Listening to stories

Notes on life, by James Welch



Time Flies on the best Zoom calls

When Gemma Greaves, the former CEO of the Marketing Society, says she’s going to introduce us to a friend of hers, we all know by now, we will be in for a delight.

So when Gemma opened this event, “Keep Calm and Innovate with Orit Wolf ( Ph.D)” this is was no exception.

Keep calm and innovate,
with Orit Wolf, June 2020

Keep calm and innovate, with Orit Wolf

Orit Wolf is a talented pianist. She is an accomplished business consultant. A TED-level speaker. And it shows when you realise that you’ve been sitting at your desk for an hour and it feels like a quarter of that. Tempus fugit.

Orit has mastered the webinar format which is a tough platform for a pianist. Should the static camera catch her face or her hands? Should we as the audience switch from laptop speakers to the noise cancelling headphones normally reserved for public transport? As a famous pianist, now on Zoom, Orit explains you’ve got to make sure you have the right kit, and she shows off her new microphone kit to show she’s projecting the best sound possible.

Orit opens and closes her 50 minute performance with pieces by Chopin. And we are all in awe. And she explains Chopin’s compositions are the right vehicle to open and close this conversation. Apparently not only for the music, but also to demonstrate that he was born for our Post-Covid19 days: Chopin, the Polish Romantic composer, 1810-1849, refused handshakes and believed in social distancing before it was a thing.

Indeed, we’re treated to Chopin’s Waltzes no. 6 & 7 and the Fantasie Impromptu. Later, a free improvisation by Orit, herself. 

Music, Orit shows us, can be used as a metaphor for how to face the real mess we are faced with in todays tempestuous world. Orit uses her allocated time with her audience as only an accomplished virtuoso can. 

She uses her piano to fill, punctuate and engage.

The Bank of England’s research showed Orit that 40% of Fortune 500 companies will not exist in 10 years. And she knows who will survive: those who have great core values.

She illustrates how we must stop trying to avoid making mistakes but instead, learn how to deal with them. She uses the example of the fear of forgetting the notes or the mind going blank when under pressure. And how to prepare for such an occasion.

Preparation is core theme in her talk, and she references her TED talk where 18 mins gives a strong structure and makes you prepare carefully. When Orit finds a different HOW and a different WHY, we remember Simon Sinek’s TED talk on the same matter. And Orit is proud in her references to other such maestros of the stage. Musical references, of course. Business references too, like the Apple brand and business.

As her framework for her talk covers so much ground, we can imagine how she will structure future inspirational workshops for company boards. Orit explains, “I don’t want to reinvent myself but I do want to change the platform”. In today’s Zoom-friendly world, company boards might be wise to bring Orit into their meetings … and now without having to pay travel expenses, just setting up a conference call. 

Watch the “Keep Calm And Innovate” MarSoc event here:

Subscribe to Orit’s Youtube channel here:

Watch the TedxTelAviv talk, June 2018, here:

This article was edited and first published here

The Marketing Society: An Evening with Channel 4’s Ant Middleton

The agenda of “bravery” comes to life in different shapes and sizes at the Marketing Society across the globe. It’s interesting to see how different, brave individuals are leading the way to face the future. And how they bring others along too to face their future. 


Putting this in context of the recent event I attended in London – an evening with Channel 4’s Ant Middleton – shows the consistency of message that the Society is putting out across the globe. And the consistency of outstanding global – and local – content that is being generated and curated in each of its hubs.

Here in Dubai, I’ve just come from another inspiring conversation about bravery in the context of mental health in the workplace – in a part of the world that is known for a show-no-weakness office environment. Show-no-weakness was endemic in the military environment that Ant Middleton has come from, he told us.

In London, we saw Ant Middleton as a conflicted character. And he wears this on his sleeve. Middleton is a Channel 4 TV hero, a smiling, muscley, tattooed beast of a bloke, with an enthusiastic, cheerful disposition and a dark, menacing past.

Chronologically, he’s a special forces veteran, an ex convict, a husband, a TV show host and a father. And he’s keen to show the world, through in his new-found media career, how he manages – and how we can manage – the demons of the past. And how to lead others along to face their demons to embrace the future. Continue reading “The Marketing Society: An Evening with Channel 4’s Ant Middleton”

ReloLondon part2 – how to network

Two months till we all arrive back in London. I’ve been away for 12 years. We’ll spend Christmas with family. But then what: need a job.

I’m excellent at networking but haven’t yet secured a job. I want to relocate back to the UK and find an awesome role. Not any old role. So, I’m talking to anyone who’ll listen. Looking for the ‘right people’ who can introduce me to more of the ‘right people’.

It takes a while to work out who the ‘right people’ are. And I’ve worked it out. Let me share.

