In the new ambience of the idyllic Mediterranean town of Tivat, Spark.me 2019 kicked off with vibrant energy brought on by its (all-time biggest!) audience! In fact, this was the first time I saw people at a conference start clapping just for the programme to start – that’s usually reserved for concerts! 😀
Once we started, the speakers did their part to keep us motivated, inspired, and challenged through the day by delivering highly engaging and thought-provoking talks. One after another, they wowed us with incredible stories of how they paved their way to success, their unique perceptions and dilemmas about the rapid-changing business environment, the impact of advanced technologies on our future, and some MAGIC-al advice on creating viral content.
All in all, if we were to predict the overall experience of the conference based only on its first day, it would be a pretty satisfying one! 🙂
Just Keep It One Level above the Cr*p
Peter Shankman was the first to break the ice and get sympathies of our tough crowd, living up to his nickname “Peter, Lord of the skies”! Don’t be mistaken, he’s not a pilot, nor an astronaut, but in his own words – a down-to-earth “good guy who got lucky”. A man who got his first fame and fortune by selling anti-Titanic t-shirts on Times Square reminded us to brand everything and have our content come back to you.
Being the master of customer service, he revealed the most common mistakes companies make. According to him, that overall customer service of companies today sucks – customers don’t even expect to be treated well. Due to these low expectations, it is enough to be one level above the cr*p. Peter shared some tools to do it!
The first rule of getting an invested customer is transparency. Every company can make a mistake, but not every company admits one. Peter implored us to own to our mistakes, fix the problem and listen to your audience. In their minds, doing this will evoke an intimate connection to our brand and increase their loyalty. As he reminded us, “having an audience is a privilege, not a right”.
Peter shared with us the newest research that claims that the average attention span of consumers is 2.7 seconds – that’s how much time we got to attract them, otherwise, we’ll lose to your competitors. To be the first person who comes to their mind when having a certain problem, Peter invited us to embrace the power of brevity and make sure our message has relevance by asking our audience what it prefers. By doing all of this, we will work towards building trust with our audience and achieving top-of-mind awareness.
What Is Our Future?
Bringing up some pretty sobering facts about the future of machines based on artificial intelligence (AI), the “rock star” of Microsoft, Jason Miller, unveiled one crucial skill machines will never be able to learn – creativity.
AI crunches data and comes up with a solution that is most human-like. Apps based on AI now make conversation, listen, complete tasks, and even suggest some new ideas. However, the question remains, does it mean technology can replace humans in being humans? Our safe haven remains creativity, with Jason claiming it will be the most sought-after skill in the future. Our best bet for the future is combining the two – developing the efficiency and capacity of machines, hand-in-hand with human imagination.
Continuing on this topic, Anab Jain gave a striking talk on the possible directions and futures the rapid tech development can take us. She pointed out that, spreading out through every industry, machines are keeping records of everything we do. She posed a question – should find this fact entertaining or invasive? As a filmmaker, designer and futurist, Anab explores the answer to questions such as this one by presenting alternate futures in the present, allowing people to experience all those treats the data is now warning us about. Some of her most famous works are “Mitigation of Shock” and “The Future of Genomics”.
Some of the lessons Anab learned through her work are:
- we imbue technology with ideas of the people who have created it, rather than those who use it – meaning that we don’t think like a user, but a producer and fail to account to the possibilities in the ways our products could be used;
- we should translate future uncertainties into present choices – showing a graph of how polluted will be the air we breathe in the future is much less effective than making it possible for people to experience that air for themselves right now;
- we are at a stage where we have everything to play for and everything to lose. This is a critical point in human history, and it is up to us to act on it.
The Importance of Mental Health
Warning us about the consequences of the modern world on our mental health, Cate Murden shared her personal story of how stress and busy schedules changed her life.
The solution to increasingly common issues of work-related stress overload and burnout consists of two parts, one coming from companies, and the other one directly from us. According to Cate, organizations should find a way to energize their employees, instead of draining their energy. If they do that, what they will get in return are happier and more productive employees. As she says, successful companies own their triumph to employees who know how to cope with stressful situations and who learn to bend rather than break when confronting them.
Now, when it comes to us, Cate says we have to understand which relaxation rituals work best for us and be careful about what we eat and consume. Cate also suggests following her 4A framework: avoid or accept things that are causing you stress; alter and adapt to how you feel about it. Ultimately, we shall do an audit of things we do best and worst at work in order to do more of what we love, and less of what we’re not good at.
So, dear reader, put yourself first and live your core values every day!
Climbing the Ladder of Virality
Did someone order a magician?
One of the most popular magicians in the world, Julius Dein, left us speechless with his magic tricks and stories of his journey to dominating the magic land of social media. Other than sparking our imagination, this self-made online sensation showed us that you can get what you want if you have the right tools. What are those, you might ask? Content and distribution!
If you’re into making videos, this is how you can make them viral: record them with your phone and use a portrait format so that the video takes up all the space on the viewer’s phone; create and share a compilation of videos rather than posting one on its own; and think twice about thumbnails, they are VERY important and usually the reason why people start watching a certain video. When it comes to distribution, Julius says that Facebook is our best friend! He suggests searching for pages that post content similar to yours and contacting them with your content. Who knows, you just might get that long-awaited share. What happens then depends mostly on the quality of your work.
Julius also reminded us that building an audience is all about the engagement, because that will make our content go viral, not just the number of followers. Finally, if you fail, embrace it – it can be the best thing for your career, as it was for Julius.
We Are All Pirates Now!
Maybe he was into playing pirates when he was a kid, or reading bedtime stories about them, but Sam Conniff Allende is now surely advocating for a pirate spirit in the professional world. Starting off with a speech about people who get their statues made, he concludes that those are the people who dared to make a change and break rules – just like pirates.
According to Sam, the world has come to a “surrender or die” situation and the technology isn’t coming to save us – it’s all up to us. Standing up against the status quo, being fearless and making new rules is what will always move us forward. Permission-based change won’t get us anywhere. Sam stressed that bringing the change should come within the confines of professional. One funny, yet efficient hack he proposed is that, sometimes, when you get a NO, pretend you heard a GO. He promises it works. 🙂
It is also worth a try to apply his 5 “arrrrr”s into work philosophy – rebel, rewrite, reorganize, redistribute, retell. This pirate accomplished his goal by doing so. So, when are you getting your pirate hat on?
A lot of wisdom to take in on the first day, right? As promised by Natasa during conference opening, Spark.me speakers didn’t fail to challenge our thinking and point our some of the key issues the world is facing. The goal was to expand our views and fill us with inspiration. Mission accomplished! Nevertheless, stay tuned for day two. 😉
Spark.me conference has been organized annually since 2013, by Domain.ME, a private company in charge of operating Montenegro’s national Internet domain – .ME. Since then, it grew from a meeting point for a couple of dozens of tech enthusiasts and geeks to a must-visit tech and marketing event for the Balkan region and beyond.