My 150 Gift to Canada

MH3 —  June 27, 2017

I love Canada and I’m so bummed I can’t be in Ottawa for this sesquicentennial weekend. Whoever organized my OPFL Bantam football league should have recognized that this is a big holiday and NO games should have been scheduled.

I digress.

Speaking of football, I would love to give Canada a gift for turning 150. My gift is a game plan for the next Canadian Football League Commissioner. As you know the league started its 2017 commissioner-less (not sure how that’s even possible), and the search has been remarkably quiet. So, I’m going to whip out my pot stirring spoon and apologize to all of you with feather allergies, as I itemize some suggestions.

They are free of charge on the surface. Of course, I have a hidden agenda. What coach doesn’t put a little deception in the game plan? A few fakes, a few tendency breakers, a few new formations just to game the opposition off balance. In fact, you can probably detect I have more than one agenda. Not letting your opponent know where you are really headed is always a great plan in business.

So here we go. One hundred and fifty, or so, suggestions for the next commissioner of the CFL. Happy Birthday Canada.

.

1. The Canadian Football League should become the umbrella organization for all things Football in this country. It should create an alliance between themselves School Sport Canada, Football Canada, NFL Canada, University Football, CJFL, OVFL, CEGEP, etc., etc. The job of the CFL should be to unite “football” in this country. If someone is a football fan, they are more likely to follow the CFL in some way or form. Why try to compete with the NFL? Work together. Grow the sport.  Who cares if they carry the Vanier Cup on a different network than the CFL’s TV partner? Who cares! Those players are your future CFL stars. The CFL commissioner needs to be an ambassador of all things football. They should be at youth games, industrial league games, car washes, and more. Take the John Tory approach to being a mayor and stretch it from coast to coast. Why is there no football business conference or football fan expo or football coaches’ clinics or football summit in this country? Leadership is the only path to the end zone!

Canadian Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon played six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos and he won five straight Grey Cups from 1978-1982 while wearing the Green and Gold.

 

2. The CFL needs to grow the game. I know that sounds basic, but it’s vital. I challenge you to do a little test. Go to the CFL website and click on youth programs, or volunteer opportunities, or community football. It doesn’t exist. Where would you go if you wanted your child to sign up for a youth flag league or tackle league? What would you do if you moved to a new town and wanted to join an adult league? Where would you search if you wanted to see the best high school in your area? What about summer camps? The CFL should be the primary promoter of ensuring that the game is growing. More players = more parents = more fans = more money = more talent in twenty years = more stars = more fans = more talent. I would love to send my kid to a CFL branded overnight camp, where he would do all the camp things he loves to do and learn great skills. Imagine the CFL being able to offer more jobs to university grads, who aren’t quite ready for the first team, to stay in football either as a development period or go into coaching, managing, organizing, officiating, etc.

Doug Flutie Toronto Argonauts 1996 1997 grey cup winner 1992 96 97. CFL most outstanding player 1991 1994 1996 1997.

 

3. The CFL needs to understand that they are not just the overseer of the sport and its growth, but also its business. The CFL needs to drive the football business at every level. Licensed goods, camps, better sponsorships and more partnerships at every level. They need to have college courses teaching the business of football. They need to teach community organizers how to manage leagues. They need to get business partners who will promote the game. They need to rebuild the Grey Cup festival model from the ground up. Between government, businesses, wealthy individuals, and the public, the CFL needs to raise a megafund for investment in the game. Why am I as a Canadian Pittsburgh Steeler fan also a Green Bay Packers Shareholder? Because they gave me the opportunity to invest in FOOTBALL! When I bought my stock five years ago they raised $67 million in 6 weeks selling shares at $250 each. SXTY-SEVEN MILLION! It’s worthless paper folks. Come to my office if you want to take a picture!

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (3) spots a receiver through the rain during first half CFL action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, in Regina on Saturday, October 22, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor)

 

4. The CFL needs to rebrand as the “small c, cFL” until they truly become the CFL. Confused? Well my map of Canada doesn’t stop at Montreal. The league needs to stretch coast to coast to coast. It is time to put a team in Halifax or Moncton, one in Quebec City, and one in Whitehorse. The Atlantic Schooner faithful have waited long enough. Let’s give Atlantic Canada the major-league team it deserves. There is enough money and more than enough beer to support a team. Quebec City? Laval stole the market from the CFL some say. I say Laval educated and trained the market. The league should draft off that. Imagine the rivalry between Montreal and Quebec City if they both had CFL teams. Plus, Quebec is a province-wide hotbed for the sport already. The North is a frontier worth exploring. Imagine the opportunities to help economic development, build programming and provide role models by having a team in one of the territories. Travel costs could be managed by teams going up and playing two games over six days as an extended road trip. In between, they could practice and do community programming. Our federal government needs to provide solutions to northern issues, and a sports experience could be a great one.

Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant during a game against the Calgary Stampeders in Regina, Sask., Friday, July 5, 2013. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

 

5. I am not suggesting the CFL expand into the US again. Having teams practice in a parking lot (which Los Vegas did), doesn’t help the brand. But, the CFL needs a North American marketing strategy. Being broadcasted on ESPN12 isn’t enough. One third of Americans say pro football is their favorite sport and half of Americans are pro football fans. College football isn’t far behind. With most CFL players being American, doesn’t it make sense to build a long-term approach to targeting Americans? They love football. Merchandise programs. Sport tourism. Fan Expos. Player tours. Cross-border sponsorship. Is it out of bounds to cross the border and suck some money out of a massive market? You can’t tell me that college fans of a US star now playing in Vancouver wouldn’t want to come for a weekend, watch a game, and see an amazing city all at once? What about a CFL All-Star game in the same city and on the same weekend as the Pro Bowl? Has anyone ever asked the NFL to co-host? How about a Canada vs USA CFL showdown? Why not do one or two regular season games in the USA in football starved markets, like the NFL does in England? I bet if you measured the total Canadian Football GDP and the US Football GDP, the CFL would only need to capture 1-2% to double their business!

Ralph Deiter Brock Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback 1983.

 

6. The CFL should own emerging and niche markets. Why introduce new Canadians to hockey? Learning to skate isn’t easy, but running is a common element of most sports from around the world. Buying equipment is expensive. Youth football is unique in that the equipment is provided. Football builds instant camaraderie and friendships. My son’s youth team has kids on our team that were born in Turkey, Egypt, Mexico, and even the US of A! The CFL should be waiting at the border for all shapes and sizes, because football is a sport for every body type. The CFL should expand that approach to marginalized Canadians. Canadians who have been here before Confederation. Canadians with various degrees of physical and intellectual abilities. Partnerships with Special Olympics and the Canadian Paralympic Committee are a must do. Working with indigenous groups is obvious. Creating special programs for LGBTQ. Driving growth in women’s football is so obvious to me, I don’t know why it hasn’t been tackled. Right now, the Women’s World Championships are happening in British Columbia this week, but who knew? The best player on my bantam team last year as was young woman. She was defensive MVP. This year she retired to coaching at 15, because there is nowhere for her to play!

Ottawa Rough Riders rookie quarterback (6) J.C. Watts. from Oklahoma. guided time to 20-1 halftime lead in Ottawa’s last Grey Cup.

 

Hey CFL Owners, if you like my ideas enough and want someone to implement them, just give me a call. I’m ready for my interview!

mh3

PS – I have loved the CFL since I watched Russ Jackson, Condredge Holloway, Tom Clements, JC Watts.

PS2 – I have been a volunteer football coach since 1994.

PS3 – I coach three teams a year right now.

PS4 – I have worked with the CFL, Canadian Football Hall of Fame, NFL Canada, numerous league sponsors, CIAU/OUAA/OUA/U Sports/CIS.

PS5 – I have attended at least twenty Grey Cups.

PS6 – I have attended at least fifteen Vanier Cups.

PS7 – My first Vanier Cup was as a student reporter covering the Guelph Gryphons 1984 win over Mount Allison.

PS8 – My sister was a cheerleader at Western.

PS9- Don’t ask her to do a cartwheel now.

PS10- I am only jealous because I could never do one.

North-South Runner

MH3 —  June 21, 2017

The football expression to run “north-south” may sound odd to those who aren’t familiar with gridiron nomenclature, but it’s timeless and it’s invaluable advice.

The expression is used to coach running backs. The idea is simple. Once the back reaches the designated hole or zone to run, they should stop running side to side, aka east or west, and head north. Why we say North-South I don’t really know. Maybe it’s a more rhythmic comment. That doesn’t mean a runner can’t cut back or make moves but in general, you want them gaining yards, not running sideways for no gain or worse a loss.

It’s a hard thing to teach and great players have it instinctively. The best runners are wired to gain yardage by heading north-south. They understand that three yards upfield is better than two yards lost. They know that to get to pay dirt they need to point their compass north as soon as possible. They understand that despite the counterintuitiveness of running towards their opponent, that the sure swat way to success is through your opponent.

Yesterday I joined NFL Canada, and some of their major partners as they did a little north-south running of their own for the 2017 Sponsor Summit. To shake things up the event was held at NFL headquarters in New York, which afforded us a fantastic line-up of expert speakers from the NFL office staff. In effect, some of the best sports marketing coaching on the continent!

NFL Headquarters

NFL Headquarters

 

NFL Headquarters

The clichés between sport and business are some of the most overworked writings in literature, but when sport and business intertwine they take on new meaning. So, at risk of you penalizing me, I am going to share a thought from the day that will stay with me for a while. It might perhaps provide the goal line required for being a north-south runner.

When sport and business collide, through sponsorships, licensing, media partnerships, or joint ventures, a mutually beneficial relationship is created. It is not a one-way relationship. Both parties, or all parties I should say, have a vested interest in both the sport being successful and the business being successful. In simple math, the more football, rugby, or soccer fans that exist in a market, the better it is for the governing bodies, teams and leagues, and the better it is for partners and sponsors. The exchange of rights and funding is the transactional part of the relationship, but the mission of the relationship is much more important. The long-term sustainability of the relationship is directly tied to the growth of the sport.

The growth of any sport, such as football, is the payday for all its constituents. A football in the hands of an eight-year-old girl or boy is good for everyone in football. A football jersey on the back of a millennial, or mom, or media celebrity is as good for the NFL, as it is the CFL, as it is Budweiser, as it is Mount Allison University. The Argos open their second season at BMO this week and their success is as important to the football industry as my Toronto Jets game against the Guelph Jr. Gryphons on Saturday.

