Meetings No 01
Editorial
Mindset
This is no ordinary meeting magazine.
Cover Story
Johan Johansson
encourages us to challenge our thought patterns.
Psychological Meetings
Meeting People
Gordon slowly opens the door just a little bit.
Radar
Ecological Breakfast
A great success.
Richard Gatarski
Gatarski Questions the Myth of Total Presence
Please turn on your mobile phones!
Shari Swan
Swan on New Ways of Working
and an ever present focus on the street.
Intermission
Take a Break with Cottam
Excerpts from Mothers Pearls: 27 short autobiographical chapters of aha moments of realization.
Radar
Business Meetings Management
A five part masters programme.
Jonas Bodin
Meeting With Meaning
CSR in practice
Jan Rollof
On Creativity
and its impact on meetings.
Mind Check
The Significance of Colours
Tomas Dalström picks the brain of Karl Rydberg.
Business Intelligence
Four Years Before the London Olympics
What's on, Barbara Jamison, at visit London?
Per Hörberg
Hidden Agendas
Affecting meetings everywhere.
Review
Meeting Architecture
Dr Elling Hamso an the most significant book ever.
Spread the Message
Nature's Ten Best Tips
To suddenly become green in your meeting concept is not as easy as it sounds.
Radar
Meetings Industry Research
Lund University conducts research into the meetings industry.
Radar
Lighting
A way of communicating.
Roger Kellerman
A Buyers' and Meetings Planners' Magazine
Why Meetings International goes international.
classifieds
news
New knowledge
Brain research
shows added value live events.
Covid-19
BTM World 2020
transitions to virtual.
post-pandemic momentum
Dubai Tourism forms Business Events Stakeholders committee,
host first meeting as industry resumes activity.
hotel news
Scandic expects
occupancy of 30-35 percent for September.
Covid developer
Scandic Hotels
launches the largest network of coworking spaces in the Nordic countries.
planned for 16-17 Sep
Update on GIAF
- New dates set for 5-6 November 2020.
sustainability
Sands Expo and Convention Centre
is now a carbon neutral venue.
positive impact
The Hague webinar
celebrates partnerships and first anniversary of Ottawa MOU.
expanding network
ICCA Partners up
with Geneva International Associations Forum (GIAF).
Sponsored Content
Taiwan Ready to Reopen to the World
Over 80 events taking place in Taipei now.
Links
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Swan on New Ways of Working

She mentions the street again. That is where it all happens. It is on the street that people meet, trends are born and consumer patterns are woven. It is on the street that authenticity and opinions are found. Shari Swan returns to it the whole time.

But the knowledge and ideas of street people are seldom on the agenda when marketing managers, brand strategists and directors meet in modern boardrooms high up in their office complexes to make decisions about a product or concept.

Shari Swan has herself sat high above the heads of consumers and made decisions surrounding brands like Mexx and Reebok. Then she started listening to the corridor talk in her hometown university in Amsterdam, where she taught, and realised that students had a completely different view of brands than the companies themselves.

For a year she tried to work out how to get these two worlds to meet, to find the shortest route from the street to the boardroom. It resulted in Streative Branding, which she founded in 2004.

The word Streative is made up of strategic and creative, which is precisely how the company works. Using strategy and creativity, it provides customised solutions that enable its clients to broaden their perspective in their market segment. Streative Branding conducts trend analyses, and advises its clients as to the best way of keeping one step ahead of the pack.

One of the ideas that Shari Swan had was that of using “moles” throughout the world to pick up on the latest street trends. Today the company has an intricate network for finding the streams and trends of tomorrow. Around the world, in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and even Stockholm, there are paid moles who listen to the latest talk, check out the latest trends and fathom out how consumer patterns are developing. The moles normally work as artists, photographers, designers or in a creative occupation where they have the nose for trends. Streative lets them test client concepts or products in reality and asks them to interview people in their respective networks, to then report back to the client. This enables the client to not only see how the product is used, but also how it is evaluated by those who Streative regard as the cream of the creative crop, the people on the street.

Seeing a CEO sitting on the floor with a paint box is not only amusing, it’s also effective.”

The company puts a great deal of time, effort and creativity in presenting its ferreted information to its clients. Working in this way, it is not possible to present a trend survey with a bunch of A4s and a PowerPoint-presentation. Instead, the company’s trend reports take on the shape of a luxury lifestyle magazine. With their love of compounding words they call these reports molezines, or simply magazines. Using colour, shape and design, the company strives to create a feel for the findings and the direction in which the client should take, not just present the information.

