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.