Toronto Argos Tailgate Party

Toronto Argos Tailgate Party

Toronto Jets

Toronto Jets

Sport and business are at their best when they learn how to work together. There was a lot of conversation yesterday about insights, planning cycles, shared learnings, and partnerships. Sport and business are great teammates when they pursue lofty, ambitious goals together. When they create a powerful sense of shared mission. When they recognize that a team is built slowly, purposefully, and painfully.

Getting to 345 Park Avenue (NFL HQ) was a bucket list moment for me. No, not because I played the board game as a kid. In the lobby is a display of every Super Bowl champion ring ever produced. There is no jewellery store in the world that can compare. These rings aren’t bling. They are the result of sticking your nose to your opponent, whether that be your daily task list or a tough sales call or a creative challenge, and not stopping until you get to the end zone for a touchdown.

Run North-South!

PS. I am so glad the NFL is loosening the rules on touchdown celebrations last year. Few images were more striking to me than last season when Zeke Elliott jumped in the Salvation Army kettle.

Zeke Elliott in the Salvation Army kettle

Joy Inc.

MH3 —  June 6, 2017

I just finished an awesome book.

Credit for my hearing about it goes to an Ohio U MBA-MSA student I had in a recent workshop who was fortunate enough to be mentored by the author and his co-founder. As passionate as I am about entrepreneurship, the book intrigued me. Its title? Did you read my blog title? I borrowed it from their book.

The subtitle of the book, How We Built a Workplace People Love, is both accurate and misleading. There is no question that people love working at Menlo Innovations, his software company, according to the author. In fact, I suspect Thomas Edison himself would have loved working there. The book, however, is about more than love or Joy. It’s about an entrepreneur’s journey to build a workplace that he feels makes sense.

The stories about the sheer stupidity that culturally existed at many of his jobs sent shivers down my spine. It caused me to question how many times I have been that shortsighted with my teams. One of the shortcomings of most workplaces it represents is how invaluable we allow team members to become because nobody else understands how to do what they do. Inevitably, this backfires as the super important team member gets frustrated by the lack of internal mobility and leaves the company for new challenges. I know I have done that in my tenure as a business owner. Not intentionally.

You can hear the frustration in Sheridan’s voice and pen about companies he served that didn’t understand the ongoing museum of resources. How urgent projects constantly interrupted best laid plans. How fire after fire messed up any chance for work to be purposely throughout out. How fixing things becomes the norm versus the energy to build things. Sound familiar?

One of the most unique aspects of Menlo Innovations is the way every person is twinned. On every project. Every day. Two people work together, for a week. On one computer. They Ying, they yang. They sing, they sang. Then after a week, they split up and twin with somebody else. Menlo has proven that two heads are better than one and by standardizing their approach to software they can move people from project to project with no glitches. Many people don’t believe it, until the try it. Think about pairing everybody in your organization up. Would it work?

Another feature of the Menlo culture is safety. Not from falling beams or air pollution. No. The safety that exists in Menlo is the opportunity to be honest and candid about project estimating. Teams can freely express how long projects will take, without retribution from bosses. In fact, the role of the bosses is to educate the clients to understand why tasks take the time they do to be done right. By infusing a lack of fear in the organization, there is no fudging of time estimates to buy time. Project managers make the most accurate assessments they can and if they off, the conversation is focused on adjusting the schedule, not punishment. This process is widely enabled because all clients must participate in a resource planning exercise with Menlo throughout the project build. Using index cards and markers, the broader project team works together to prioritize what needs to be done and when. Safe to say I am envious of their ability to bring this to reality with their clients.

Midway through Joy Inc., I almost stopped reading it. Sometimes the author gets a bit preachy, sometimes a bit corny, often not super strategic, and a few times almost unbelievable. But I was glad I plotted through it. Candidly, the book isn’t just about Joy. It’s about taking the absurdity out of how many of us work.

Sunday morning I was riding a school bus.

Yellow on the outside, with plastic seats on the inside. Filled with thirty nervous adolescents and a few tense coaches. Friendly driver with sweat stained souvenir Blue Jays hat.

An hour bounce along the highway ahead of me. Opening game of my Bantam football team that I coach.

As we shuffled up the highway it was all I could do to mask my nerves. Small talk, a few quips. Several shouts to tell my players to either sit down or stop screeching. The irony of me screaming at kids to stop screaming was somehow lost on me.

Coaching youth sports is not supposed to be about winning. It’s supposed to be about life lessons, role modelling, growth, and development. The bloggers, script writers, and propagandists like myself endlessly espouse it’s virtues.

Easy to understand principles and all, in most normal situations. Except the one I found myself in on Sunday. My team headed to play the team that had popped us by a ruthless 84-14 tally last season. Sorry, did I mention this was football and not basketball?

Somehow, at the time, the score didn’t seem all that bad. Perhaps our 72-12 opening season loss conditioned us for taking a pummelling. Perhaps it was because we had lost our third game 53-0.

But as we headed for our 2017 opener against the same inflicted, it felt a lot worse. I could see it in the eyes of my 13 & 14 year old players. They had been humiliated last year, they knew it, and they feared it happening again.

