How to Stand Out: Lessons Learnt from Cannes

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Over 15,000 delegates from 100 countries, hundreds of events, seminars and speakers taking the stage across eight action packed days. Now that we’ve had a week to recover, it’s a good time to take stock and reflect on what is a creatively chaotic but brilliantly brave event the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is.

In our industry, we are all focused on achieving cut-through, whether it be for our brands, our agencies, our clients or even ourselves. Achieving this can be challenging at the best of times, but during the biggest event for our industry it’s a miracle. Of course, the big winners get their chance to shine, but day to day it’s too easy for attendees to slink into the background in a sea of rosé. Really, what’s the point in going if that’s the approach?

Cannes Lions presents an opportunity to build relationships with people you might never otherwise meet, and this year the importance of standing out was more relevant than ever. So, reflecting on this year’s Festival and looking to next year, how do people make an impression and attract attention? And no, I’m not talking about any late night liaisons on the red carpet.

What stood out for me this year was the ever growing prevalence of tech, which undoubtedly influenced how people communicated with each other. Tech companies were once again out in force, with Snapchat in particular plastered over every available surface outside the Palais. Every journalist the FinchFactor team met was actively using at least one form of social media to document their festival experience – with more and more experimenting with Snapchat. Connecting with them in this way is a great way of making friends.  A word of warning: use in moderation. One journalist told us how much he hates being hassled over social – and in particular WhatsApp – as he feels PR professionals and brands use it to keep track of him. Not the best way to go about forging relationships, methinks.

However, while social platforms can help with connections and introduction, don’t let them dominate. You won’t stand out with your eyes glued to your phone. And, if you are lucky enough to get into a session, don’t text, email, and Facebook your way through someone’s speech. Bad manners and extremely distracting to everyone within a few metre radius. We heard lots of grumbles about this from delegates – and someone doing a session himself. A way to get noticed for all the wrong reasons.

Maximise your time. You get this opportunity once a year, so don’t spend it sitting on the beach or languishing in bed with a hangover. Hit the Berocca (or here’s an idea, don’t overdo it in the first place) and get out there. You can sleep when you are dead, sorry, back home. There is always an insanely packed schedule and a gargantuan list of people you are hoping to meet, so you really must embrace the whole experience to a) get the best out of it and b) ensure you are a name people take home with them.

If you are going to do it, then do it properly. Be a delegate – and use that pass to learn, absorb, be inspired. Make the most of workshops, speaker sessions, training and networking opportunities all on hand as part of the delegate experience. Think of it as a savvy investment rather than an expense.

As the sun goes down, the opportunities to get noticed don’t stop. If anything, they become all the more important as everyone flocks to the packed out parties and events. With heaving guestlists, it can become a bit of a scrum but it’s not impossible. Some of the best relationships are forged after hours, but it’s how they are forged that matters.

Remember what we are all there for (not the rosé).  While there are some great parties, ultimately it’s all about the work – taking an interest in what’s doing well, awards-wise, is always a good conversation starter – even at the Carlton at 2am. For years I have been meaning to invest in a t-shirt that says “Loving your work” for years now.

Steer clear of the Gutter Bar. While it’s known as the low down and dirty heart of Cannes, and I’m sure lots of people will disagree, this is the second year that we took the advice of Cannes queen Laura Jordan Bambach and stayed away.  Nothing good can happen here, seriously. And if it does, you are unlikely to remember it tomorrow.

Lastly – don’t do it by yourself. Working with a support team, be that your colleagues or an external agency, is the best way you can maximize your time in Cannes. The environment and atmosphere can be overwhelming, so going with a swat team of experts who know how to navigate the whole event is – without a doubt – the best way to make sure you are at the right places, meeting the right people, at the right time.

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