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. 

What to Wear, What to Wear?

MH3 —  March 28, 2017

I have this recurring dream about CSFX17 that I haven’t prepared at all. Suddenly, I am being asked to go on stage and introduce the next speaker, whom I know nothing about. The dream gets worse when I forget the script to my own keynote, can’t remember the last name of the CEO of our conference partner, and then proceed to ask for a program guide so I can look up a session title.

Bet you’re even more keen to join us this Friday in Ottawa!

One saving grace is that I seem to always have my pants on during these nightmares. That’s a good thing because truth be told, I am having a wee bit of panic of what to wear this weekend to the JUNOS. Yesterday I read a sartorial profile on Kardinal Offishall’s style in Toronto Life and liked his idea of dressing simple, but adding one bold piece, like a chunky watch or bold hat, to create a buzz. Sounds good… except if I show up in a wide brim fedora, people may wonder what the ransom price is to have me returned by my kidnappers or not!

Still, I am spending Canadian Sponsorship Forum weekend at the 2017 JUNOS with 250 of my closest, bestest, newest sponsorship industry friends and I am feeling a bit unprepared. What does one wear to the JUNOS weekend? What are you going to wear? Think of the circumstances!

The 2016 JUNO Awards. Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, AB. April 3, 2016. Photo: CARAS/iPhoto

First, there is the flight there. The odds are high you are going to be next to an artist, or producer, or, at worst, a publicist. No insults to publicists, but when they meet me and realize I am not a somebody, their facial disappointment is incredibly hard on my ego. But back to you! This is an important moment. You want to look cool for your starry seatmate, but not too cool. You want them to wonder if you’re a hotshot from a label, or the next big festival promoter, or even cash-laden sponsor. You don’t want to have to start the conversation, so you need something that will get them to open up.

Now let’s skip a few days, and think about the flight home. Here is your last chance for a name-dropping story you can regal dinner party friends with for years. You have purposely taken an afternoon flight, so you can ride with some hungover talent who might just fall asleep on your shoulder. Can you snatch a drooly selfie without waking them up? If you do, be sure to have worn an outfit that says it may have spent the night on your hotel room floor, or somebody else’s. But so what? It still rocks. So, you must wear something that is essentially the perfect intersection of the walk of shame and the catwalk…

If you found that perfect go home garb, that may be what you have worn to the JUNOS after party (Don’t have an invite to one yet… message me about mine). Of course, the real issue is what happens if your drooler was at the same party as you. Don’t worry, if they remember that will be a miracle. Plus, if they DO remember, then they noticed you. Victory!

Let’s be clear, you can’t wear the same outfit to the after party that you wore to the awards broadcast. Read the fine print on your ticket –  the JUNOS want you to look good for television. Plus, I know you have put a lot of thought into getting Shawn Mendes attention or Sarah McLachlan, depending on whether you are a cougar, or twenty years past your prime like me, or thirty. Regardless of your interests or your age, get fancy people. It’s show time!

The 2016 JUNO Awards. Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, AB. April 3, 2016. Photo: CARAS/iPhoto

The 2016 JUNO Awards. Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, AB. April 3, 2016. Photo: CARAS/iPhoto

If the dizzying pace of outfit changes doesn’t make you feel like stage dancer in a tacky cruise ship show, then wait. Just hours before the broadcast you were seated at the JUNO Songwriters’ Circle, a fundraiser for MusiCounts. Odds are good that you have missed brunch and your last full meal was somewhere in the ByWard Market. By meal I mean ice, stir stick, mix or whatever. So, you need to be comfortable. You need ventilation, but you also need to look cool-casual. This event is laid back, so your outfit better be. Keep in mind that there could be a Justin Trudeau sighting as well. What if he agrees to a picture? Crap! What a nightmare and it isn’t even Saturday yet.

Saturday, I can’t help you. Are you going to the JUNOS banquet? Are you attending my conference? Are you joining to watch me do karaoke at the Sens House? Do you really think I am going to sing? Do you have a VIP suite to hang out in? What about JUNOfest? Did you find some cool bands on Friday you want to see again? The forecast says it’s going to be around freezing, so your outfit needs to be chill.

I would love to provide more advice, but I need to get home and layout my garb. I also must figure out workout clothes, clothes for my Thursday stage rehearsals (yes I think about these things), what socks to bring, should I bother with a coat and, finally, I have to do a contact lens count. A contact lens count you ask? Yes, I need 1.5 pairs per day as they get all foggy on me when I wear them too long and my only pair of glasses are far from JUNOS cool. Besides, I need to see what YOU are going to be wearing!

 

Okay, so I borrowed the title from a session I saw at SXSW 2017. 

I hope the panelists –  Aaron Hillis, Indiegogo; Jen Yamato, LA Times; Roxanne Benjamin, We Summon the Darkness; and Tom Hall, Montclair Film Festival – don’t mind my plagiarism. That’s not my intention. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s to promote what I found to be a fascinating little gem of a panel, tucked away in the corner of one of the biggest and best conferences in the world. 

When I say tucked away, I mean tucked away. At go time there were only nine of us in the room for the panel, with one attendee being the husband of a panelist. I felt bad for the quartet on the podium, who summoned their mojo and committed to making an amazing experience for their few supporters, including me. 

