I have had the pleasure to design and run an unusual event, for the German luxury car maker, Mercedes-Benz, who wanted to celebrate Woman and Feminity. They funded their best car dealers to organize such events.
Madeleine and Fabrice Monnier are the young owners of award winning Mercedes-Benz franchises in Ath, La Louvière and Soignies (Belgium) and known for their uncompromising attitude to customers’ experience. They chose to create an event that would be “Authentic, Respectful and Impactful”. They wanted to stay away from the traditional cocktail, spoiled by a commercial speech in the middle. So we held the event inside of their most modern concession, in the middle of wonderful cars, and invited four original speakers to talk about Woman and Feminity for an unexpectedly high number of guests (200 vs the 50 expected!).
Aline Frankfort, a renowned creativity consultant chose to show the fascinating clip of Miyoko Shida Rigolo. She invited us to reflect on what the artist’s message was about Feminity and provoked the audience in wondering “Why Future could be the cause of the Present?”
Claire Depanian, HR head in a famous French cosmetic firm, moved us all by asking to “challenge societal stereotypes on beauty and look for what made a woman be truly beautiful”. The clip of unusual French wanna be singer, Audrey, was a perfect illustration.
Claude Tambwe, a model and Image Consultant, produced a strong impact on the audience by asking it to focus on the role of the Nun, in the dramatic scene, in the song of French singer J.J. Goldman. “Resilience and never giving-up, is what the story of Women has been in Mankind History. Nothing has ever been given to us”, was the theme she developed, with multiple examples.
Dimitri Boisdet, whom I had connected with, when he had published a very interesting article on our book in “Le Monde”, followed. He talked about the “subtle and insidious, ordinary machismo”. He showed twice the disturbing scene of a tennis player sexually assaulting a journalist, and asked us the second time, to focus on the witnesses and colleagues of the unfortunate lady. He challenged us to reflect of our attitude as role model, vis a vis such thing. “Those witnesses were caught unprepared and chose to join the laughing party instead of taking a stand against the unacceptable. We need to be crystal clear of where we stand on this question, if we don’t want to be caught as those were!” did he explain.
I closed on a clip many of you know, explaining that our natural reflex of bonding (mingle and connect with people similar to us) probably feels easier and better but that our World now requested Women and Men willing and capable of bridging (reaching out, explore differences).
We then invited the audience to experiment with bridging and connecting with people they didn’t know rather than bond with friends and exclude others during the ensuing “walking dinner”. We had printed the famous “Proust Questionnaire” on the back of their badges. This collection of questions is known to let the respondent decide about the depth/intimacy level they are ready to disclose to the person asking. We asked participants to connect with a stranger through one of the question.
People accepted open-mindedly to play the game and the result was amazing. The noise of conversations was extremely high. Participants’ body language indicated engaged conversation between individuals who had never met before. Several of them came back with unsolicited feedback, saying this had been nothing less than a life changing moment and the best cocktail party they could remember of.
When our team reconvened for our usual After Action Review, and analysed what had enabled us to create such a successful event, three learnings emerged:
- The design of this event was based on the idea (successfully implemented in Brazil by the “business relationship building firm”, Consulting House) that people would be reluctant to accept a cocktail invitation for the simple purpose of connecting or worse, being lectured with a sales intention behind it. Offering to sit in a series of lectures (even though ours were short) will be met by the same lack of enthusiasm. But provide people with an unusual experience where learning, sales, well-being and relationship building are blended and the response will be dramatically different
- The best service we had paid to our clients was to talk them out of a boring, “Logos”, speech which would appear as a “price to pay for the good evening” and would fail to create an emotional connection with the brand. If the theme of the night was Feminity and Women were the queens of our party, we should focus exclusively on them.
- Once again, the magical trio of Logos (the –short- lecturing part), Ethos (the high quality welcome and dining experience) and Pathos (Have participants co-creating inclusion) had profoundly impacted the people.
A lighter post than usual, but we thought useful to share this experience with you since, as leaders we are all often requested to design and deliver important Conventions, seminars or workshop.
Our experience in the art of mobilizing people into change has been summarized in our book “Engaging Leadership” and is a strong pillar of our activities around the World. Don’t hesitate to mail my partners or myself, should you need support in the creative design and delivery of such engagement conventions.