That loss was by a score I have never suffered in some twenty-three years and now thirty odd teams of volunteer coaching. It made me ponder. Why did the other coach not stop the onslaught?

I’ve never had the chance to score 84 points on someone in a football game. I hope I never will. I am not one to harp about sports justice, but what can possibly be achieved by lapping your opponent six times!!!!!!

You can probably forgive my edginess. I wasn’t worried about losing, I just didn’t want my kids to be humiliated, again. I told them pregame my request for them was to be GAMERS.

Don’t give me that puzzled look, like they did, I always want to strive to win. But in order to win the game, you have to put yourself in a position to be in the game. Focus on keeping yourselves in the game first, I asked, and then worry about the final outcome later.

At first it was clear they hadn’t listened. Or maybe they had listened but hadn’t heard. Perhaps I was the one who wasn’t listening, to their nerves, to their anxiety, to their tension.

We went out and got a first down. Hurrah. Maybe more to come?

We then got a few more yards. Then missed an easy catch. Then had to make a fourth down decision.

To make it a game I felt the need to strike. So I went for it. One of our rookies, in his first game of football ever in his whole entire life, scored a beautiful, improbable, broken tackle, sixty-yard plus touchdown.

But a flag hit the ground before he hit paydirt. The frustration erupted from my mouth before the referees arms went in the air. It was a stupid penalty that didn’t help the kid score, but triggered the beginning of the end.

Touchdown wiped away, we were forced to punt. The elation had turned to dread and I sensed we may be headed down Humiliation Boulevard again. So did the enemy as they confidently jogged to the line of scrimmage and looked over our dispirited defense.

Less than twenty seconds later we were down 6-0. All it took was one play. One hand-off to their star running back, who indeed had a beard covering his young face, intimidating Samson-like hair down his back, and a body that ran past every one of our players who missed their faux attempts to stop him from scoring.

I tried to restrain myself, but didn’t have it in me. I lit a fire on everybody within breathing distance of my dragon’s tongue: players, my fellow volunteer coaches, surprisingly not the refs, but most definitely the grass field, the weather, my horoscope, two kids I went to Grade 3 with, my choice of shirt, and my number one target of all time – Mh3. My tirade was highly effective at ensuring we only played more poorly and it was not surprising that our opponent quickly scored again.

The electronic scoreboard predicted our fate. Down 12-0. Only 72 more points to go and the Vegas line would have been met, to the merriment of the many bettors watching this tweenage tussle. The yellow bus suddenly seemed like an oasis I could only hope to reach.

However I have forgotten an important part of this story. I have forgotten the long winter of preparation this team had put in. Many of our players attended indoor camps each week, recruited their friends to join the team, lost weight, got stronger, grew taller, and promised themselves they wouldn’t be humiliated this season.

Indeed our kids are gamers. Gamely they fought back and gamely they turned the tide and gamely they succeeded in stopping the other team’s drives. When they weren’t on the field they were gathering with each other for impromptu pep talks, strategy sessions, and because they aren’t as football obsessed as me – a few silly jokes.

It was still 12-0 at halftime. But you know what? It was a game.

In the second half they did as the coaches asked them. It was a simple request. Win every play, one at a time, and the game result will take care of itself.

With less than two minutes to go our quarterback sneaked the ball thirty-six inches to paydirt. The score was 14-12 for us. Boy, what a game.

Still I questioned my strategy. Had I left too much time on the clock for our opponent to notch a Bradyesque like comeback? This wasn’t the time to second guess a decision already made, but that’s me.

We had to kickoff and hope to contain their star player who stared down our kicker from forty yards away, steeled in the knowledge that his coach had designed a return play for him to run for glory. Our kicker was instructed to defy their plan with a target away from their stud. But that guaranteed us nothing.

It was a perfect kick but unfortunately still landed in the hands of one of their fleet receivers. He gathered up the ball and a head of steam as he raced forward for five yards, ten yards, twenty yards, a crease to our end zone emerging in front of him, before one of our most passionate players flew in and knocked the ball from his grasp for a fumble we recovered. BALL GAME!

Apparently the bus ride home through weekend traffic was much longer than our first leg, though I don’t think my singing players or laughing coaches took notice. I was enjoying myself beyond belief, but trying not to show too much emotion to the players over the victory, in order to falsely convey some life lesson.

Hopefully you’re okay if I confess to you that it was nice to be in the game, but was even nicer to win.

I’m flattered. The early response to our invitation for the June 13th T1 Speaker Series featuring moi (mh3) has been amazing.

That’s the good news.
The bad news? The pressure is on!

Seriously, if you’re going to take the time out of your day to come hear me speak, I am one thousand percent committed to ensuring it’s worth your while. To that end, I’m sitting at my sports club on the May long weekend Sunday, reworking the outline of my presentation from the version I gave at CSFX17. I love creating, but I also agonize over these things.

The best part of redoing a previously given presentation is the opportunity to fix things. I think I have given my What Sponsors Want presentation so many times, that I can do it in my sleep. I probably do do it in my sleep. I need to count, but I think I am approaching one hundred renditions. One of them was two days long! I kid you not. That was in Holland and was one of my favourites of all time. So when it came to drafting my book, by the same name, candidly the content was easy. The hard part was writing my verbal manuscript.

