My PCMA Convening Leaders 2020 journey began on a Thursday morning in October when I received a phone call informing me that I had made it into the 20 in their Twenties Class of 2020.
I knew when submitting my application that the alumni of this program are some of the most formidable rising stars in the events industry, so to be recognised alongside these individuals whose passion is truly inspirational was a surreal experience for which I will always be incredibly grateful.
My excitement grew as 5 January drew closer and I got to know some of my fellow 20 in their Twenties classmates over LinkedIn and WhatsApp. Our shared anticipation was palpable, particularly for those of us who would be first time Convening Leaders attendees but my imagination didn’t prepare me for the packed three days of learning and relationship building I was about to embark on that exceeded all of my expectations.
A toast and tour with my 20 in their Twenties classmates on Sunday afternoon, followed by a welcome reception in Pier 48 complete with champagne pouring aerial hoop artists who seemingly defied the laws of gravity and physics set the scene for the main event that got underway the following morning.
The inimitable Simon Sinek whose bestselling book ‘Start with why’ sparked the idea behind the ICC Belfast value proposition opened the main stage to a rapt audience of 5,000 on Monday morning. Sinek spoke about individuals and organisations competing in the infinite game and shared his tips on how to play:
1. Just cause: Players need a cause that’s worthy of going to war for, one that they’re willing to commit resources to because advancing that cause feels worthwhile.
2. Build trusting teams: Your colleagues and peers are not towels that can be wrung out so leaders should seek to create an environment in which people are free to be their authentic selves.
3. Study your worthy rivals: Remember when you’re ahead, it’s only for now. Let your rivals make your game better by revealing your weaknesses through comparison rather than setting out to finitely beat them.
4. Capacity for existential flexibility: Fulfilling a just cause comes with a willingness to make massive strategic shifts, ones that might hurt and hurt badly for a period of time but that will ultimately be worthwhile.
5. Courage to lead: It’s not easy to adopt an infinite mindset, what’s easy is doing what you’ve always done the way you’ve always done it. The best leaders set out to build something that will outlast them and above all leave organisations in a better shape than they found it.
The following day it was my turn to stand on the very same stage Simon Sinek had commandeered less than 24 hours before for the 20 in their Twenties award ceremony. I felt immensely proud to be representing ICC Belfast and our city when my name was announced. Though we may be small on the map, we’ve got big ambitions and it was a privilege to stand among such a distinguished group as a Belfast native.
Bozoma Saint John aka badassboz on Instagram delivered a keynote later that day which was sprinkled with anecdotes from her time working for brand giants such as Apple and Uber.
Whilst it was fascinating to hear Boz tipping transparency as being the big events industry trend for 2020, what struck me most was the fragility she bared when recalling the day she had to tell colleagues about her husband’s terminal illness and how humbled she was by how they rallied to support her.
A strong team can achieve far more than one individual could ever come close to achieving alone. Instilling a culture where team members genuinely respect and support one another to succeed personally and professionally despite challenges faced is crucial.
I was told by attendees from previous years to expect big things from the last evening of Convening Leaders as the host city always treats delegates to a concert. However, no one told me was to expect Maroon 5 in the Chase Center so to say I was impressed is an understatement. The band performed hit after hit and somehow managed to create an intimate atmosphere and connection with the audience, which is a testament to their abilities not only as musicians but as a team.
Wednesday marked the final day of Convening Leaders but also my opportunity to participate in the 20 in their Twenties PCMA Instagram takeover. Capturing everything from fortune cookie realness to a whistle stop tour of the exhibition area, I offered a brief insight into what I’m lucky enough to call work.
Former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered the closing address and spoke in no uncertain terms about the importance of ‘showing up’. There were many instances in Rice’s career when she was forced to deal with difficult situations and make monumental decisions under extreme pressure. Thankfully, most of us aren’t expected to perform in these conditions however the principles of tenacity and giving more than is expected in a way that adds value will always gain recognition and appreciation within organisations.
Tony Bennett once sang of how he left his heart in San Francisco and after Convening Leaders I felt a real affinity with the lyrics. The city where the little cable cars climb halfway to the stars was everything I hoped for and more...Houston has a tough act to follow for Convening Leaders 2021.