Creative Stage Bochum

Photo by Namik Celik

Last night I took my turn in the limelight at the Creative Stage Bochum, a networking event where 10 creative projects are presented on stage within eight minutes using any format you like. The venue was the Riff , a disco across the street from the Bermuda Triangle in Bochum – fashionably dark, room awash in magenta and blue lighting with a stage rigged with even more lights and a rough wooden floor. I had planned to talk about doing communications in the USA, but while preparing the presentation it occured to me that the journey towards a new communications project is far more interesting and important than arriving at a solution. So I changed the title and prepared a few “travel” tips about communication. At home I managed to get through my entire presentation with 30 seconds to spare, but live on stage, a time warp happened and I had to skip about five slides to come in under my eight minute deadline. Here’s a quick overview along with a couple of missing tips I saved for my blog (Ha!):

From a Facebook post...

#1 You don’t have to pack everything.

In today’s multichannel world there is a lot of pressure to do everything at once and I am a strong supporter of integrated campaigns. However it also pays to create an itinerary for every individual communication project based on content, target group/market, timing and strategic goals – and only then choose the most effective tools to pack in the campaign suitcase. Should communications be destined for a trip around the world – or for America – then it may be clever to do the project with a few stop-overs along the way.

Web photo

#2 Sometimes you stumble upon something unexpected. And discover Plan B.

I am always happy when I receive a detailed briefing from a client. Actually, when I receive a briefing at all! But even more important for me is that a client is open to ideas that emerge during the creative journey. A strategy is the compass that steers a project, but the process itself creates a framework for discovery, experiments and exploration.

Photo by Namik Celik

#3 Those who speak to strangers often make new friends.

I always loved to travel with my father because he talked to everyone whether he spoke their language or not. I remember one trip to Mazatlan in particular. We went to a local bar in the evening where they played great music. Everyone was just hanging around on the bar stools looking bored until my father grabbed me by the arm and pulled me up on a table to dance (highly embarrassing at 21). Within minutes the whole cantina was hopping. Communications are no different. You just have to dare to shake things up.

Street Art from Illegal Art

#4 Don’t always think yours is the only way.

Our brain is wired to recognize patterns – and as soon as we discover one it’s hard to see anything else. Sometimes we need to seek inspiration and experience from others – for example in a workshop or a forum. A great example of this is Dr. Spencer Silver, a researcher at 3M who discovered a lightly sticky, reusable adhesive in 1968 and tried for years to turn his discovery into a product within the company – with no success. One Sunday as he was singing in his church choir he got to chatting with a fellow choir member, Arthur Fry, who complained about how the paper slips he used as bookmarks always fell out of his songbook. And thus the idea for Post-Its was born.

from Andy Vandyke's Travel Blog

#5 Turn obstacles into opportunities.

In 2010, I was in L.A. with my friend Heike when Lufthansa went on strike and we couldn’t fly home as planned. At first we thought, “What do we do now?” And then we realized: “Let’s go eat Mexican food again!” There will always be obstacles in the way and some of them may require a complete reschedule. But before cancelling the trip, it might pay to look if there are other ways to get where you want to go. Might be even more exciting.

from another funny post about Ausfahrt and Americans

#6 When you’re lost, don’t be afraid to ask for directions.

When I was four my parents travelled to Europe and bought a VW Beetle. We were in Bayern and wanted to visit the mad king’s castle, Neuschwanstein. My father refused to ask for directions at the tourist information kiosk in a nearby city (only tourists do that), but instead approached a passerby with his map in hand, pointing to the castle icon. All he understood of the rapid German reply that followed was “Ausfahrt,” so he jumped back on the autobahn and followed every “Ausfahrt” sign he saw – again and again. Naturally, we never made it to Neuschwanstein. But my parents did learn a new German word: “Ausfahrt” means “Exit.”In communications, particularly if you are in new territory (social media, multimedia, CRM, etc.) you can save a lot of time by finding someone who can help you read the map in a language you understand.

#7 Listen to your heart.

In the age of market research, strategic analysis and ROI this may not sound like very good advice – but some of the best most effective and creative communications are developed by teams that are driven by passion.

Photo by Namik Celik

#8 Sometimes it pays to hire a professional travel guide.

There are journeys you can plan all on your own and others where the cultural landscape is too foreign to navigate alone. Recently on a local German radio station I listened to a DJ complain about American superficiality on a trip to San Francisco: “Everyone I met said to me, ‘Oh you’re from Germany. How cool!’” As an American I would just call that friendliness. But it also illustrates an important point about cultural differences. Last year, for example, when the Ruhr Region was European Capital, I had friends visiting from Denmark and England who were shocked by the claim: “Woanders ist auch Scheisse!” (Everywhere else is just as shitty as here!) until I explained to them that this is the Ruhr Region’s way of saying that they love where they live and nowhere else is better.

Photo: Stadt Bochum, Presseamt

They say what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, but from a creative director perspective the evening was a bit of a stumble since I failed to calculate in the time it would take to juggle presentation cards, a handheld microphone and the presentation clicker. In the end I had to skip over about 1/3 of my presentation and left the stage a bit frustrated. But I did learn about some interesting projects:

Wunderbar Records (A Bochum label specializing in Jazz)

Zink (Ambient music for events with a bicycle-powered video performance and featuring technical wizardry orchestrated by a former member of German band, Kraftwerk)

schluessel & blume (Online company that produces products for creative thinkers and workshops)

Architekturb├╝ro Jaenicke (An architect firm that transforms empty buildings into co-op apartments for the elderly)

The New Job Circus (A presentation and dialog platform for freelancers)

Sounth! (an audio production company for TV, Radio, Cinema, Film and Events)

Noorderlicht (A documentary photography festival that is losing its funding and in danger of being cancelled – looking for new funding ideas and support)

Bermuda Haus (Finally a coworking space in Bochum)

Hafenkult (A collective of 11 artists in Duisberg who are occupying an old harbour building with ateliers and galleries – they also have a new online shop)

Photo: Stadt Bochum, Presseamt

The concept of the Creative Stage also reminded me of Pecha Kucha 20/20┬á (20 images x 20 seconds) a worldwide happening in cities around the world, including one locally here in Dortmund (which is also organized by Heimat Design – the same agency that organizes the Creative Stage together with the Business Development Agencies in Bochum, Herne, Dortmund, Essen and so forth.

So if you have something creative to share and you can do it fast, there are at least two opportunities to meet your peers in the Ruhr Region. Would be interesting to know what else is going on if anybody knows about an upcoming event. The next Creative Stage is in Essen at Extraklasse on September 7th.

See you there (happily sitting in the audience this time!).


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