150 Years of Events That Built a Country is a presentation that celebrates what each of us do every day. While the shelf life is probably limited to 2017 and our sesquicentennial, the importance of it will live much longer. The first version, which I shared with you at CSFX, was meant to inspire our attendees for a weekend of learning, networking, and experiencing. Many of you provided invaluable feedback on it. Both what you liked and what you wanted more of.

The history buffs loved the details and stories of century-old events they had never known of. The Toastmaster buffs were in disbelief I didn’t use a teleprompter (no notes for this cat ever). The equality buffs felt I didn’t have enough diversity across regions and in other ways. The nothing is ever good enough buffs wanted more learning.


None of you can be as hard on me, as me. Let me give you a sneak peek of what I’m tackling for June 13th, so it has fresh spin. First, I added a few new stories. I almost froze on stage while presenting at CSFX17, because I suddenly realized I had missed a MAJOR MAJOR event. It wasn’t in my deck. I almost performed a disastrous ad lib. Thankfully my calm-down voice calmed me down, and I didn’t wander off. That missed one will be in for sure. Can you guess what it is???

Addition by subtraction is also in order. One of my stories just didn’t work. I can remember being on stage fighting a tug of war with the words. With over five hundred eyeballs and a couple of HD cameras focused on me, that’s never a great feeling. When I rehearse I loved this story, but for some reason, the audience didn’t. So goodbye to that one.

The third area for improvement is to put a bow on the information and tie it all together. What lessons can we learn from our past? How did events shape our country? Why do some events, campaigns and movements succeed, when others fail? Hopefully, it will leave you thinking about what role events will play in our nation’s future. How will that impact your business, your career, and your community? What do you need to do to ensure success for your initiatives?

I am not professing to have answers for you on June 13th, but I can promise you some strong, strong fuel for your own fire. However, I will offer you a fair warning. If you attend on June 13th, you will have to deal with an overdose of MH3 passion. Some people call it bias. I don’t care what you call it. A bias that believes that events build community. A bias that connecting live is the most powerful form of engagement. A bias that what we collectively do has a powerful role in nation building. A bias that our country’s marketing pioneers, builders, innovators, and entrepreneurs have figured something out that others have not.

Second warning, you will be surrounded by a room full of people who feel the same. Many of whom have pitched me on events they feel should be included in my chit chat. Don’t be shy, I am all ears. Fire away with your ideas. I am a week or so away from finalizing the content and then handing it over to my crack creative team to make me pretty.

Talk soon. I need to go shopping for a new outfit for June 13th.

PS. If you haven’t received an invite, connect with my colleague Carli at carli.burr@thet1agency.com. Cheers!

Mother’s Earth

MH3 —  May 16, 2017

I’m very blessed to still have my Mom.

It was easy to be reminded of that this past weekend, as I read online Mother’s Day tributes from family, friends, digital “friends”, celebrities, and other randoms I follow. Inspiring. Revealing. Loving. Your words said it all.

Mother’s Day is an uncharted celebration for those with newborns. It’s a day of pampering for those with toddlers. It’s a “how did I get here” day for moms with teenagers. It’s a welcome oasis for the recently separated. A long-standing family tradition for those with adult children, and a reboot of the cycle for new grandmas.

Celebration cedes to tributes, tears, and timeless memories for those who can no longer tell their moms they love them in person. It’s a remorseless reminder for those who are marking the first since their mom’s passing. That tragedy attempting to mute a beautiful family day, but foiled by your proud voice that ensures your mom will be recognized.

My mom is eighty “plus” and going strong. It’s amazing when I look at her. I see her the same as I did as a child. The grit. The determination. The work ethic. The ability to laugh herself to tears. The unrelenting love of her husband.

She and I had our battles when I was young. Even when I knew she was right, I pressed my case with stubborn pride. Some things never change, but she was right more than I was.

Thank goodness.

Thankfully I listened. She may not have realized that, but I did. Her words, her actions, her examples. They taught me profound lessons. I learned at an early age that you make your own breaks in life. That there was no room in this world for excuses. That the colour of your skin wasn’t as nearly as important as what it held inside. That when I thought I had a bad day, it was nothing compared to what those of her generation endured on our behalf.

Today I love to tease her with my childhood persecution stories. Some of them are legit, some are, well, just a bit enhanced. I have the ability to repeat the same urban myth to myself to the point where I am convinced they are reality. You know the type of story where you walked uphill to school both ways? Colourizing my childhood fables makes for great storytelling, so I like them.

What is closer to the truth is that we were well fed, well clothed, and well loved. We knew that our parents were there to protect us. Even more, we knew that they would support us, even when we were wrong. That didn’t mean we didn’t get punished, but it did mean the punishment came with an equal dose of wisdom. Keeping the repeated mistakes to a minimum.

I think of my Mom as the ultimate boss any young person would want.

She set high standards, but never asked of you something she wouldn’t do herself. She was demanding, but never put you through something she hadn’t endured. She was a high achiever, but always applauded your achievements even more loudly.

Mother’s Day may only be one day a year, but it’s a debt that will never be paid off. Not that my Mother, or any of our mums, would ever expect that. That’s not part of the maternal contract. In their honour we should seek ways to pay tribute to all mothers from around the world.

