Reality Hits

Feet-GoingUpStairs
Earlier this week, I invited three (utterly brilliant) professional contacts – one a client, one a supplier and one an Associate to come into a session with the third year Creative Events Management students at Falmouth University. The module is Professional Practice and I have been running it for the last three years.

The panel discussion was going well with a range of questions asked and areas discussed and I suddenly realised that two of the spheres in which I operate were crossing over. These brilliant professionals were seeing my work in a completely different but mutually supportive context. I have always held that my work as an event manager and MD supports my teaching practice and that the teaching informs and supports my event management and business activity but it is rare that they cross over in this way.  We often have students working with us on placements or internships but it is unusual for a client, Associate and supplier to all come into the education world, even just for an afternoon.

So there I was, seeing myself (and my dual careers) through their eyes and it made me realise that I adapt my communication style and approach significantly across the spectrum from lecturer to event manager to business person. I also realised that this kind of stretch is not an automatic function for many people and so coming into the academic world can seem like a huge challenge or a no-go area.

It can seem daunting to speak to or with students, especially en masse, but we have something that they don’t – experience and knowledge. We might not know all the answers or have published research but we do know our stuff and we are making businesses work and making events happen. So, as vocational professionals, we all have our contribution to make to the academic world, our contribution to make to enabling others to understand the reality of work, of an industry, of life beyond university.

So who’s coming in next?

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

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Taking the Digital Leap

jumpingRecently the government confirmed that they are releasing more funds for STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – as these subjects are at the core of our economy. The funding is specifically for development of the creative digital industries….but what does this mean?

We have been discussing this particularly in relation to City of Lights as we have been successful in our application to the Arts Council for a small grant fund to support digital development. But what is digital development?

We can contemplate digital in three main ways:

Production – that is, how we make it. So in a craft context that might be using laser cutters or specific design software

Output – that is, how it is enjoyed/engaged with so it could be projection or film or photography or an interactive soundscape….

Marketing – that is, anything that engages the audience e.g. online streaming, social media or blogging/vlogging

It took us some time to get to this clarity and we spent a lot of time discussing what we were actually expecting from artists who were undertaking a digital commission. We now know that we are looking for a digital output that could use digital production methodologies and will certainly engage digital marketing activity such as crowdfunding, social media activity and increased online traffic.

This is unknown territory for City of Lights and this is the case for many arts and charitable organisations. It can be a huge risk, both financially and organisationally so the funding and support from the government, in our case Arts Council England, makes all the difference in making this innovation happen, not just for charities and arts companies but for businesses of all kinds. Surely enabling businesses and organisations to take risks is a core part of getting the UK economy back up and running so let’s have more of it!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

What Are We Worth?

paintpotsI am at a loss for words as to why anyone would think that they are so perfect that they could judge anyone else to not be worth paying for work done. I believe passionately that everyone has the right to be treated as an individual, whatever their circumstances, whether that’s being paid the right wage for work done or access to opportunities.

Graeae is an extraordinary theatre company who work with actors who have a range of impairments/disabilities and create performances that are truly accessible. They issued a statement last week following Lord Freud‘s comments expressing their frustration and confusion. It must feel as though so much of what they have worked for in terms of changing perceptions about disability has been thrown away by this whole issue. But perhaps it is actually a productive debate – if nothing else, it has raised the issue of fair pay and discrimination in the public domain again and the outpouring of support for access suggests that the general public does not share Lord Freud’s view.

It raises a more philosophical discussion too – whose work is worth the minimum wage? Is Lord Freud actually suggesting that we discriminate the value of someone’s work on their skin colour, class, education, disability, religion?…To me this is outrageous. Who are we to judge other people on this basis in any context?

Tangle is a theatre company that is approaching this diversity question with a fresh perspective. Founded a few years ago, Tangle achieved National Portfolio status with Arts Council England funding earlier this year because of their work in engaging audiences, performers and the wider public. They tell stories from a range of cultures, bringing them together to represent and engage wider ethnic groups. These are stories that need to be told and celebrated in the same way that we celebrate Shakespeare or Ayckbourn.

As a business, it can be easy to feel under pressure to have to accommodate everyone and that quality is irrelevant in terms of ensuring that everyone else is happy. This is of course not the case but rather we need to recognise that celebrating diversity in all its forms is part of not only fulfilling quality assurance in the delivery of our products or services but is part of quality enhancement. Diversity brings new perspectives that can enable a business to really thrive both economically and socially, so let’s appreciate and value all of those inputs!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

What Goes Around …

I would like to say thank you to the two drivers who let me out of the junction onto the A39 this morning.  Your consideration is much appreciated.

That junction is difficult in the mornings with heavy traffic in both directions so you really have to pick your moment and most mornings I am entirely reliant on the consideration of other drivers to my plight.  The theme of consideration came up at our Company Gathering last week as well as one of the qualities that we most appreciate and it made me think about how considerate I am in relation to the various roles I play in life.

