Blog

Speaking gigs
  • A journey to west Wales: kicking off Snap Photography Festival

    “Aren’t there any venues like this closer to London?” asked a fellow speaker at the Snap Photography Festival earlier this week.

    He had a point. Fforest Camp on the west of Wales is a five-hour-plus drive from the capital, the last hour by narrow and winding country roads. My iPhone told me the 300 mile journey from Leigh-on-Sea would take five hours, actually it took seven hours.

    But whilst it’s hard to get there, you’re rewarded with a unique experience in a stunning setting. Fforest is designed as a place to enjoy “the simplicity, pleasures and beauty of outdoor living in an outstanding natural environment.” It sits on a 200 acre site by the River Teifi, next to the Teifi marshes nature reserve. So I answered: yes, the UK does have other venues closer to London, but this one is quite special. Perhaps like a lot of things in life, you have to put in the effort, but it’s worth it once you reach the destination.

    The only non-photographer speaker, I’d been invited to give the festival’s two hour opening presentation and workshop on storytelling and finding your fuel. I’ve spoken to different audiences over the years and it was a thrill to be amongst 110 photographers. Since being given my first Kodak Instamatic camera as a child, photography has been a thread throughout my life. It feels like I spent most of the 1980s glued to my Pentax K1000, taking it to live gigs and documenting the world around me. I’m still passionate about photography. Yesterday morning I took half an hour off and walked around Fforest with my Canon digital camera.

    Sharing tents and outdoor cabins with strangers is not for everyone (disclosure: I was staying in an Airbnb in the local village) but something special happens when attendees mix together. Although I stayed off site, I joined in the communal dining, and I loved sitting down at the next available seat and chatting to new people. As I’d told the audience in my presentation, I thrive on curiosity, going to interesting places and meeting interesting people. Here at Snap It felt like the ‘United Nations of Photographers’. I shared meals with a Canadian, Croatian, Hungarian and Italian. I took a tea break with a guy from Poland and a woman from Chicago.

    It was great to discover that people had travelled from all over the world to come to Snap. Suddenly a seven hour drive to get here didn’t feel so bad; especially when the guy from Poland told me his journey had taken three days.


    [photo credit Lee Allen/ Snap]

  • Turning it inside out: extracting the real story

    As a storyteller-for-hire, brands and organisations ask me to capture and craft their story, whether it’s an external marketing piece, or internally helping employees and new hires understand what the organisation is and where it’s headed.

    I sometimes think about this process as ‘turning it inside out’. It’s my job to look under the bonnet, to be curious, to ask questions and to turn the spotlight on those hidden corners that haven’t been exposed before.

    Sometimes in those hidden corners lie difficult parts of the story: perhaps the first iteration of the product fell flat on its face or the co-founders fell out. I have learned that capturing and sharing these imperfections is an essential part of the process. These imperfections are what gives a brand its purpose but also its personality.

    The same applies to individuals. Over the last few weeks I’ve guest lectured at universities, my advice to students is to put themselves at the heart of their career and business plans. “Don’t let anyone knock the You out of You,” I told them. Part of that is being honest about your real story. And just like those brand stories, it is the imperfections that might make their offering more distinctive and allow them to stand out from the crowd.

    Whether you’re a student, an executive, an entrepreneur, a startup or a big business, telling your real story is rarely easy. Sharing everything - including the ups and downs - means you can emotionally engage with your audience.

    I’ve just been through this process myself. Last year I was asked to speak at The Do Lectures. The brief was to tell a story I hadn’t previously told, to tell the truth and to be vulnerable. The talk went online this week (you can watch it below. If you'd rather listen to the audio podcast, here's the version on SoundCloud).

    It’s a very personal - and sometimes raw - story, but it’s a reflection of who I am and what makes me tick. Like the best stories, it’s a reflection of the truth: I turned myself inside out.

     

  • “What the hell does Ian Sanders actually do?” 10 Things I Did In 2015.

