Can a culture of innovation, iteration, risk taking and sharing be created in Manchester, making it as vibrant as Silicon Valley? At this Downtown Manchester Leader’s Lunch at Restaurant Bar and Grill I shared some tales from my recent visit to Silicon Valley and, along with my good friend and trusted co-presenter Gareth Burton, we shared our Seven Pillars of Silicon Valley wisdom.
This is the fourth public event where I’ve talked about the incredible Learning Journey we went on. Add to that numerous radio and television interviews, magazine articles and me generally talking about the people and places we encountered.
We deliberately left the seventh pillar blank. For us it’s something almost indescribable. It’s action, just getting on with it, putting the business books down, not dotting every I and crossing every t in a business plan and finding an excuse not to do something.
It’s what Gareth says is not a “can do” attitude, but a “do” attitude. If you believe that Silicon Valley is just a load of kids in hoodies having fun and skateboarding round the technology campus at Google or Facebook, then you’re deluded. These are highly motivated, very intelligent and rigorously managed people. The hunger for measurement and performance is tightly linked to the goal of incredible success.
Some of the conversations amongst the 50 plus paying guests related to how we can make this culture shift in Manchester. Are we dreaming? Is this madness, or actually are the wheels in motion. It was an event full of energy and ideas and we started conversations that could really motor and start connections in Manchester.
I was invited to speak to the Forum for the Built Environment in Liverpool – a really active group for professional people in construction, property and civil engineering. The purpose was to give them a glimpse of a different industry – media – explain a few key trends that are going on – and show how they can adapt their own media and marketing strategies to take all of that into account.
On balance I probably overdid it on the slides – there are way too many and I had to rush the ending. But I don’t tend to linger on them for long, they are visual props rather than things to read.
I genuinely believe you can get across most messages in a 15 minutes presentation – then leave more time and pre-prepare for any amount of questions on further detailed points. to put it another way, let the audience dictate the content.
The other new issue of this event was the quality of the technology at the venue. There was a projector that didn’t work and neither of my laptops would connect to what we had. Luckily the very resourceful Phil Laycock of the FBE had a projector and a laptop in his car, otherwise it would have been a different kind of presentation. It reminded me how much I’ve been used to having a team who make these things work, or I’ve run a show with my own team sorting out the logistics. Sometimes you take a walk in dark.
Anyway, it all seemed to go well. Below is what they said on the FBE website – and I’m delighted that I’ve been contacted for further opportunities to talk to businesses in more detail.
“There were 50 people in Liverpool this morning to hear from Michael Taylor the former Editor of Insider magazine. Michael has worked closely with fbe over the last few years and is a well known figure in the north west. His views on the ‘Changing face of the media’ were very interesting and captivated the audience for 45 mins followed by an equally engaging Q&A. A copy of Michael’s presentation can be found here.”
Michael Taylor with Toby Perkins MP
Manchester Metropolitan University run some terrific courses for businesses. But the essence of business is contact and interaction – it makes such sense therefore for the university to promote links between the people with that shared experience. The event where all of this came together was Love2Trade, held in the magnificent new business school building on the All Saints campus.
As host I had to get people revved up, encourage some speed networking and to get people to meet new faces and to solve a few business issues of their own.
We also had some special guests as Toby Perkins MP dropped in with a few Labour Party officials and said an unscheduled hello, which was my idea and initiative. To be honest, as he would, he went on a bit, but it was nice of him to show an interest. My job was to subtly display some body language which indicated his time was up!
The feedback from the event attendees has been excellent and it was a fun way to do a business event.
Nicky Campbell and Laura Wolfe
This was effectively the launch of my new business Think More. In partnership with Journey9 and the leading speaker agency, JLA, the Lowry Hotel, it really was a very bold event attended by 100 specially invited guests who heard four inspiring speakers sharing their stories. AV and production was provided and managed by Project Eventus.
The evening was a unique chance for senior decision-makers and conference organisers to preview speakers who can help inform, inspire and galvanise audiences. With a line-up featuring broadcaster Nicky Campbell (pictured, above with Laura Wolfe from Journey9), Will Butler-Adams of Brompton Bicycle Company, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, former Head of MI5 and Wilfred Emanuel-Jones, founder, ‘The Black Farmer’, The Agenda focused on key messages for business both big and small.
If there was a unifying theme from them all it was that all the speakers at The Agenda all communicated something unique and personal about the risks they have taken and the leaps of faith they have taken.
At the risk of sounding grand – it embodied our shared vision to raise the bar of quality on events – to get people out of their comfort zones to think more about their businesses and their lives. You can’t beat the buzz of an inspired audience.
A personal career high came in the Q&A afterwards. I directed a question to Eliza: “Is there something you know, that we can’t know, that if we did know, we’d think better of our political leaders?” She paused, Nicky Campbell nodded and said: “what a great question.”
I honestly can’t remember the answer.
The blog and the Twitter feed for the event are here.
Thinking time outside Mr Thomas’s Chop House
For the second time this year I interviewed Mike Emmerich, chief executive, New Economy, this time at Mr Thomas’s Chop House (Pictured) in an evening City Session for the Manchester city centre management company CityCo. I’ve got to know Mike quite well and so there is a risk that our conversation can come across as glib and familiar. Mindful of that, I was determined to give the audience some insights our friendship allowed, and without betraying any confidences.
I asked Mike about Manchester’s economic and social roots – how his own story and parentage contributes to his understanding. He then told a story. The audience all seemed to stare in fascination as if to say, “wow, I never knew that about him.”
And do you know what it was? That would be telling. Chatham House Rules, you see. You really had to be there.
The next one is with architect Ian Simpson on September the 11th.
Sue Woodward, Michael Taylor, Angie Robinson, Nick Johnson and Frank McKenna
And so, another new beginning. My first event as the chairman of Downtown Manchester was a sell out breakfast at Deloitte’s offices in Spinningfields. The topic was Brand Manchester, what are the aspirations of the city? how are they aligned with different strategic objectives in digital industries, destination marketing and in how the city is sold overseas?
The panel, pictured, were on awesome form. They all know their briefs so well and grasp the challenges and the opportunities for Manchester. As chairman of Marketing Manchester, Nick Johnson is embedded into the Manchester family of institutions and sees the bigger picture. Angie has run two other major organisations in the city which gives her a unique perspective on where Manchester Central is seeking new business. Susan Woodward is head of Manchester’s digital strategy and is running the Sharp Project.
As has been a common theme on this blog, the trick was to get the best discussion going amongst the panel and then to inspire relevant and focused debate from the audience.
The questions came pretty thick and fast once we’d established what each of the panel was there to do and that we weren’t about to debate the interpretation of what Original Modern means. Twitter seemed to be enjoying the event too. I particularly liked the interjections from people who run digital and creative businesses, what would constitute support for their sector to give Manchester a global edge? Sue Woodward was particularly good on this.
Where the debate seemed to lose the audience a bit was when we talked about Mayors. I sensed this and asked for a show of hands – there were more people against the idea for the Greater Manchester Mayor than for, and even more were non-committal. Time to move on. That said, it isn’t going to go away and the debate will return.
Taking all of the themes together there were some useful calls to action – some ideas for focus for Downtown and some useful insights into what lies ahead.
There are more photos here.
It was good to get out of my home patch and see how events are produced in London. My job at this event , organised by the ICAEW (the Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales) was to host a panel session at the end of a full day of presentations and pieces of inspiration.
The content of the day was all about driving best practice and customer service for smaller accountancy firms. The presentations ranged from inspiring talks to practical pieces of advice. Also on hand was Toby Perkins MP, Labour’s shadow small business minister, who spoke very well on the legislative agenda. The audience seemed keen, but equally they weren’t rushing to ask questions. Part of my role then was to take that on board for my later session.
By the time my slot at 4pm came up, the conference had been run perfectly to time and with a high level of professionalism by Howard Gross one of the senior figures from the ICAEW.
I had briefed the panellists on my session beforehand, we divided up different areas of expertise and I did some research on what they were all about. But as I didn’t know any of them personally, I was leaving it to chance that they would actually be good on a panel. I needn’t have worried as they were all excellent, and sufficiently different to make it a lively debate. Credit for that has to go to a very thorough events producer called Jo Ross, who I enjoyed working with.
A great organistion, a terrific set up and hopefully the session was fun, lively and brought together the issues from the day. There are differences to how people approach events in London, the audience are less likely to know one another, but for me it was a good exercise in working with an unfamiliar crowd and panel and encouraging participation.