My lack of recent posts is not, I assure you, anything to do with slothfulness but due to an overflowing workload in the run-up to our Virtual Travel Retail Expo just 7 days, 4 hours and 1 minute away as I start this Blog.
Yikes. I recall vividly telling myself in the days after last year’s inaugural Expo, “Never again” as the adrenalin came to a shuddering halt faster than an All Blacks fly-half running into a South African back-row forward (ahem… after the weekend’s result, enough of that subject). But, to change sporting parlance, I’m a resilient old fighter and I tend to jump back off the canvas whenever I’m knocked down. So… here we go again.
The Knowledge Hub (conference) programme next week features no less than 75 speakers over five power-packed days. Some of those sessions are being pre-recorded – averaging one a day at present – while the others will be live. All require careful scripting, full technical preparation (music, credits etc) and a lot of thought. The pre-records have to be edited, visual collateral added. To hit the deadlines it is quite simply night and day stuff with a kind of additional twilight zone added in. And all this is on top of keeping ‘the website that never sleeps’ fully awake; co-judging The QDF Factor; and managing a company across two time zones.
Jess Howells, our Events & Marketing Manager, is a supreme producer, and is leading the editing and production process, expertly curating each session and ensuring each presentation is just so. Not an easy task when so much material comes in so late; when last-minute changes happen to the speaker line-up; and when video, imagery and interviews or panel discussions have to be brought together as a seamless whole. She is doing an amazing job.
So is the team at FILTR.QINGWA, the digital, design and branding agency that is our outstanding partner in the Expo. We’re starting to see the completed stand designs now and those are the moments when the weariness fades and the excitement kicks back in. I can promise you some outstanding digital experiences, visually rich and highly interactive, from many of our exhibitors.
One of those exhibitors is AuCoeurDuLuxe (ACDL), a Hong Kong-based global leader in education for luxury and premium brands founded in 2009 by the irrepressible Laurence Ouaknine, and now with regional offices in Shanghai, Seoul and Singapore. ACDL’s mission is to unlock frontline staff potential through innovative training solutions and to ensure that brands deliver the right in-store experience.
ACDL was way, way ahead of the COVID-prompted acceleration into digital forms of staff training. The company launched its own app (ACDL: The Academy) back in 2017, offering a seamless, easily digestible experience to travel retail sales teams from companies such as Pernod Ricard and LVMH. Expect to see that focus on innovation and digital excellence on show at the Expo; Laurence promises me she has something special on offer. Please come and visit their stand.
I caught up with the ebullient Laurence, the fine ACDL team and many of their clients at the company’s Mid-Autumn Festival party last week, a welcome opportunity to escape the vortex of pressure and to sample some good wine and food in excellent company.
I love the way Laurence has adapted her business to the pandemic but in reality the hard work had been done long before in creating a proposition based on caring about frontline sales staff and their needs and of making learning a pleasure not a chore. Take a look at this interview we did with Laurence last year and you’ll see what I mean.
Now there’s just 7 days and 3 hours left to kick-off. Alongside my laptop I keep a card given to me by a friend during the early stage of my battle with cancer in 2010. I won’t repeat the expletive that you can see below but right now I feel very much like the skipper of that boat as the mother of all waves looms over the vessel.
If, or should I say when, I navigate that and the many waves that follow, I have decided to steer the boat somewhere quieter. And as chance would have it, a random search on Google at the weekend while searching for a ‘Moodie’ reference, brought the perfect option. In this case from my dear departed Dad’s country of Canada.
Moodie Island, I learned from Wikipedia, is one of Baffin Island’s small, offshore islands. It forms part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago within the territory of Nunavut. It has an area of just 90 square miles and, best of all, it is uninhabited. Well, I’m about to change all that. The weather sucks (it’s about 4 degrees there currently) but it sure as heck looks peaceful. And with no-one else living there, I won’t even have to quarantine. Moodie Island here I come.