The ‘right people’ in life – well, in my life – are the ones are break the mould. They stand out and they stand for something. And they tell bloody good stories.

I met Ant Middleton the other night here in London. He’s an ex-special forces, now TV show, hero in the UK. Ant Middleton says he doesn’t brief his tv production teams about the scary details of the upcoming shoot. He tells them the risks aren’t as high. And leads them along the way.

TV Heros. Ant Middleton & JW – a selfie

Ant Middleton says,

Don’t be a sheep. Be yourself. The best version of yourself. Be a shepherd.

Ant Middleton finds a positive in every negative. And he’s a complex character. The evening was another amazing event by the Marketing Society.

The next day I met Richard Shotton. I worked with him 15 years ago, but now I’m just one of his fans… Yeah, #fanboy. He’s recently published a book called The Choice Factory. If you haven’t read it – and you work in business of any sort – you should. It’s all about short cuts for getting people to think differently. The format of each chapter is what you want from a business book. Engaging! ChoiceFactory.png

Title/subject – Illustration (anecdote) – Explanation (research) – Implementation (how to apply this).

I had an epiphany on Rich’s behalf. I’ve suggested that he now builds upon one particular section of the last book… and start to manipulate thinking among groups that society wants to manipulate. EG rehabilitation of young offenders. I told him:

Imagine if you did a ‘reality show’ with Ant Middleton as the trainer of young offenders and you’re doing the ‘live-on-air’ program adaptation to help remould the young offenders.

If it happens, I’d be delighted. But I think they are both building their own fame independently for the meantime. Fair cop.

And that’s the problem with job seeking, I keep finding roles for other people who are quite happy with their existing roles. But it helps me with my own stories, my own positioning. My own job seeking. And it helps me find more of the ‘right people’.

Are you one of the ‘right people’?

The Marketing Society Middle East: Dubai’s growing buzz

MarSocLogoThe collection of senior marketers at each Marketing Society Dubai event grows more diverse, interesting and whatsmore, engaged each month.

On this occasion, two years since our launch, on arrival there were senior marketing execs from Dubai Airports, Emirates NBD, The Entertainer, IBM, Majid Al Futtaim, MBC, Unilever sprinkled with a handful of senior agency and consulting folks.

Each event gets busier and with a bigger buzz.Welch_CalvinHart_3

And that’s why we keep coming.

The conversations amongst this growing community before the main attraction are often as meaningful as anything said on stage.

Regular marketing community interaction, beyond big festivals, is rare in this part of the world. It’s becoming vital to catch up on unfinished conversations from the last time; great to build upon growing friendships; a delight to share ideas, opportunities and general chit-chat.

Then we remember that it’s the food for thought that counts the most, in theory. 

So when Calvin Hart, the fabulous storyteller, gets on stage with an attitude of clear ambition and wealth of experience to colour the framework set by his agency story, we sit, learn and think that we should have more people like him in our own teams. Continue reading “The Marketing Society Middle East: Dubai’s growing buzz”

#braveleaders in the Middle East

The Marketing Society Middle East is the fastest growing element of the MarSoc world (London, Edinburgh, New York, New Delhi, Singapore, Hong Kong). So it’s a delight to put on our first conference in an excellent venue, the Vox Cinema in Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, The Brave Conference. #braveleaders.

#braveleaders in the audience as well as on the stage

Recurring themes underpinned the excellent and unique presenters. Unique in their storytelling and unique in their outlook. All demonstrating different themes of bravery. Let’s look at some of these themes.

Honesty and relevance are key to bravery. Ros Atkins, presenter, Outside Source, BBC World News and BBC World Service, gave an honest story of passion, preparation and purpose. Which turned out to be the three Ps of #braveleaders in business as a whole and marketing in particular.

Accessibility and going against perceived & received wisdom are key to bravery. Asad Rehman, Chair of the Marketing Society Middle East and Director Media, North Africa and Middle East, Unilever, Continue reading “#braveleaders in the Middle East”

GULF NEWS: Can networking change the face of an industry?

On a roof top in Tehran, above the offices of a digital start-up accelerator, one of the global marketing industry gurus – and a start-up mentor – was telling me about a global organisation where finance and technology experts gather to talk about what’s coming next, Next Money.

A version of this article appeared in Gulf News on Wed 20 July 2016, while I was on holiday in France. Where were you?!

This Australian entrepreneur, based in Singapore, at the time was a mentor to Tehran-based, the digital start-up where global, non-English speakers congregate to practice speaking English. He was evangelising Next Money as the networking event for the community that was – and is – changing the face of finance by giving centre stage to the tech companies who sometimes hide in the wings; the tech companies that we only hear about when they go mainstream. Continue reading “GULF NEWS: Can networking change the face of an industry?”

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