I’m pretty sure I was the least musically inclined or talented person in the room. I stood out like a broken guitar string. The others were all clearly into music, into karaoke, and into each other. 

The premise of the panel was that for some reason karaoke is the golf of the film/festival business. Who knew? The panelists claimed that movie deals get done, pitches get made (no pun intended), and relations get built at karaoke parties.

 

The more I sat and listened, the more it made sense. Karaoke is social, fun, interactive, unpretentious, and celebratory. It involves a lot more people than a golf foursome. It’s fueled by emotion. It’s turbocharged by cocktailing.  

The best part of the panel? Each panelist ended up performing a song. Think Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball done by an LA Times film critic. A few audience members joined in as well, including a guest appearance by Brett Galman, who channeled his inner Notorious B.I.G. and wowed us with a Springsteen cover. 

They were awesome and I was jealous and wowed. It was the best hour of my day. 

Every song made me smile, made me laugh. I had some writing to do that I was stuck on, and one performance sung a breakthrough idea into my head. I left the hour with an energy level that a venti cappuccino couldn’t have provided. 

I have a question for you. Why don’t you have music in your meetings? Why don’t people sing, not just talk in meetings? Could you imagine how collaborative your meeting would be if every participant was asked to belt out a favourite before you got down to business?  

Given I have laid down the challenge, I’m sure I’m going to get called on. I plan on practicing in private to prevent total humiliation. 

Purple Rain baby, Purple Rain. 

Southby Soundbites

Administrator —  March 15, 2017

Greetings from Austin.

The general sentiment at SXSW is everyone is waiting for the big news of the year, and for the second event in a row, the general feeling is that it’s not going to happen this year. 

Unfortunately, the lack of splash casts a pall over the event. Additionally, the keynote lineup has slipped this year. But then again, how do you compete with Obama from last year’s conference? Or live streaming Edward Snowden in from a secret Russian location like they did in 2015. Or Star Wars: The Force Awakens Director J.J. Abrams. Or Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone talking about combining humanity with technology.

Admittedly, many of the panels disappointed me. The SX sports content seems to be flooded with expert panelists who think that stating that people watch sport differently in 2017 than 1987 is somehow a breakthrough. At one panel, I tweeted the speakers to ask a leading question to see if they would get back on their stated topic. They read my question aloud and then answered it by going even farther off topic. I really think SX needs to find a better quality control model. One thing is clear; many panelists are first-time speakers, who forget the audience often has more experience than them. They don’t realize their job was to research, craft, and present a very tight point of view or personal experiences that will provoke thought and discussion. Instead, many of them turn into a cliché recital.

Fortunately, I went to a Meetup on Sports & New Media that provided some more interesting perspectives. Meetups are great, because everybody talks, or can if they want. The discussion, led by the NFL Networks Jane Slater, focused on Twitter and its use by sports journalists, teams, athletes, and brands. What made it special is there were attendees there from a Mexican-based online soccer forum (no word on how they snuck past Trump into Austin), a Marketer from the German Bundesliga, programmers from SRC in Montreal, and an Irish journalist. 

The SXSW Trade Show always has some gems and this year it was Pincause. Started by a former management consultant turned world saviour, the concept is simple. Buy a pin and the funds go to important causes. My pin was in support of refugees. The Pincause booth featured delegate created artwork pinned to a content wall. I got chatty with some others at the booth who immediately grilled me on my views on their POTUS (That has been a recurring theme this week. As soon as people discover I’m a Canadian, they express their love and jealousy of Justin Trudeau and want to know what we Canucks thought of their conundrum). I decided to open my arms to my newfound troubled American friends and drew a Canadian flag with a blue border inviting them to come visit…and stay for a while. The Pincause team was pleased with my quick adoption of their values. 

Pfizer impressed me with their activation communicating the Global Goals of the United Nations. I decidedly was not shy about grilling the Community Relations rep about their reason for being at SXSW. It’s an interesting way to activate a partnership. They’ve decided to attend trade and consumer shows attended by influential people, in this case marketers and innovators, to showcase the UN partnership. Pfizer seems to have a healthy dose (I made THAT pun without even realizing it) of self-awareness that they can be perceived as a big bad money gouging pharma company. Shrewd of them to not only invest in a worthy cause, but to be unafraid to toot their horn about their involvement   

The best stat I heard this week is that there are 350 parties that occur in Austin around Southby. Everyone has a party. Telefilm Canada. Music Export Canada. Fuse Canada (Where was my invite Nicole Galluci?). Washington DC Events. Mazda. National Geographic. Pandora. Samsung. German Haus. Many of them have created their own custom event spaces. Mazda had an amazing studio and a music lineup that would crush many festivals. Events DC has a prime outdoor space right across from the convention centre. National Geographic, yes National Geographic too, had a multistory space on Dirty 6th (yes the locals call it Dirty and it is) where they were getting rave reviews for the best drinks in the city. I went for the cover shot (not a drink), an unreal AR Experience, and the Einstein Chalkboard robot. The latter was super cool. Consumers were asked to tweet a head shot to NG and then the robot arm would draw your portrait in chalk. They even set you a prompt to come back to the space when your old-school selfie was being produced. 

My Apple Watch, Nike edition (hopefully this plug will get me some brand cred) says I tallied 15,773 steps today for 10.94 K of travelling. It was worth it to find these tasty morsels.