The same goes for the verbal presentation of the material and how it should be used. The client’s meeting room is not good enough. Instead, they are invited to a Streative Salon Session, where the moles’ work is presented in a creative way.

Shari Swan speaks of achieving “mental defragmentation” among meeting participants, and, although declaring that meetings are not the main forte of her company, she spends months planning them.

“Creating meetings is not our forte, we work with trend analyses and design. Our meetings are just a channel, a way to tell a story. But we really like telling stories, and this recurs in all aspects of an event.”

Shari Swan arrives almost directly from Miami, where she held a lecture at the Future Trend Conference. She had just popped off to Amsterdam to change her bag. She is now sitting in the lounge of Future Design Days at Stockholm International Fairs, where, in about 4 hours, she will be holding a lecture entitled Dare to Share.

She calls autumn the season of travel and meetings. She is a popular lecturer, which is mainly due to the company’s unique working method, but also thanks to her moles providing her with the very latest information on the trends to come.

“It seems like you only need to attend one conference for all the others to form a queue,” she says.

Shari Swan’s knowledge is not only in demand at design conferences. The company works with brands like Nike, Estée Lauder, Bacardi and Akzo Nobel. Shari Swan emphasises the importance of design for her lectures and uses a lot of visual aids to get her message across.

“I usually do something we call ‘downloading’, where I unpack a suitcase on stage. It goes quickly and I try to show as much information as possible in a short time, which is also a form of mental defragmentation. People should go away thinking wow, we should do that! I try to create a feeling of urgency through provocation. I sometimes say very extreme things, but it’s just a way of shaking people up and saying come on, there are new ways of doing this.”

Creating meetings is not our forte, we work with trend analyses and design. Our meetings are just a channel, a way to tell a story.”

Are you a provocative person?

“I would say so, yes. You have to be if you want to make a difference. And I’m a change agent. I think that when you work for a large company it’s difficult to get information from the street that’s authentic and reliable and then make something good out of it. We talk of looking sideways, which entails telling Nike that Reebok is not their real competitor. If women choose to improve their bodies with plastic surgery instead of working out, then Botox and cosmetic operations are your competitors. They must understand that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all women do plastic surgery, but they have to understand that this is the message being put across to women. Nike have to be prepared for that and consider how they put across their own message.”

Streative Branding tries to convince its clients to change their mass communication to customised solutions, in much the same way as their own working method varies from client to client. Their ‘molezine’ reports hardly have the same template, and are only drawn up in a few copies.

“You know yourselves what a magazine costs to produce… This is much more expensive. In addition, it’s customised and directed at design and creativity and contains views on customer behaviour, along with strategies.”

Regardless of how much she denies working with meetings, Shari Swan has become an expert at arranging creative meetings. All the work that the company puts into its surveys leads to a Streative Salon Session.

“We put months into planning our salon sessions. We have to find the right partners, the right event organisers and production planners who understand the concept. We really want to guarantee that these meetings are something people look forward to attending.”

These Salon Sessions, which are occasionally held in public and thus are a think tank for innovators and business leaders, radiate exclusivity and trendiness. All participants receive a small bound book with Streative Salon Sessions printed in gold on the cover and which contains quotes and small illustrations, and space to write own thoughts and illustrations.

“Furthermore, all our meetings have a theme and individual invitation cards. We try to create an interesting environment in which to tell our story,” says Shari Swan, who thinks it sounds better to say they create connections rather than meetings. “Authentic connection to consumers and to the street and reality,” she says.

Creating meetings is not our forte, we work with trend analyses and design. Our meetings are just a channel, a way to tell a story.”

When perfume producer Estée Lauder asked ‘what is happening in the retail trade’, Streative contacted all their moles who then went out and analysed the market. The questions consisted of what Estée Lauder needed to understand with regard to what people and the consumer say about their products, and how the world regard their service levels within the retail trade. The survey resulted in a wish list of items that Streative felt their client should change in their organisation.

Because this particular survey was chiefly about design in a store environment as well as in the home, the project’s salon session took place in a real home. The designers made the house look like a store. It was arranged as a studio designed on site in the house to adapt with the report’s concept and theme. Representatives of the client were flown in from all over the world and the evening before the meeting were invited to wine-tasting on a yacht. At the ensuing meeting the participants discussed food, tastes, fragrances, sensuality, retailing, home decor and the trends within these environments.

