Every single person has a favorite teacher. Whether this person was in a classroom, on a field, or just in day to day life, every person on earth can remember the time they learned something from another person and were inspired. There is something about this feeling of learning, whether it is about a new subject field, more about yourself or simply a new fact that changes you as an individual.
I am starving for information. I am a TED junkie, love NPR and am even on an advisory board is building NPR's new arm for millennials called Generation Listen, and I am in love with the art of listening and telling stories. I have spent nights when I can't sleep on Harvard Business Review, or scrolling through Fast Company, I simply adore Upworthy, Soul Pancake, theSkimm, Ryot, Good.Is and online aside, I can ask a person questions about themselves all day because to me it's all protein.
While I always loved to read, (starting with Matilda and leading all the way up to Marcus Aurelius', the emperor's, handbook), I did not always love school. When I was told to sit down, be quiet, and speak only when the teacher told you, I was anxious and frustrated. I wanted to move around, explore and talk to my friends. I wanted to interact with the world and not be stifled to my 2x2 chair.
My mom tells me this story of how she walked past my room as a kindergartener, thinking she would see this angelic little girl, instead watching her little girl squirm anxiously in her chair with her leg practically over her head in boredom. I was tested for ADHD three times, but received negative results. Back in the old days, if you were anxious, you weren't given an iPad, you were told "to play outside."
In a world where data is more readily available and free than clean air, we have a lot of decisions of what kind of content to engage with. It is a question of, what do you want to be learning and teaching every day in your world? This is from everything from your Facebook friends and Twitter followers to the questions you ask people when you are with them.
When I got older, I saw the chance to change the way we look at "the classroom." I became an educator with the fervor to transform education, deciding to get my masters in curriculum and instruction, writing my thesis on taking the students out of a classroom into their communities to learn, and the impact on engagement creating a metrics to measure engagement based on Bangert-Drowns and Sykes' seven levels of engagement (ranging from unsysematic engagement all the way to critical engagement). While we found positive results, I still felt stifled in those four walls of a classroom, and decided to break free and use my understanding of engagement and community into marketing and events for brands such as the Ainsworth, LVMH and Axe Lounge for years in NYC and the Hamptons, working with some of the best in the grassroots marketing world.
And so for an adult who loves to learn, but also loves marketing, who has a background in education and events, you aren't told what way to go. There is really only one thing to do and that is to create your own path. After seeing the power of events to rally people together, I wanted to do just that, use events and marketing to inspire people, to educate people, to be a catalyst in their lives and change the way they look at the world.
This year, I started my own agency that builds community in a unique and nontraditional way. We use curation, events, marketing and partnerships to change the way people, companies and cities look at their ROI (re-coined as "ripple of impact). I took this year to research in the field (also being my favorite thing to do), going to conferences and learning what's right and wrong about each one. Then just like a warm glove that fits your hand perfectly, I was lucky enough to land at C2-MTL by the faith of a curated group of changemakers called Hatch.
C2-MTL is a conference held by the renowned Sid Lee agency (led by the remarkable chairman, Bertrand Cesvet), a company that is so creative that Cirque du Soleil decided to form a partnership with them, and where building boats and buildings is a part of their day to day marketing strategy. It puts on C2-MTL every year for 3,000 change-agents from around the world. Taking over a gigantic hangar space and turning it into a utopia in Griffentown, Montreal, Sid Lee creates an experience where learning and marketing are one.
Speakers included Richard Branson, Steve Brown, futurist for Intel, Diane Von Furstenberg, Barry Diller, Bobbi Brown, John Mackey (who also gave a compelling talk in a construction trailor in downtown Vegas a month prior), just to name a few, and were all introduced by a Cirque du Soleil-esque clown. I was blown away by Sid Lee's Will Travis as he brought a little baby on stage and made us all hold hands to make us feel what marketers have to do when they try to reach each and every individual, and my week was complete when I got a chance to speak to Richard Branson about what it takes to be a good CEO and company internally before trying to be a good company for the world.
My company puts on a mini conference every month called Catalyst week as a part of a not-so-mini project called the Downtown Project, where Tony Hsieh is successful creating the most community-focused city in the world with the tag line, "Downtown Vegas makes you smarter." Tony wants to make downtown Vegas feel like a conference every day for those who live in downtown Vegas, and as I was sitting at Sid Lee, my 13th conference this year, it hit me.
Learning is cool. Not only is it cool, but as I sit in these rooms with huge marketers, I use my skills of engagement and community I learned with my first graders and middle schoolers and realize learning is relevant. Similar to my thesis, I use the world as my classroom, and so do brands, celebrities and anyone using a hashtag. Consumers want to be engaged, and tweeting and Facebooking is a low level of engagement, so is absorbing snack bites of three-minute cat videos. If you want to engage consumers, create content and events that inspire them, that teach them something about themselves, and it doesn't hurt to add a clown in a huge hangar space in the middle of a city every so often.
Follow Amanda Slavin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ajslavin