Leadership in events: transforming adversity into opportunity

By IMEX Group

2 mins

Facing the future: how can leaders in the events industry thrive in uncertain times

To kick off our July Buzz Day, Christophe Debard, Head of ProtoSpace Toulouse, Airbus, gave us a masterclass in turning adversity into opportunity. His story began with a devastating cancer diagnosis at 12 years old, followed by a leg amputation at 13. It was at this age that he learnt to appreciate the simple things in life, like seeing his mother happy and smiling. While this experience was incredibly humbling, Christophe credits it as one of the best things to happen to him. It taught him that his difference can be his strength.

Christophe’s own experience of adversity provided the springboard for innovation. He established the Airbus Humanity Lab, which uses Airbus’s knowledge and resources to connect problems to solutions. Humanity Lab volunteers explore innovations in mobility, sustainability and humanitarian actions.

One of the strongest messages of the session was that innovation can be accessible, and doesn’t need a huge budget. By using open-source methods, skilled volunteers, and an open mind, Christophe showed how small actions can have a big impact.

Open-source knowledge sharing

The goal of “open-sourcing” is to share your knowledge freely, allowing people to use and improve on it and redistribute it to the community.

Christophe gave several examples of the Humanity Lab’s projects, but the emphasis on open-sourcing their inventions was clear. One of their most exciting projects was a wind turbine which can be replicated in labs all over the world to give more people access to clean energy.

This project used a small group of volunteers to benefit a large group of people. Through passion and creativity, they brought their skills together to give people across the world access to clean energy.

So, what does open sourcing look like in events? The event canvas, from Event Design Collective, is a great example of an open-source tool for planners. Event planners around the world can benefit from this common language and method without a huge demand on their resources.

“When you use passion and the right people, you can achieve anything”

Collaboration over competition is a growing trend in our industry, especially after the challenges of the pandemic. One case study was a prime example of generating amazing innovations, with no budget and a group of skilled people. The result was a high-performance wheelchair which will be making an appearance at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Christophe shared that “nobody believed it was possible, but when you use the passion and the right people to do it, you can achieve anything”.

This ethos was at the heart of our July Buzz Day on the IMEX BuzzHub. In an industry first co-located virtual event, we partnered with Swapcard’s Evolve Homecoming to give you access to their incredible keynote, Ariana Huffington, and a joint cross-over session with Cris Beswick. Rather than run two parallel events, we wanted our shared audience to enjoy these incredible sessions without fear of missing out.

What other ways could the business events industry choose collaboration over competition? We shared recently the story of the Hybrid City Alliance, which has embraced the stronger together ethos. The alliance offers meeting planners a streamlined approach to working across hybrid and multi-city events; combining knowledge and experience to remove barriers, offer solutions and inspire creativity.

“I simply asked for help”

One of the cornerstones of innovation for Christophe is asking for help. “If you have something that you want to achieve, ask for help and if your intention is to give back, people will follow.” He believes that if you have good intentions, people are always willing to help.

He argues that asking for help shouldn’t be seen as a weakness, but a way to recognise someone’s abilities. We shouldn’t be wary of asking for help… at worst, all someone can say is no.

So how can we get better at asking for help? Firstly, try reframing your request into a positive action, for example, “would you like the opportunity to work on a meaningful project?” And of course, there are forums within our industry that connect business event professionals with solutions; whether it’s on social media, the Response Room, or in person at IMEX America (yay!).

Learning from an expert outside the events industry was so inspiring and the perfect way to kick off our penultimate Buzz Day. The three very simple ideas Christophe shared can contribute to shifting the innovation narrative: from being driven by profit, to being driven by the collective good of society.

There’s a question that kept surfacing in my mind throughout this session, and I’d like to leave it with you to ponder on too: What’s innovation without altruism?


About the author

IMEX brings the global meetings and events community together to power profitable connections, foster innovation, spark inspiration, and propel purposeful progress at two world-leading trade shows, IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America.

We use our influence to unite, advance and promote a thriving global industry focused on positive change.

IMEX Group