First things first: this will be a critical review of an event described as Europe’s leading conference for inspiration, knowledge transfer, and networking, bringing business leaders, creatives, and pioneers together into a global community. It promises to be ‘The Festival for curious minds challenging the status quo’ – ‘no egos, no titles, no BS. Instead, an intense two-day experience that makes you grow.’
Whether it lives up to its promises was something each of the 4,100 participants from June 7th to 8th in Graz could find out for themselves.
LEAD THE CHANGE
INNOVATE OR DIE
PEOPLE OVER PROFITS
IDEAS OVER EGOS
At the beginning, the teaser clip with keywords and images took you to another dimension. Expectations for the festival were high. But soon the question arose: why are there so many – unfortunately, some poorly delivered – corporate presentations? At a festival that claims to challenge the status quo, you can expect more substance in presentations than a rehash of well-known basic information about products or company brands.
However, refreshing were presentations like the one by Håkan Nordkvist (Head of Sustainability Innovation at Ikea), who showed what the company Ikea is dealing with outside its core competence. It was fascinating to learn about the challenges Ikea is facing and the unknown territories it is venturing into to make a positive impact on people, nature, and our future.
To ensure adherence to the schedule (20 minutes of speaking time, the rest for ‘Questions & Answers’), a DJ was effectively placed on the Keynote Stage. On the smaller stages, time management seemed to work well without this staging. After the 20-minute mark, the speakers on the Keynote Stage were abruptly forced to stop with music and rapidly increasing volume. Florian Gschwandtner from Runtastik briefly noted that he had prepared for a 30-minute presentation and had to speed up accordingly. The situation escalated during Matthew Banks’ (Vice President of Oracle) presentation, which, for me, was one of the best. After his enthusiastic talk, he desperately asked the DJ to stop the music for a moment so he could deliver his closing remarks. Whether the DJ found the situation funny due to Matthew Banks’ enthusiastic efforts or smiled out of embarrassment because he couldn’t influence the proceedings remained unclear. The organizers never considered simply shortening or eliminating the Q&A time. It wasn’t cool at all to quickly mute the speaker’s microphone when time was up. In the end, there were neither closing remarks nor Q&A. A visibly angered Matthew Banks quickly left the stage. At least the audience showed him the deserved respect with a standing ovation.
What other organizers can definitely learn from the Fifteen Seconds Festival is the atmosphere around it. Firstly, the opportunity to shop cashless everywhere easily and secondly, the unexpected additional service. There were free parking spaces, drinks were available at every corner, and ‘Auer Brot’ spread thousands of delicious sandwiches with spreads for snacking. I haven’t seen such a service at any other conference. The expo area also had plenty to discover – from technology to entertainment.
So that was it: ‘Europe’s leading conference for inspiration, knowledge transfer, and networking…’. In retrospect, it was more like a two-day – albeit brilliantly staged – promotional event.
My Top 5 Topics
1 _ USP > UEP
Instead of talking about the – almost conservative-sounding – USP (Unique Selling Proposition), companies should quickly start thinking about the UEP (Unique Experience Proposition). All that matters are experiences that touch and/or delight people. No company, regardless of its industry, can escape this challenge in the future. For example, even trade fair appearances, especially in B2B, will change significantly in the long term. Large-scale booth setups will probably no longer exist in this form.
2 _ Customer > Partner
The word ‘customer’ evokes thoughts of a money machine. In contrast, viewing others as partners quickly reveals how using this word alone improves collaboration and opens up possibilities. An essential success factor is being able to show empathy for others and to act transparently. This applies not only to dealing with external partners but especially to dealing with one’s own employees.
3 _ Search > Discovery
People no longer want to search; they want to discover. This challenges companies not just to think ‘out of the box’ but to think ‘get rid of the box.’ Here, the UEP from point 1 comes into play strongly.
4 _ Silo > Agile
Agile is the new buzzword. However, one must not forget one thing: people who have been controlled for years cannot suddenly become agile overnight. To make that possible, you need the right methods to support it.
5 _ Influencer > Genuine Brand Advocate
Influencers are a tricky subject. Everyone wants to be one or become one. Vast amounts of content are produced, and unfortunately, not everyone thinks about the copyrights or personal rights of others when publishing their own content. The effective use of filters over any random snapshot is not everything. ‘Context is king.’ This quickly separates the wheat from the chaff.
Whether it’s macro or micro-influencers, in the end, they’re all just paid advertising testimonials. Every advertiser should be aware that the currency on the internet is trust. Pascal Dulex (Culture Coach at Freitag) spoke my mind at the end of the event: ‘Too much noise is made about influencers.’ His call to companies: ‘Know your real brand advocates!”
What it’s all about, everywhere, is simple and quickly summed up: passion and good stories. The glue for passion and good stories is authenticity. To be clear: by authenticity, I don’t mean being able to convey something as particularly credible. Every good actor convincingly slips into different roles, but it’s not their own, true story. Authenticity is about honesty – honesty with oneself and others.
gil com | creative identity and beyond
For connecting communication + promoting personal growth, brand authenticity, a motivating corporate culture, and opening up new spaces for creative thinking.
Creative Planner, Communication Psychologist in Training, Systemic Business Coach, Facilitator, Mentor, Sparring Partner, VR Expert (XR-C)