As I prepare for my first trip to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, I've been thinking a lot about how I can make the most of this experience and how it can help me in my career as a young communications professional.
I've done my online research, made several calls to colleagues who are Cannes Lions veterans, and read a series of articles offering advice on what to see and do at the festival. (Ten Tips for Cannes – From a Client's Perspective and Five Must See Seminars at Cannes Lions 2012). I followed the recommendation at CannesLions.com to take the time to diligently organize my schedule, and the result is a whirlwind, 9 am-midnight (or later), jam-packed week of panels, forums, screenings, workshops, awards, dinners, cocktail hours, networking events, and an endless list of parties. Do you feel bad for me yet?
While I am extremely excited for all of the opportunities the festival offers, I think the heart of my reason for attending is to listen and to learn. Cannes Lions brings together more than 9,000 members of the global communications industry from 90 countries, and I can't think of any other industry event that has this level of creativity and global scope. It's a distinctive chance to learn from our colleagues in PR, advertising, marketing, digital, journalism, media planning – the list goes on. The truth is that it doesn't matter what industry you're there to represent, we all have the same goal: deliver results for our clients.
I've heard a lot of words tossed around to describe the experience at Cannes, but the one that has stuck with me the most is “magical.” I've also been told that the awards ceremonies are the highlight of the week, which I find hard to believe since we all know how much communications professionals hate giving out or receiving awards. But in all seriousness, I think that the presentation of the Cannes Lions awards is so important to attendees because it highlights the magic of the event. People want to feel inspired – to be hit in the face with work so original and creative that it seems impossible to pull off without a trick or sleight of hand. In short, without magic.
My plea to those who are lucky enough to attend this year's Cannes Lions Festival, is that you take the time to not only focus on your individual agenda and whether or not your company, client, or brand will win an award, but also to listen to those around you and find the magic in the work of others. Whether you win it all or go home empty handed, your work is not the lesser, or the second, to anyone else's success. There is something to be taken away from all of the work presented at Cannes, and I can assure you that if you're there, you've already made a big mark on the industry.
Visit the exhibitions, watch the screenings, ask questions at the forums, participate in the workshops – and listen, listen, listen. Not just for the sake of it, but to really take it in and learn so that you can go back to wherever you came from with a renewed sense that you can make a real difference for your clients. When you know better, you do better. If we're being honest, I think we can all probably stand to do better.
So yes, Cannes, I can hear you - and I'm listening, ready to experience the magic.
Allison Cohen is director of external communications at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.