Finally meeting in person again. Around 300 delegates attended the MEA Evolve conference at the Sofitel Melbourne.
The conference kicked off with an evening soiree featuring gorgeous food by Sofitel and a taste of the upcoming show FUTURE JOY which opened this week at the Sofitel.
The breakout sessions covered the usual industry topics while the standout was the opening session and the two keynotes – which could not have been more different.
Former Disney Head of Innovation and Creativity, Duncan Wardle kicked off with a very interactive, high energy session that had delegates challenging each other with stories (true and imagined). Duncan usually tours the world with his presentation but since March 2020 he has taken his own advice and reimagined how it could be presented online.
And other Zoom warriors should take note – it does not take a lot of effort to create a home studio setup with flipcharts, zany toys, proper lighting and decent audio. Which, along with great content and an engaging manner delivered a most enjoyable hour.
Next up was the first keynote from former RAN officer, Commodore Martin Brooker, who presented some really scary stuff and how to deal with it.
This included getting a call at 11:08 PM on 11th September 2001 telling him to go to the office immediately (but have a look at the TV first). That meeting was all about dealing with unknowns (like what next) for which there was no guide book.
What they did have a guide book for was how to sail a ship in rough seas. But when those waves have smashed open a bulkhead and your ship is taking water, then the book is not much good – so you have to draw on all your experience and more. The result, take the advice of your navigator and “drive it like you stole it”. They did, and they pulled through.
The commodore’s experiences are not what most of us will ever encounter, and fortunately neither was the experience of the closing keynote speaker, surfer Brett Connellan who survived an attack by a great white shark.
Brett is an excellent storyteller who I would rank alongside Li Cunxin (Mao’s Last Dancer) who told his story at the MEA conference in Brisbane quite some time ago.
Brett’s delivery was almost Zenlike as he recalled that day in the surf as he fought with the shark – and looked into its eyes. His presentation was calm but the story is chilling and the circumstances that followed, gripping – his best mate who came out to rescue him, the best mate’s girlfriend who happened to be on the beach that day and the fact she is a critical care nurse, the rescue helicopter sent to the wrong beach, the replacement chopper that then had crucial equipment on board. Then the recovery, learning to walk again – and to surf again.
The usual adjectives used to describe these speakers are “inspirational” “inspiring” etc.
But to me the key question I ask about any speaker is did they connect with me? Because it is one thing to have a great story but if I don’t connect with that story or its message then they have not succeeded.
These three speakers did in fact succeed – each in a very different way.
With the keynote spots taken by males (I know that for the MEA conferences it is up to who the speaker bureaux have available) it was great to have Holly Ransom as the MC and via that role to share her insights on the speakers.
More photos from the Evolve conference available here