Look no further than the Globe and Mail’s recent visual story this past weekend entitled The Single Mothers of Afghanistan. Read aloud, the text affiliated with each image. Picture your mom raising you in those circumstances. Imagine raising your children in those conditions.

In honour of your mother, how can you help all mothers around the world? A world that seems to be drifting rapidly towards a real life version of The Handmaid’s Tale. A world where rights, not just of women, but of all marginalized groups are evaporating. A world where Mother’s Day may soon be an illegal act.

I am so fortunate to have my mom today. My Dad is so fortunate to have married this crusader almost sixty years ago. My sons, niece, and nephew are so privileged to grow up with a loving nanna.

You make our lives better and we should say thank you every day of the year. You also show me how valuable moms are to all our futures.

Hi there. Remember me?

I am the guy who wrote the non-blog, blog two weeks ago and then went AWOL. Sorry, I had full intentions of stroking something great out last week but my first draft wasn’t clicking. My next draft was too negative. My final draft was useless. So, I proceeded to slunk away and hide. My only excuse is that I was all out of words, so lost without you.

Really? I butchered an Air Supply reference, and that’s all I got?

Nope, I have something to chat with you about for sure this time. I want to give you a couple of quick updates from events I attended in the past fortnight. It isn’t as much about the events as it is about what I experienced in two five-minute occurrences. Let’s start with the good.

The first five minutes were during the 2017 Ex Awards, held as part of Event Marketer’s 15th annual Experiential Marketing Summit. Oddly I attended this year when we had zero entries, despite having won in the past. But, I love award shows. Certainly, not for the cuisine, but for the brain food. Having not attended these awards in the past, I was told the case study videos make for an awesome hour of learning. So, I was willing to choke my chicken – down – and get ready for some exciting insights.

Unfortunately, the event format had changed and we saw only snippets of the award-winning work. It made for a herky jerky award show that certainly would have warranted a justified scathing review until the presentation of the highest honour, the Grand Ex Award which was won by Airbnb and their agency Civic Entertainment Group. Thankfully the amazing case about Airbnb’s 2016 Open program, their conference with hosts from around the world, was given a five-minute overview that deserved every single second it was shared. This winning case capitalized everything I fantasize about when it comes to the experiential marketing world.

  1. Airbnb Open demonstrates that the new trend in B2B events is to make them B2C. They approached this business event as if it was a consumer event and engaged their hosts not as business partners, but as guests. I love the inverted approach.
  2. They went really, really BIG. When they first did a walk through with Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky, he encouraged them to go bigger. That’s the unicorn client we all dream of.
  3. It was Year III of their event; what I like to call the critical year of any event or partnership and their patient investing paid off. After Year II, when they hosted the event in Paris during the horrible nightclub terrorist attacks, they could have been justified in calling it off. Instead, they vowed to keep pushing onwards. They have somewhat destroyed all other excuses for not pushing the boundaries from here onwards.
  4. What didn’t exist they invented, whether it be venues, types of mini-events, unique ways to engage the community. They did it all. Partner integration. Civic road trips. Media hosting. Social sharing. Each traditional tactic was given an entrepreneurial twist.
  5. I wasn’t a part of it, so this is an outsider looking in. But hearing the brief remarks from the client and agency gave me a jolt. I could feel the teamwork oozing out of them. Everything about this brand is about what people can do together, like sharing your home with strangers. I think they walk the walk at Airbnb and Civic.

If you weren’t there, I strongly suggest you take a few minutes and go here to get all the details.  You may have different takeaways than me, but I am sure you will share my enthusiasm!

Now I share the not so great experience.

Ever had one of those “How did I get here” conversations?

When you’re trapped at a party or event, back to the wall, escape path blocked by strangers, your mind suddenly unable to manufacture a way out. Your prey understands they have you cornered. They have the perfect stance. Angles cut off. One foot splitting your midline. Their eyes tracing yours. Any rescue signals sure to be intercepted. They have done this before.

Many times.

They know they are the whacko in the room. The off-center crazy who has baseless rants they are going to hammer you with. Their perspective on the topic of the day, the presentation just heard, or the story just shared is soon to be violently thrust upon you as gospel. Agree or disagree all you want; they just seek your conversion to their religion. There is no restraining them. They don’t have the same emotional intelligence as you. In fact, they have none. If they did, their altered reality state is so protected by their lack of sensory devices that no messages would be received.

Their mission will not be complete until they have beaten you into submission.

I once had a guy go off on me for wearing a poppy the day after Remembrance Day. Yes, you read that correctly. He alleged that I was being disrespectful to those who served, as the poppy was to be removed before midnight struck on November 11th. At first, I thought he was joking. That this was some awkward way to break the ice during this first introduction. My misinterpretation only heightened his attack. The rest of that story will be shared on another day.

My most recent beating came at the Ontario Sport Symposium. I can’t afford therapy, and I already spill too much to bartenders, so I am going to lean on you to hear me out.

