Now in its fourth year, the festival is known for being the key event for the local communications industry and, with an expectation of 3000+ attendees, Nokia were onboard as sponsors; with both a device launch and a booth on site, part of the deal was that they were able to nominate their own speaker for the weekend.
The brief? An introduction to word of mouth marketing; a relatively unknown discipline in that part of the world. Case studies would be a necessity but, while I was permitted to talk a little about the work with Nokia, any heavy-handedness would not be welcome.
‘Perfect’, I thought. ‘It’ll be me, a room of 20 or so people, talking about (and probably kicking ideas around) the idea of word of mouth marketing and what it means to the modern-day brand’. Donezo.
Upon arrival [landing just after midnight, after leaving Beirut in the morning and making a short stopover in London for lunch – long story], I was asked to come down to the venue to meet the team and pick up my credentials.
‘But it’s really late and I doubt it’ll go on for long, I’ll do it tomorrow’, I said.
‘No’, they insisted ‘the party is only just starting. Come now.’
I did, and they were right: the party was only just getting started. However, that wasn’t the only surprise of the night. After meeting and greeting the rest of the people I was there to represent, I was asked if I’d like to see where I’d be speaking on the morrow – ‘Yes’ I replied, ‘that’d be great’, expecting to be shown to some corner/booth somewhere in the main hall.
Oh no. How wrong could I be?
Imagine my surprise as I was shown into the main conference hall and simply told ‘Yes, you’ll be in here’
‘Sorry? How many people can fit in here?’
‘Oh, about 900 sitting but probably closer to a full thousand when we fill up at the back’
The following day I rewrote the entire presentation (less Q&A and small numbers, more pretty images and big stories). I had potentially one thousand people to entertain. At 5:30pm. On a Friday. Plus, after once reading about Jyri Engestrom‘s tendency to wear bright red cardigans whenever he gives lectures to large groups of people (it helps the audience keep track of the presenter on stage apparently), I thought I should rock the red trousers too.
So I did – and it was awesome.