Baz Seal

Made me think, what ignited me.

Top 10 takeaways from The Marketing Society Conference 2022: Changemakers Ignite

When was the last time you took time to really stop and think, to listen to a different perspective, to be stimulated by someone beyond those in your echo-chamber?


The Annual Marketing Society Global Conference has always provided the time and stimulus to encourage guests to consider things old and new and this year’s conference was no exception. 

These are my top ten takeaways.

1. My first takeaway is that I shouldn’t be doing a top 10, I should be doing a top 3. Speaker after speaker used the old oratory and writer’s tool known as the power of three. Three points, three conclusions, three takeaways so my first takeaway is use tried and tested techniques to improve your presentations.

2. My quote of the conference came courtesy of Professor Sylvia Pan of Goldsmiths College who gave an informed and interesting talk all about VR which just happened to be in three sections – how it works, social interaction and social VR. She said “We’re trapped in reality” which at first seems a little ludicrous but the more you think about it, the more you realise what an interesting alternative perspective it provides.

3. Conrad Bird, Director, Cross-Government campaigns, Cabinet Office, told the story of developing and managing the whole myriad of Government communications throughout the pandemic and how Government departments can act with real speed when the need arises. However, it was his three characteristics of great leadership that really struck a chord with me. 

  1. Positive Energy – you have to have it to radiate and share it
  2. Gratitude – recognise how lucky you are to have the opportunity to lead
  3. Humour – we all need some moments of light however dark the situation is 

4. Renn Vara, SNP Communications, talked about what it takes to be seen as inspiring and charismatic. With the help of two volunteers, he gave three (yes three) pointers. The one that really resonated with me was his instruction to talk to the eyes, where you make eye contact with a member of your audience and then move on to someone new, ideally in another part of the room, when there is a comma, a pause or a change of topic. Simple and effective.

5. My take-away from The Boom!’s Scott Morrison’s presentation was his advice how to drive change – Unblock, Unlock and Unleash. It could have been Mandela dancing but I won’t spoil his story, you may not have heard it and you might get to see him speak someday.

6. The use of language was a theme running through the back of my mind during the day. How words and phrases change their meaning and during a panel session on sustainability in the fashion industry one such change struck me. In a world that needs circular business models, it’s no longer a problem to be going round in circles it’s increasingly an imperative.

7. I had read about the amazing achievements of the Aravind Eye Care System, so the jaw-dropping figures Dr. Usha Kim presented weren’t a big surprise. However, the fact that one of the sources of inspiration in developing their approach was McDonald’s is still, for me, a real stand-out and my takeout is how businesses and brands can learn from others in completely different markets. I just wish she had talked about that angle a little bit more.

8. Baroness King gave a passionate presentation on DEI, telling her the story about how frustration with the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) and a baby with diarrhoea helped lead to Britain’s commitment to never use cluster bombs. Though my takeout revolves around two wonderful soundbites “DEI isn’t an initiative it’s a way of working” and “It’s (DEI) a discipline and that what you need to succeed is discipline

9. Oliver Kent-Braham talked about the rapid growth of Marshmallow and even told the story of how the business got his name but along the way said, “Entrepreneurs are never really satisfied”, with the inference they are always looking to improve, looking for the next thing, wanting to grow. I thought we should simply replace Entrepreneurs with marketers. As someone once said “when you stop changing, you stop”.

10. My last takeaway is that we marketers are a really noisy bunch, right from the moment when Sophie Devonshire struggled to get the audience to quieten down having asked them to introduce themselves to someone sitting close to them, to the cacophony of noise as people went down the stairs to lunch. It made me think of Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet’ and the struggle introverts must face in this profession. It brought to mind a phrase I say a lot and should probably practise even more than I do – “You have two ears and one mouth try and us them in that proportion”

Well, that’s my ten and I haven’t even mentioned what for me was the best presentation of the day from Kay Cossington, Head of Women’s Technical at the FA, which intertwined an amazing success story with clear guidance on how and why that success was achieved. Nor have I mentioned, the heart-rending presentations from Emma Revie of The Trussell Trust and Olena Martynova of Starlight Media.   

Thanks to The Marketing Society and all the presenters who allowed me to enjoy a thought-provoking and hopefully change-making day.