I moderated a sponsorship panel featuring Chelsea Black (BMO), Andrew Greenlaw (CIBC), and Johnny Misley (Ontario Soccer). Huge thanks to all three for coming out on a Saturday with less than a week’s notice (not my doing, trust me). I hope the panel delivered for the audience and, selfishly, I took dozens of mental notes which I shared with my Leadership Team in my weekly email. Sorry if any of your thoughts were trademarked, panel members. They will soon be populating T1 pitch decks all over North America! If any readers want a copy of my thoughts, email me and if I find your request compelling I may share an edited version.

Back to my rant.

After the panel, all of us spent time in the networking area chatting with attendees. Naturally, the brand folks were besieged with pitches. I was just finishing up a nice chat with someone when I noticed the hawk circling me. Twice clockwise. Once counter. I guess he wanted to make sure I had no escape route. Then, talons out, he came screeching in.

He started with an odd question about an obscure sport. He then gave me a history lesson on why it was so popular in its native country. I am leaving out the sport and the lesson, to provide him with some degree of anonymity. Not that he deserves it, because he then proceeded to blast me, and all corporate Canada, for not doing enough to help raise the profile of less popular sports.  His absurd assertion was that these companies make SO MUCH MONEY, they should pay to have this sport and that sport aired on television, regardless of their tiny audiences and niche appeal.

Now if this gentleman had wanted to engage in a marketing discussion about this topic, his goal could potentially be achieved. I would have been game. But he wasn’t. He wanted to conduct a beat down on corporate Canada. I have no idea why.

I also have no idea why he thought this would be the right tact to take at a conference. He was essentially saying to us “Thanks for volunteering your weekend time to come share ideas with us – but you’re all greedy corporate sloths.” Okay, nice meeting you too.

In the span of five minutes, I wished I hadn’t come to this conference. I wished I hadn’t asked my industry friends for a favour. I wished that I could punch this dude in the face.

Well I didn’t use my fist, but it’s been a long long while since I have told someone I see absolutely zero point in continuing a conversation and walked away.

Five minutes later I was in another, better conversation. The hawk somewhat forgotten. My temper subsiding. My BP back to normal.

 

No Blog This Week

MH3 —  April 25, 2017

I am so sorry but I can’t write a blog this week.

But at least this week I’m issuing an apology.

Last week I just went silent on you.

No explanation, no apology, no note.

Reminds me of a former college girlfriend.

Just kidding.

Maybe.

Back to my inability to blog this week.

I don’t have another logical word in my body.

Just too busy finishing this book.

It was just an idea in January.

Now it’s 64,000 plus words.

Due April 30th.

Should get past 70,000 by then.

Lots of help from people like you.

Thanks.

C’mon, I meant that.

Thanks.

Can’t wait to be done this phase.

My overly ambitious self had no idea what I signed up for.

My friend Norm scoffed when I signed a contract with such a crazy deadline.

So did his wife.

Yes, you did too, you know it.

I have to admit that they were right.

As usual.

I should have asked for more time.

Then again, I may have procrastinated.

I may have been distracted.

I may have sat on my desk one Monday night.

Writing a blog that makes no sense.

Yes, this is how tired my brain is.

Thanks for listening.

I promise something marginally better.

Next Week.

CSFX Hangover

MH3 —  April 12, 2017

No, I don’t have the kind of hangover you are thinking.


I have the milestone kind of hangover. The one you get after a big accomplishment or period in your life. That after a major event, or back from your honeymoon, or the end of a season hangover. That kind of a hangover where part of you cherishes the memories, achievements and success, while the rest of you can’t wait for what’s next. I always find that the day after something big, I wake up obsessed about the next one. There is nothing wrong with that, but a little break can also be a good idea.


The thing 
is, I don’t want a break. I want to go back to Ottawa right now, and hang out with everybody. I feel bad that I didn’t sing at our karaoke event. Of course, you would have felt worse if I did. But seriously, I feel like I never get enough time to speak to everybody or get caught up with old friends. It’s like frosh week. It was amazing. You learned a lot. You had lots of fun (at least in my era of frosh week), but now you must go to class.


Wouldn’t it be amazing if I ran a Forum every month?


I am only half-joking. Our next one is too far away. August 2018. What is that? Three years?! There will be more than a few events between now and then, I promise. We are cooking up some more T1 Speaking Series event dates and plan to get our schedule to our guests earlier. We have at least two parties being planned. We might even rekindle a Canada Night or two at some out of country events… but won’t share which ones yet!

Wondering how to get on our guest list? Simple, I invite the people I have relationships with. That includes clients, suppliers, team members, ex-team members who I still like, ex-team members who still like me, competitors who collaborate, suppliers who add value, industry leaders, properties our clients’ partner with, and the odd friend (or ten) who work in boring industries and are jealous of ours.


So now is your opportunity to get added to the not-so-exclusive guest list (I mean, really, 
when has anyone been able to accuse me of excluding people?). I need your help. I need you help me with my CSFX hangover.


I would love your input on this past year’s event. Our delegates will soon all receive a nice survey. People that didn’t attend will also be sent a questionnaire of a different sort, but don’t restrict yourself to that. I want your suggestions, input, and feedback. You can post here. You can email me. You can email our info email addresses. You can post on social.

