pure adventure).

Onwards…


…towards manifesting my purpose to shape more creative collisions of and for incredible humans.

Will be amplifying the curatorial nature of my skill set plus the cross-sector translatorial aspects of my talents. In the first half of 2017, that means:

  • launching a curative service of exclusive conversations whilst building micro-networks of creativity;
  • continue to produce TEDxWellington which will be the fifth and biggest TEDx event in the capital;
  • forge an offer to serve as professional development for those seeking to improve both their public speaking skills and to understand deeply the power of kick-ass storytelling;
  • attend TEDFest in NYC;
  • liaise on other smart city-wide / internationally focussed related endeavours.

The aim as ever is to make folks think and / or smile.

Add value where I can.

And forever reach beyond my grasp.

*not included are the mentor sessions created by both the Step Up programme and the InformMe (probably at least doubling the amount of ‘events’ in the final number).

Culture Hive Digital Marketing Academy | Everything Is Beta

abraham-lincoln-axe-quote

Mentoring is never linear.

For the past three years I’ve been honoured to be mentoring ‘fellows’ from the cultural sector via the the Arts Marketing Association, Digital Marketing Academy.

Fellows are invited to devise, test, develop and share digital marketing experiments with the help of a leading digital specialist as their Mentor. The experiments are developed on real audiences in order to trial and adopt good practice and achieve new ambitions and perspectives in digital marketing.

Every year, I’ve been working with three fellows and although many experiments have seen fruition, like using printed flyers to promote digital offers, connecting schools with arts and cultural organisations online and using online data to drive digital efforts, the most important learning is that everything is beta.

Ideas don’t follow a neat, linear pathway to actualisation, there are just too many factors which influence things, like resources, time, other projects, literacies, organisational culture etc. Developing pathways to action is sometimes more about understanding deeply the causalities of the hurdles and / or clearing the route rather than walking them.

The two most common challenges facing the fellows during my time as mentor is that of capacity and expectations. The first relates to simple the amount of ‘other’ in the professional portfolio the mentee is juggling. Space for reflection let alone experimentation is rare so even being part of this initiative is a fantastic opening of potential. The latter is obviously an internal, softer set of attitudes which the organisation manifests. Again, another ongoing, sometimes abrasive hinderance to the intent of the projects, which is specific and is tackled by rephrasing or positioning the efforts in a digestible and values / outcomes based manner.

Without at least attempting to address these factors then experiments rarely gain deeper traction.

Put another way, the axe needs sharpening first.

Big thanks to my mentees this year: Rachel and Ryan from the digital team at Barbican Centre plus Helga who’s heading up the marketing team at Pavilion Dance South West.

PechaKucha Night Wellington | Hugs Are Currency

20 slides, 20 seconds per slide—lets hug it out!

On the bottom of my site for the past few years I’ve had the statement:

Around here, hugs are currency!

It’s a cute line although it’s also something I dearly believe in.

So, to the embrace the challenge and put together a talk on this for PechaKucha Wellington the other month was a pure joy.

Huge thanks to the organisers for trusting me with a rogue subject matter and hope you will learn the ROI of hugs, why they matter and how not to give a hug (plus also how to give a great one).

Minimalism: A Documentary | Challenge Consumerism, Live Intentionally

Love people, use things—the opposite never works.

On Saturday, 23 October 2010, I posted the first blog entry to my Declutter100 project, an attempt to take one hundred hours to explore minimalism.

Nearly two months later, a comment from a chap named ‘Josh (one half of the minimalists)’ started a conversation which transitioned into a friendship (including the other one as well).

The Minimalists have forged a movement and rallying cry towards a simpler and fuller life through their writings, talks and wonderful storytelling.

Last night I watched their documentary (finally, sorry guys) and was reminded again about how living intentionally, without forced consumption and expectations of ownership, increases the richness of the moment plus amplifies the essential experiences of human relationships:

How might your life be better with less? MINIMALISM: A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE IMPORTANT THINGS examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life—families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker—all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less.

Watch the film although be prepared to have it question your habits, ideas of success and consumerist lifestyle.

Well done Ryan and Josh for this great achievement and thanks for doing what you do.