    A couple of mornings a week I like to work out of my local coffee shop, Barlow & Fields. They serve a decent long black, the music is good and there’s usually a like-minded bunch of people to chat to. Recently I shared a table with a woman who said she often saw me in there but wondered what the hell did I actually do?

    Well, the last twelve months has been a mix of storytelling and advising. If we want to succeed in this unpredictable world of work, I think we need to be adaptable, multi-dimensional and have a go-getting attitude. I’m glad that 2015 is proof of what I preach: a varied and eclectic bunch of projects. Here are some highlights:

    1. Creating digital content in the Alps.  In January I was at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, embedded with their digital media team. Here I produced real-time content for the WEF’s ‘Agenda’, creating highlight posts from panel discussions on gender equality to keynotes from Senator Kerry and President Hollande.
    2. Re-energising a two hundred year old organisation. I was hired to bring some clarity and ideas to a London law firm. They needed an outsider to help identify what made them unique, and to find the ‘fuel’ at the heart of the organisation. I provided them with the energy to move the business forward.
    3. Inspiring entrepreneurs about the ‘power of story’. I gave presentations from Harrogate To Paris on how businesses can leverage their story to get heard.
    4. Firing-up students about their futures. In February I was guest lecturer at the University of East London’s school of arts and digital industries. My brief? To tell my own story and fire up students about career opportunities in the creative industries.
    5. Telling stories to bring brands to life. Over the last twelve months I’ve used storytelling to bring visibility to businesses and brands. As ever, it’s been a wonderful mix of clients from Buzzacott, the London accountancy firm, to TeuxDeux, the to-do list app.
    6. Walking around London, helping people find their fuel. This year I launched my Fuel Safari, where I help executives, freelancers and entrepreneurs ‘find their fuel’; reconnecting them with their story, purpose and passion to guide them towards their ‘what next?’
    7. Telling my own story. In June I was on stage at the Do Lectures in Wales where I’d been asked to tell a true, previously untold story about ‘how I got to here’.
    8. Seeing my idea land on doormats. Alongside all the paid work, it’s been great to find space for two side projects this year. One of which was as co-founder and editor of Trawler - a crowdsourced, crowdfunded community publication -  it was great to finally see our launch edition land on doormats.
    9. Having conversations with curious entrepreneurs. This year I continued my collaboration with film maker Michal Dzierza on another side project: our interview series ‘Curiosity & Opportunity’. One really interesting conversation was with Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, founder of Sugru.
    10. Helping an author shape her book. At the end of the year I was sat outside the fabulous Les Deux Magots cafe in Paris (pictured above) with Nilofer Merchant, exploring and shaping ideas for her next book on Onlyness (out in 2017).

     

    If you - or your business - need reinvigorating and re-energising in 2016, get in touch hello@iansanders.com and let's start a conversation. In the meantime, I wish you a happy New Year!

     

  • The SNAP Photography Festival

    Photography has always been one of my passions. In the late 1970s it was a Kodak Instamatic, in the 80s - and pretty much for the next twenty years - a trusty Pentax K1000. Today I have a digital SLR, but like most of us I tend to use my iPhone 6 more - after all, the best camera is the one we have with us.

    Whilst I didn’t pursue photography professionally, I still loving taking pictures (you can follow me on Instagram here). So I’m delighted to be on the speaker-line up at next year’s SNAP Photography Festival where I’ll be talking about storytelling and finding your fuel.

    SNAP is a rather special event that mixes conference, immersive learning, a creative retreat - oh, and glamping - at the lovely Fforest Farm (the old home of the Do Lectures) in Cardigan, Wales from 18th - 22nd April 2016. Imagine The Do Lectures for photographers, and you get an idea of what SNAP is all about.  

    SNAP has been designed to inspire existing professional photographers as well as those interested in turning a hobby into a business. Check out snapphotofestival.com for more details. There are a variety of accommodation ticket packages available alongside some offers: the code EARLYSNAP will give 10% off or you can use the code DEPOSIT to pay 50% now and 50% in November.

    See you there!