Sound off any topic you like:
1. If you came to CSFX, what did you like? Not like?
2. If you didn’t attend, why not?
3. If you can’t wait till Whistler for CSFX & Crankworx in August 2018, should we hold a mini event prior?
4. Any suggestions for future speakers? Content? Topics?
5. 2018 is booked (Crankworx obviously), 2020 is looking solid… any suggestions for 2019 or 2021, 2022, 2065?

Thanks for helping me cure my what ails me. It’s much appreciated!

The Sound of Music

Administrator —  April 4, 2017

I know it sounds pedantic to say that it’s the musicians that make the JUNOS so special, but it’s true. I can also say the same about the 2017 Canadian Sponsorship Forum. The musicians, in many expected and unexpected ways, certainly made CSFX17 the most memorable three days as two hundred new found friends could ever have. 

Making magic may not be the brand promise of most conferences, but all of our delegates this weekend would confess that’s what they experienced. Then again, was CSFX17 a Forum or a Festival? When the speakers are being showcased on band-ready stages. When the attendees camp out together for days. When our bus drivers let us sneak cases of Steam Whistle on the bus. When the founder of Smoke’s Poutinerie belts out an inspiring mash-up of three classic eighties songs during his keynote. When hours of delegate karaoke is called “the best business networking experience of their life” by a longtime sponsorship vet. When every speaker has their own walk-up music. Uh-huh. That’s no conference, that’s a concert. 

I have to personally thank the Arkells for setting the tone for the weekend. You can only imagine how hard it is to play a corporate gig at 1:30pm on a weekday, with everyone sober as a judge. But Max Kerman took on our delegates and had them singing out the chorus to My Heart’s Always Yours in no time. They wrapped up their three-song mini set by fulfilling a spontaneous request from one of our delegates to hear Leather Jacket. The Arkells unplugged from the stage, strolled into the middle of our room, and strummed their ways into the souls of everyone.

When I asked our delegates who was their favourite presenter (oh please let it be me I hoped), there was an abundance of love for Don Amero. The three-time JUNO-nominee surprised the attendees of his Music as Medicine workshop with his intellectual depth and passion for healing. If they had watched my T1 Speaker Series interview with Don, they would not have been surprised. What most delegates didn’t see is how under the weather Don was, battling a six-week bug. He even skipped attending the JUNOS to rest for his performance at our after-party. There is no price you can put on honour or friendship. Thanks Don. 

The other musical highlights were not programmed by us, but came courtesy of CARAS, as our delegates attended the jewel of the weekend – the Songwriter’s Circle, and of course the Awards Show. 

The Songwriter’s Circle host and Ottawa native, Bruce Cockburn, brought back so many memories for me with his songs. Not surprisingly, his stories were just as thoughtful. Delegates raved to me about Chantal Kreviazuk, who told the story of her best friend committing suicide when she was eighteen and playing the song inspired by this tragedy. Then, her second song was a passion pitch to young artists to follow their own voice and not bow to outside pressures. 

The JUNO Awards had me pumped. I love Russell Peters. I can only imagine having the talent of Bryan Adams. I am young enough at heart to know the words to Alessia Cara’s Scars to Your Beautiful. I am old enough to respect an 18-year-old Shawn Mendes. M\I think I am still man enough to still have a Sarah McLachlan crush. 

We had the aforementioned-smuggled beers on our bus and great seats thanks to Amazing Andreas Mendoza. But it was two verbal performances I will remember for a long time.

The first, was Sarah McLachlan’s Canadian Music Hall of Fame acceptance speech.

Canada is a country “where the rights of girls and women are respected, where people of all ethnicities, genders and sexual identities can stand together as one. Where diversity is cherished. Where the arts are revered. Where people being polite is still an important thing,” she said. “We Canadians, we’re far from perfect, but we have a lot to offer the world and we have to continue to set the bar high.”

The second amazing acceptance speech was from Rob Baker and Paul Langlois of The Tragically Hip. But things got ugly when the show producers inexplicably tried to cut off Langlois, as his speech ran overtime. The situation was unforgettable, unfortunate, and completely unnecessary.

As Langlois’ speech ran past the allotted time, the show’s producers tried to play him off stage with music.

He asked, “Oh, you’re actually going to play me out?” and continued to deliver his speech, while the producers changed the music to the Hip song Ahead by a Century. Langlois continued talking, saying, “Go to commercial, go ahead. This is my arena, not yours.” He proceeded to thank Downie, which was met with thunderous applause and cheers from the audience. Many people took to Twitter to share their disapproval about the beloved Canadian band’s cut-off.

I think Surprise & Delight has become overused in marketing. But the way we ended CSFX17 with a SURPRISE performance by The Lytics, there was unmatched DELIGHT for all who attended the after party. This was a true, funny and random surprise can be. The group was stranded outside the JUNOS and in need of a ride. Not shockingly, our team bartered a deal with them. They could get a ride if they performed on the bus. That was S&D performance number one. Then an invitation to join our after-party for a drink, turned into an uber facilitated scramble for a beats-laden computer and a three song set.

Another shout out to Don who was our scheduled party headliner, performing after Universal Music artist Gabrielle Shonk (who has a voice you need to check out) despite his weary bones. Don had no problem ceding the floor to his fellow Winnipeggers, knowing the Lytics would get the room a jumping! 

That’s the type of respect only a talented musician could show to fellow musicians.