It is important to recognise that we are dependent upon the consideration of others in almost everything we do – dependent on team members doing their jobs and supporting beyond the job description; dependent on clients being willing to take risks and be creative; dependent on people considering each other at large scale events such as City of Lights and enabling everyone to enjoy the experience.  Considering the impact that each of us has on other people is core to ensuring that everyone can access, engage or enjoy.  This of course applies to organisations and businesses and there is a role for consideration within our decision making as well.

That bit of consideration for the wider impact, that is, the time spent considering another person’s perspective, can make all the difference in the success of our interactions, marketing, events, HR management, motivation and ultimately profit. If we think about launching a business (and I was leading a session discussing this last week with the School for Social Entrepreneurs so it’s at the forefront of my mind), then we could develop a launch programme that includes PR, branding, events, promotions, social media and sales generation.  We could develop a whole heap of activity but without thinking about how it will be perceived and the impact on other people, specifically our target market.  That launch process is vital in creating the future success of the organisation so if we fail to consider the target market (or target clients, or target partners), we are failing before we have even begun.

Similarly, internally, we will only generate a motivated, engaged team by considering individuals in terms of strengths, approaches, communication capacity and abilities and then dovetailing them in the team, supporting them in their roles and providing a bit of inspiration.  At least, that’s the theory.  In practice, people are people and we are difficult animals.  We are inconsistent and emotional and, sometimes, deeply inconsiderate of other human beings.  So for the leader of such teams, we have to have that consideration by the barrow load to enable the whole team to work together.  It may feel like we are prioritising chatting over task achievement but that bit of care and consideration for another person’s situation or view on life can be the key to unlocking a high performing team.

So a bit more consideration all round might make the world a better place!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Do You Have It?

sparkSpark – that bit of magic that makes us us….in our case, it’s about personality and that there is no such thing as standard. It’s the ability to adapt to ever-changing circumstances and still create the best possible outcome.

I am stood in the bank today, trying to make some international payments for speakers at a recent conference.  Admittedly, we don’t need to make international payments very often but it has taken over one hour to pay 3 people. The guy behind the counter is constantly sniffing and appears to be a trainee. It’s not his problem and every time there’s something that is different to the system, he has to ask someone. In fact even when the information is all there, he still has to ask. A perfect example of lacking spark.

The thing is that we take that spark for granted. We know when we have it and we expect it in others and when confronted with an individual or organisation who really don’t have it, it can challenge our expectations. It’s frustrating to see lower standards being accepted and it presents a challenge in terms of communicating the value of that spark to our clients, attendees and the wider world.

This blog is part of our work to share our spark and share why this is important. This spark applies both in planning and delivery – in developing ideas as well as solving problems, in working with our clients as well as working with our event teams and volunteers. We want that spark to shine through everything we do, say and deliver so that it is valued and recognised as being an industry standard and thereby increase quality across the sector.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Come on the Foos!

CaptureWe are delighted to be part of the team behind the incredible Crowdfunder campaign to bring the Foo Fighters to Cornwall.  This campaign has grown exponentially from just an idea to achieving its target of £150,000 within 53 hours!  Now the Foos are an awesome band but we never expected that kind of response!

What’s particularly interesting in all of this is that it’s so unpredictable.  There are many things we can do to improve the prospects for crowdfunding campaigns with a structured, strategic social media campaign in advance to build up interest and engagement; you can run a press campaign alongside the fundraising; you can get as many interested parties as possible to post on their websites and link into it…..but ultimately, we don’t know how the general public will respond.  It’s the same with marketing campaigns in general terms.  We don’t know what the next market trend will be but we can keep our eyes and ears open, we can develop the ability to respond to opportunities quickly, we can develop our own ideas and take risks but there are no guarantees.

 

There are agencies and thinktanks out there who work on telling the future for businesses of all kinds and there are those out there who are making it happen like artists, directors, choreographers, producers. But even all of these people can’t tell what the next big thing will be.  We also need to recognise that usually, the Foos excluded, these kind of campaigns do not work overnight. So it is a long, drawn out, unspecific, unknown process that involves a lot of risk and strategic guessing and heartbreak if ideas don’t work.

 

So why do we take these risks with new event concepts, new business ideas, new funding campaigns etc etc?

 

A couple of weeks ago, I heard from one of the Directors of LEGO where he was talking about how they innovate and it resonated with a conversation I had with Martin Crump from Evolution Development – it’s a change or die world.  We, both individually and corporately, need to keep on changing.  Our human nature means that we continuously learn and develop so our preferences and interests also evolve and change.  We are like sharks – we have to keep on (mentally) moving to stay alive. When we stop coming up with new ideas or when we stop seeking to understand the world a little more, we lose that spark that makes us human.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky