Seth Godin deceived his Montreal TribeHow a Master’s degree student like me would treat herself after completing her final exams of the semester? Attending Seth Godin conference is the answer, but that candy didn’t turn out as sweet as expected… Let me unwind the salient facts of the day.

The “Journée Infopresse 360 avec Seth Godin: Saisir les nouvelles opportunités d’affaires ” started out with an introduction by René Vézina (Journal Les Affaires), followed by conferences of Marcel Côté (Secor Conseil), Jacques-Hervé Roubert (Nurun) and Tony Chapman (Capital C).

The introduction gave us a sneak peek at the economical context. M. Vézina indicated us statistics that are encouraging for the market in Quebec: Montreal’s unemployment rate is for the first time in history lower than Toronto’s. I enjoyed his conclusion where he shared with us an endearing analogy. He compared the economic crisis with the winter on the Anticosti Island where about 20% of the deers don’t survive, leaving all the green grass of spring to the strongest deers. OK, maybe it didn’t give you the same effect, but to us, proud Quebecois, that comparison made it stick in our minds.

As for M. Côté, he informed us that 8% of the Fortune 500 companies will disappear because of the crisis. He also listed out 3 winning strategies to adopt in order to perform during the troubled environment:

  1. Frugality: Save. Stuff up your drawers. In all, scrape some money together.
  2. Agility: Be more flexible, be ready to adapt to changing situations.
  3. Opportunism: Be insightful and fast to act, because excellent occasions are appearing.

Afterward, M. Roubert presented an aesthetic keynote about how the crisis can be a catalyst for innovation. He showed different types of innovation, ranging from costs reduction to truly revolutionary innovation. I understand that it is not only a matter of introducing new products, but innovation also means harmonizing your business model in a more optimal way. He also gave a list of ideas to keep in mind during crisis:

  1. Promote on a daily basis the concept of innovation among the employees. Every little gesture counts.
  2. Understand the evolution of consumer behavior.
  3. Adapt the company’s offer and philosophy to the economical context.
  4. Optimize the investment in marketing communication without reducing it.
  5. Remember that the marketing of innovation is as important as innovation itself.

He later concluded with a memorable quote of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel:

“Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

Furthermore, M. Chapman took the relay, and in a brilliant way. He convinced his public to stop advertising and start socializing. Charismatic, he transposed his ‘joie de vivre’ right at the beginning of his presentation. I must admit that he won me over with his first slides with these optmistic words “FEELS so great to be alive”. More than a keynote with beautiful pictures, he managed to use remarkable buzz words to justify his message. Here some of them (Even though my dear friend on my right managed to spill his glass of water, I couldn’t help him, because I didn’t want to miss a single word.):

  • RUDDERLESS, values and purpose
  • SATURATION, brands and media
  • SHOUTING, “He who shouts loudest wins?”
  • ECONOMY hits the wall
  • FREE FALL confidence
  • MEANING do I really need this
  • CONSUMER, all about me
  • COMMUNITY unleash army of David’s
  • LET your brand go

There were more than 50 slides containing amazing illustrations about the fall of advertising and the rise of social media. M. Chapman then showed us his impressive marketing stunts: viral video “Bride has massive hair wig out” and the Nissan Hypercube, first car to launch without a dollar of advertising.

Tony Chapman for Prime Minister!Finally, he gave us a patriotic speech about how Canada could lead the world. Indeed, being such a multicultural country, Canada could become the laboratory where we create all the new models to meet the needs of the new sophisticated consumers. Obviously, it would require a great deal of choreography. M. Chapman also confessed that if Canada finds a politician worthy enough (i.e. who speaks fluently 3 languages and understands the power of Internet) to lead this country, he would be ready to follow and back up this chosen one.

Personally, I believed him, he seemed truly sincere. Even at the period of questions, he succeeded in answering them impressively. I totally liked his idea of introducing web cams in the Nike sweatshops in order to deal with the accusations. Overall, M. Chapman really convinced me that with courage and conviction, the results will come.

Now, the ‘pièce de résistance’, M. Godin, mentor and principal reason for the majority if not the aggregate of the crowd. After a quick lunch, he dashed out from his table (yeah, I kinda stalked him since I sat at a table next to his). At first, I thought that it was to prepare his presentation. But come on, how long does it take you to plug a MacBook?

