Men may have outnumbered women on stage by some margin at the Marketing Society conference but the women who did feature were amazing.
Kirsty Wark chaired the day with charm. Carolyn McCall never disappoints. She’s always great, either personally, where she is nothing but kind, nor professionally where she is always as impressive as her reputation. Sarah Sands talked about taking the Evening Standard from paid for to free – real step change in business model.
Orit Wolf opened the conference on the grand piano with an amazing Chopin performance. She then returned to the stage to talk to the audience about her experiences in her professional life. She is at the top of her profession, and it is always a joy to see someone perform at this level whatever their job. The passion is clear, whether a sportsman, an entrepreneur, a CEO, a marketer or as in this case a musician. (The agenda for the day included all of the above and more).
Orit spoke about when things go wrong, overcoming which she believed taught us most about how to reset the agenda (the overall theme of the day) and the importance of learning to improvise. One anecdote had her arriving, early in her career, to find that the piano she was expected to perform on lacked a key. The C sharp had come lose and was lying next to the piano. She instantly demanded a tuner to replace the key and repair the instrument. She was told that they didn’t work weekends. When she said that she couldn’t possibly go on with a missing key the man she was dealing with waved at the keyboard and pointed out that all the other keys were there – couldn’t she make do with them … There were so many of them and they were all intact. Orit called for superglue and improvised.
Things go wrong for all of us sometimes and yet we have a culture of rewriting history to make it look as if it all went smoothly – we work in marketing services after all.
Wolf suggests that we all write a cv of our failures. She is an advocate of practising with her eyes closed. It ensures that you really know your stuff. Pitch practices in the dark, without any IT and with someone throwing a curve ball in the room. Let’s do it.