Opinion

How I learned not to worry (quite so much) about Mumbrella360 Asia

The inaugural Mumbrella360 Asia conference will take place this November (7-9) thanks to the generosity of those in the industry who devoted their time to developing excellent content submissions – publisher Dean Carroll responds with a personal note of gratitude

There are certain moments in your career you remember. The closing date for submissions to our inaugural Mumbrella360 Asia conference is for me one such moment.

For months, I had worried about that very day. Would we have enough submissions to build a conference around? Would the quality be there? Would there be a good mix of ideas right across the spectrum of media and marketing issues we cover on the website, and beyond? Would people get, and buy into, the industry-owned concept? Would there be diversity in terms of countries, sectors, race and gender? Would people even care that we were attempting to do something a bit different from the bog-standard industry jamboree?

The week before the closing date I had actually attended the Australian version of 360, Mumbrella’s flagship event. This experience did little to calm my nerves. Now in its seventh year, the Sydney event attracted more than 3,300 people through the doors across five streams over three days.

Hearts & Science’s global CEO Scott Hagedorn opens the Mumbrella360 conference in Sydney, in June of this year

I suddenly realised why the happening had won the Conference of the Year category at the Australian Event Awards twice. It also dawned on me as to why the conference sold out in terms of sponsorship and ticket sales; every session was top quality industry-owned content, well attended (in some cases, it was standing room only), expertly organised, proactively marketed and – refreshingly – not used as an opportunity for people to sell.

That’s quite a lot to live up to, even if expectations are dialled down because in Asia we are six years behind our Australian counterparts in terms of hosting 360. But I couldn’t escape that awful feeling of a raincloud hovering above my head – following me wherever I went.

It seems I needn’t have worried. You, the Mumbrella Asia community delivered for us in spades. And then some. We actually received 151 submissions. To my surprise, some two thirds of those would easily have been good enough to make it. But due to the logistical limitations (50 to 60 sessions across four streams over three days at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre on November 7-9), unfortunately only a third will.

This industry buy-in was beyond all expectation. And we agonised for a full week when deciding which ideas made the cut and which didn’t. It was with a heavy heart that I reached out to those who were unsuccessful to tell them the bad news.

For we know how busy you are. And we know how many events there are on an already very crowded calendar. So for me, I just wanted to write what is in effect a personal thank you note.

Thank you and congratulations to those that were successful with their submissions. And thank you to those who weren’t. The door will certainly be open again next year so please stay with us. We are in this for the long haul. You may have given us permission to put on the event this year, but that doesn’t mean we will take that backing for granted come 2018, 2019, 2020 and so on.

Our job now is to plan, curate and execute the high-end conference those thought-provoking content submissions deserve. There are certainly still obstacles ahead though. For example, our one regret about the submissions is that women were not well represented despite us making it clear in the criteria that we wanted gender diversity.

Either the industry is still not taking this imbalance seriously or we didn’t tailor our message effectively enough to encourage the female C-suite to engage.

Our guess is that perhaps only 10% of speakers put forward were women. Of that small number of women who were proposed, they had a far better likelihood of us accepting them onto the programme as their male counterparts.

Whoever is to blame – quite honestly, it’s probably a mixture of us and you – the result is nevertheless disappointing.

However, we’ve stuck with the stance that there will be no all-male panels. We’ve had to regretfully decline some otherwise good proposals for this reason.

In the past, we have called out conferences for being ‘male, pale and stale’. We now realise how difficult it is to overcome the ‘old boys club’ factor, especially in Asia where cultural norms sometimes entrench gender inequality. Although, the fight is not over yet. 

In the sessions we’ll be curating directly ourselves (and I’m working on  them right now), we’ll be doing our bit to redress the balance a little.

Of course, gender balance is not the only area where there is a risk we might fall short. Ethnicity is another.

We also need to make sure there is a sizeable audience in attendance at Mumbrella360 Asia, big enough to justify the efforts you put into your submissions and large enough to repay the faith of those early-adopter sponsors coming onboard.

So again, we will be calling on you the community to come along and to put your faith in us once more by purchasing tickets. All of us are breaking new ground here. That’s what makes the whole process so exciting. With that in mind, do stay tuned for the conference programme announcements in the coming weeks and months. There will certainly be a few surprises ahead. Things you were not expecting to see on a conference stage in Singapore. A mix of local, regional and global content.

You can see our first few speakers live on the Mumbrella360 website now.

And to my mind, I now finally have a vision in my head as to what the future barometer of success might look like. Years from now, it would be nice if there’s a younger version of me about to launch yet another m360 show in yet another new territory, all the while with the feeling of a raincloud hovering overhead, wondering how on earth to live up to Mumbrella360 Asia. Now that really would be quite something.

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