“Sit at the feet of the world’s most courageous marketers, hear their stories…”
That was the promise of The Gathering, an inaugural marketing event put on by The Cult Collective and held at the Banff Springs Hotel last week.
We managed to slip in after the event was sold out, thanks to Cult President, Ryan Gill. We were especially excited to hear from the marketing folks at some huge companies, huge brands. What an opportunity to hear their stories and learn from them.
First off, let me say that the execution of The Gathering was superb. You would never have known this event was the first of its kind. It was well organized, on time and technically perfect. That these guys managed to get some of these companies to speak at a first time event was nothing short of impressive.
But what about the stories? Well… Here is where the promise was unfulfilled, just a little. In fact, the very companies we’d been excited to hear were disappointing. Beyond the obvious mistakes (reading from the slides, relying on bullet points), we were left wondering why we were underwhelmed by these trendsetters.
Then we compared these presentations to two presenters who had transcended all the others.
They told stories that were engaging, meaningful and contained the one ingredient you absolutely need to build trust and get your audience to care about what you’re saying. Vulnerability. Let me explain.
Cathy Tull from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority made me feel like I was having lunch with her. With only a striking photo of the Vegas strip behind her, and some hilarious ads to complement her story, Cathy spoke openly and honestly about the challenges she faces marketing a place like Las Vegas, how she tries to overcome those challenges and what the outcomes have been. She exposed her vulnerability for us to all see. We could relate. She connected.
Bob Sartor from Big Rock Brewery did the same. He was frank and honest about the challenges he faced when he took over as CEO of Big Rock. He was self-deprecating as he talked about working to overcome those challenges. In fact, he freely admits Big Rock is still overcoming them. The Big Rock story is far from over.
Imagine going to see a movie – Raiders of the Lost Ark, let’s say. Indiana Jones is asked to find the Ark and bring it home before the Nazis get it. If Indiana Jones had flown to the desert, dug a hole, and carried the Ark home, that is a movie no one wants to watch. It’s the challenges, the conflicts, the times that Indiana Jones screws up that makes us care about the outcome.
I realize now that The Gathering could make a different promise than “Sit at the feet…” It could promise that we’ll sit at the table, eye to eye, hearing the war stories, and truly connecting.
It’s the vulnerability that makes us care.