Flying home last Friday from the BMA Engage conference in Chicago, I was taken by the fact that my head was reeling from so many great keynote presentations. I attend and speak at a lot of conferences and while most have a lot of good content and networking opportunities, it’s rare that I find a set of keynote addresses that impress me, move me and most importantly, give me something I can act on when I get back to the office that will make my business better.
Several good cyber-journalists have already done a good job at recapping the entire event. Check out Barrett Sydnor’s “Top Ten Things I learned (or relearned) at BMA Engage 2010” or Sima Dahl’s “Personal Engagement: Bringing It Home” as well as exploring all the great content available on the conference site, www.bmaengage.com.
But at risk of contradicting my own first paragraph, it really wasn’t any individual keynote speaker or presentation that struck me, it was the underlying theme that permeated the entire event. From the body of work presented by Tom Stein of Stein Rogan & Partners, who won the B2 Agency of the Year award and Eduardo Conrado and David Srere’s “Engaging with Purpose” all the way through to Chris Brogan’s “Trust Advisor” and Jeffrey Hayzlett’s “Emotional Technology”, the single clear message I heard was that companies, brands and all the people who tell their stories, have to be honest, authentic and set the bar as high as possible in order to survive, succeed and prosper.
Eduardo Conrado, Motorola’s CMO, told us to throw out the mission and vision statements and get down to the heart of the matter that concerns both customers and employees, purpose. What is the purpose of the company? Why do they do what they do? This was echoed clearly by Jeffrey Hayzlett, the CMO at Kodak, who clearly stated that Kodak’s purpose is not to sell film (whose sales have dropped from $15B to $200m in the last 5 years), but to create memories. He showed videos of customers who said that in the case of a home fire the one thing they’d run back into the house for, would be family photos.
The highlight of the conference for me was Chris Brogan’s presentation from his book, Trust Advisor. His next to last slide was a simple illustration on the back of a blank sheet that says “Human Business”. To be successful, you need to focus of building the relationship first, “be there before the sale” and my favorite line of the entire conference, “bring wine to the picnic.” What could be more authentic than that?