Maybe we are way too demanding as die-hard fans of THE guru, but several of us expected somehow more from THE Seth Godin. Don’t get me wrong, his presentation wasn’t awful, on the contrary, there were enough images to make us feel and understand his ideas. But if I had to summarize it, I would say that he simply recycled the material from his 6 books. On the other hand, I can understand that maybe this conference wasn’t for those who had read all of his books and blog posts. As a result, we didn’t feel ‘refreshed’.

To compensate that, we would have forgotten this non-refreshment if he had giving out autographs or had accepted to take some pictures. But no, not only he didn’t take the time to sign books or pose for photos, he totally ‘humiliate’ the woman who questioned him why he won’t allow comments on his blog. After answering it mechanically, he asked the crowd “Is there any other more interesting and productive question please?” Ouch you say? Ouhhh we said… as he rolled his little hand luggage rapidly towards the exit to catch his plane.

Anyhow, we witnessed the clash between the agressive-not-so-empathic criticizing way of the typical American Idol judge VS the more-constructive-empathic Canadian way. Risquy observation and generalisation I admit, but these were only the thoughts of a frustrated fan who didn’t get a photo with her idol.

13 Comments

  1. Wow! I guess the guy is full of himself. I think that the question was completely legitimate.

    The web is there to interact and debate issues that touch us. In his case Marketing. The fact that he doesn’t allow comments always made me suspicious of his Blog. Someone that cannot stand an opposing point of view is unsure of himself.

    Thanks for the Infopresse recap. I will be speaking there for the Web Analytics day next week: http://www2.infopresse.com/content/conference-ip-2009-WebAnalytics-1.aspx

    I will welcome any comments, debates or arguments about my presentation during the lunch: because you never know who you can learn from until you listen.

  2. Just checked on Twitter…. @sethgodin blocks his twitter updates. That’s lame, he doesn’t seem to get it. EPIC FAIL Squidoo man.

  3. « I would say that he simply put bribes from his 6 books.». Euh tu voulais dire «excerpts»?

  4. Hi Isabelle.

    I’m really sorry I didn’t get to talk with you in Montreal. If you had said hi to me during the seven hours I was at the venue, I would have loved to talk with you.

    It sounds as though you were very disappointed, and I’d like to answer your concerns.

    First, I’m sorry that you were offended that I didn’t stay and eat lunch at the table next to yours. In fact, I did spend a lot of time on my Mac before the presentation.

    Second, I’m sorry that you weren’t moved by my presentation. The question a speaker faces, of course, is how much to assume about the audience. Should I assume that everyone has read all my books and my blog and start from there? In my experience, the best benefit to the largest number of people seems to be in collating the ideas so far, and presenting them in an actionable way. It can’t possibly work for everyone, which is painful.

    As for the Q&A, the question really bothered me, and I’ll tell you why: the journalist who asked me had spend thirty minutes sitting with me and interviewing me before the speech. She KNEW the answer already because she had asked me. Also, and this is the bigger issue, I had just spent an hour talking about the audience, about what the audience could do, how the audience could move forward. And this, the only question, wasn’t about anyone in the audience, it was about me. Deliberately sandbagging me at the expense of the audience. What’s the point of that, exactly? I found it distracting and I felt she was disrespecting the people who came to hear me by not asking something relevant to them.

    And finally, I didn’t stick around afterwards because I had to catch a plane to get back to my family. In my experience, the after-speech scrum really satisfies anyone very much.

    No disrespect was intended.

  5. “Should I assume that everyone has read all my books and my blog and start from there? In my experience, the best benefit to the largest number of people seems to be in collating the ideas so far, and presenting them in an actionable way.”

    In MY experience, anyone willing to drop half a G to go hear Seth Godin speak is decidedly NOT interested in hearing anything rehashed from his books or blog.

    Conferences like this offer a tremendous opportunity to reinforce your fanbase’s perception of you, as a generator of fresh, valuable ideas. If you waste one of these opportunities by presenting recycled content, those who have read it (your most important fans) will walk away feeling not just shortchanged but lied to, which in my opinion is a much less desirable outcome than the risk of not educating the unfamiliar listeners about your past body of work. (Besides, if your presentation piques their interest enough, they’ll go on Amazon and look up your old stuff anyway, without any explicit encouragement from you.)

  6. Isa, good recap. I did not attend Seth’s conference because I read all his books and I didn’t want to spend 500$ buck plus a day of my time to hear his good words and all the pieces of advice I already read in the past 5 years.

    I followed the conference on Twitter but your recap is definitely more complete. I really like René Vezina and I am glad he gave great insights that did not get as much coverage as Seth’s stuff.

    Take Care!

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