“This is mental defragmentation; taking these people out of their offices and creating an environment where anything is possible. It breathes life into creative thinking and concept forming. Everybody had sat on a plane, we sent them these beautiful invitation cards, we brought in guest lecturers, I lecture, we bring in artists and designers and we promote creativity and say “if you’re going to put effort into store design then do it in a beautiful way.” This is a concept that has been drawn up by designers on how the product can be packaged or bottled, and sold in unique ways.”

“When you supply this information you have to do it in an atmosphere that enhances the chances of understanding the trend. Most commonly it’s in an office or a boardroom where the phone rings and the secretary knocks on the door. This interrupts the concentration levels.”

During a project with spririts manufacturer Bacardi, Streative tested aromas and tastes in marketplaces in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Korea. The presentation was located in an environment easily associated with a muddy marketplace in Asia. Bottles were fetched from all over the world for the participants to taste.

“Doing it in an office wouldn’t have given the participants anything worth remembering. We wanted to create memorable meetings where people could absorb the content of our survey.”

What is the most important tool in these meetings? You talk a lot about the milieu, put a lot of time into visual effects and you bring in artists. And of course your own lecturers. Which is the most important?

“Sometimes it’s taste. I like to use the five senses. It could be about the food being served, it could be the aroma. When we worked with skincare expert Jo Malone we had the company’s own fragrant candles placed everywhere in the building where the meeting took place. We wanted to create a fragrance of lime, basil and mandarin so that people would walk straight into Jo Malone’s characteristic fragrances. The meeting was about creating together; creating together with customers, but also creating in business. So we began by getting the participants to create their own breakfasts. There was fruit everywhere they could use to make smoothies. In the afternoon we held a Moroccan tea ceremony with a Moroccon expert who taught them how to blend tea.

“We also use PowerPoint presentations, films, actors, sometimes even artists to help paint a concept instead of using the traditional brainstorm. When we create a meeting we try to find something that stimulates all five senses.”

A project with network provider UPC went under the name of Home. Streative wanted to show how the significance of the home has changed and that people use their homes in whole new ways with technology providing a completely new experience. Home is no longer a family sitting around a table or watching TV.

“We flew lots of people from different parts of the world to Paris where we arranged a trend round tour so they could see the new products that people have in their homes and the design trends to show how the world has changed. It’s now something quite different,” says Shari Swan.

This is mental defragmentation; taking these people out of their offices and creating an environment where anything is possible.”

When the group assembled at the hotel on the first evening they were met with “okay, return to your rooms and pack your things, we’re going on a small trip”.

“This is where mental defragmentation comes in again. Some were extremely angry; some had just left their clothes to be laundered. They thought they were going to live at the hotel for three days and wondered what was going on.”

But they packed their bags and boarded a bus that took them to a Chateau. They ended up in a cosy environment with an open fire and live music. Shari Swan lectured on trends and then they all sat on the floor together with artists.

“They were given the task of drawing what they had heard and transform it into applicable concepts for their company. It got them to think in another way, to brainstorm in a new way. It’s also a teambuilding exercise, but mainly to stimulate creativity and flow. That kind of environment is extremely creative. Far from home and with unabated focus on the task at hand there are few complaints. The conditions for a creative meeting were optimal there.

“Of course there were some guys with an attitude who didn’t want to take part, but after a few began they soon fell into line. And the remarkable thing is, those who are most negative at the beginning are usually those who get most involved in the end. As soon as they drop their manager masks everything changes and that’s when the fun starts. Putting them in such an environment helps them think in new ways, they modify their old thinking patterns. Seeing a CEO sitting on the floor with a paint box is not only amusing, it’s also effective. They actually created their coming advertising campaign there on the floor.”

When Shari Swan holds her lecture the following day at Future Design Days it is clear to see she is saving the best for her salon sessions. This is a conventional lecture straight out of the manual, illustrated with images. But the audience listen attentively anyway as she talks about her moles and the trends and consumer patterns just around the corner. They prove to be well suited to the subject of the conference, Dare to Share. Consumers of tomorrow will sit at their computers sharing knowledge, experiences and products. She only touches on the Streative Salon Session very briefly at question time after the lecture. But she underlines its significance.

“With the help of artists we strive to show how trends function out in the field. And when the customers themselves take part in the work they see that it not only happens in our reports, but in real time.”