Comms Unplugged wasn’t an event. It was an experience.
by Darren Caveney
When I set off from a grey Birmingham and drove the 177 miles to the beautiful Burnbake site in Dorset I knew it was going to be a special couple of days. As I arrived I was greeted with a blast of beautiful sunshine - kind of heralding my arrival - which made me feel better about two days of camping. I’d not done it since I was a boy and it’s fair to say I am no Ray Mears.
I was really looking forward to three days Unplugged and away from the internet, depressing news stories and social media. I’ve taken a digital detox before and loved the multiple benefits but of late I had slipped back into bad ways. So this was my chance to stop spending too much time staring at screens.
If you had considered going to Comms Unplugged but didn’t – maybe you don’t like camping, maybe it looked like a jolly, maybe you thought you wouldn’t know anyone – you missed a genuine treat. I don’t say that to try to give you a big dose of the FOMOs. I say it because I guarantee that you’ll have learned lots and had an amazing and fun time. But don’t take my word for it – ask the people who went along.
Often after events you get a ’10 things I learned at XYZ’ blog post. Instead I want to give a shout to the best bits. 21 of them (not in any particular order)
Stargazing with Albert Freeman. At just after midnight, early Saturday morning, we were blessed with the clearest, most beautiful Dorset sky. Albert got us stargazing – we saw the milky way and a shooting star. It was epic.
Fireside chats. Both nights we pulled up chairs, drank beer, wine or gin and talked absolute twaddle. It was perfect. Thanks so much to our Head of Fires, the ace Chris Elias.
Fire pits. An old washing machine drum makes the best fire basket there is. If you think about it that drum is made of the highest quality stainless steel around and they just won’t rust. Who knew?
Camping. Now anyone who was there will have spotted that I make a hopeless camper. But I did it and I learned plenty. And that was the whole point of Comms Unplugged – doing things differently to learn new skills. Life becomes dull doing the same old, same old.
Tents. Now here’s a learning point: Some things in shops are in the sale for a reason. And a two man tent doesn’t sleep two. Or indeed one 5 feet 8 inch bloke.
Being offline. Being online is important and part of the day job. But it – and especially social media - encroaches too much into non-work time for many and I’m as guilty as anyone. I was off social media for 3 days and didn’t miss it once because I was talking to new people face-to-face. From here on in I vow not to be online or on social media past the 9pm watershed. If you see me there tell me to bog off. Better still try it yourself, it has to be better for our wellbeing, right?
Listening: To speakers. 10 years ago you’d go to an event or meeting and be told to switch your phone off. It was quite liberating when this began to change and we were encouraged to live tweet from events. But maybe we have gone too far the other way now and we don’t listen enough. Because actually it is a bit rude not to listen fully when someone is talking. And because you just can’t beat a really good speaker telling an interesting story. Giles from Olives et al is the best storyteller I’ve seen in ages. He turned up riding his motorbike into the marquee. If I’d spent the session tweeting I’d not have enjoyed it as much.
Listening: To colleagues. I think I spoke to pretty much everyone at Comms Unplugged. And not just a hello but actual chats - finding out about them and what they do. We’re all so busy rushing round not taking the time and spending too long online. Let’s talk more, I say.
Dorset. I officially love Dorset. Burnbake is just beautiful. Corfe village is tiny but boasts a castle and some amazing pubs. I’m having some family holiday time in Dorset in 2018.
Dogs. You’ve heard of national bring your dog to work day. Well we had dogs at Comms Unplugged, four in fact, courtesy of Jill Spurr. Talk about well behaved. I want them in the actual workshops next year too.
Llamas versus Alpacas. One of the funniest conversations I’ve had in ages. I’m not saying any more, you really had to be there.
Meditating. Meditating on a log, in a wood, in the rain was amazing. Try and get Fresh Air Fridays into your workplace, it will be money well spent.
Sally and Georgia. Like an irresistible force, this pair just made things happen. Never once negative or doubtful – just full of inspiration to make something special.
Simon Enright. It’s not often a tent full of people will have access to such a senior comms director and Simon’s session was absolutely on the money about the challenges we face as communicators plus ideas for solving the biggest issues. It was worth the entrance fee alone to hear an honest reflection from a man at the top of his game.
Our sponsors. What a genuinely lovely group of people. I’d work with any of them in a heartbeat. Thank you for supporting us and believing in this new concept, Perago-Wales, dxw, Fresh Air Fridays, Alive with Ideas and LGcomms.
People making a big effort. The furthest trip was made by Anna Maclean and Joanne Ford travelling down from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. And Albert Freeman and Josephine Graham had the longest journey time. Ask them if it was worth it. Their presence really added to the event.
The Welsh Massive. What great fun all of the Welsh contingent were. Hats off to you all for making the event and our fireside chats so entertaining, as did everyone from across all parts of the UK.
VW Campervans. I’ve long desired a VW Campervan. Emma Northcote has an absolute stunner. Imagine my face when I made my way out of my tiny, damp tent at 6am to see this beauty parked next to me.
Alive with Ideas. Sally Northeast summed it up when she said that Alan Oram and Alive with Ideas had actually foreseen how Comms Unplugged would look on day one with their logo design. Nail. On. Head. Have them in your professional lives.
Wildlife walks. On the last day local wildlife expert, Jim White, took us on a guided walk through the health land and woods until we reached a spot overlooking Poole harbour and Sandbanks. Jim had one of those relaxing voices you could listen to all day and was the perfect soundtrack to absolutely beautiful scenery. A welcome last blast of summer sun made it even better.
Lastly, friendship. New friendships were formed at Comms Unplugged – you could see it all around the field. There are few things in life better than that.
Will it happen again in 2018?
Will we make some changes?
Yes, we know there are a couple of things we would do differently. And we’ll be listening to the feedback and tweaking where we need to. But on the whole the feedback at Comms Unplugged was so positive it feels like we’re on to a winning formula and it shouldn’t be messed with too much.
Finally, – a big well done and thank you to Sally Northeast and Georgia Turner. Putting an event on like this on top of busy day jobs is a challenge and not to be underestimated. Their creativity, enthusiasm, skills and sheer determination to make it fly made the difference. Thanks for letting me be on your team – I couldn’t have had better team mates.
Finally, finally – thank you to the attendees, sponsors and speakers who took a punt on Comms Unplugged.
The first of most things are often the best. If you were at Comms Unplugged 2017 you’re in a special, select group who in 10 years’ time can say – I was at the first one.
Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0, owner of creative communicators ltd and a member of the comms unplugged organisation team.
sourced by Helena Hellie