50 Marketers from 10 Countries (and a Spider in the Shower)

Everything I learned running a marketing conference from a safari lodge.

When people ask me what I do, I often take a pause. This isn’t because I dislike my job, or find it tedious. Not at all. I just find it difficult to explain.

I work as Head of Brand Communications for over 20 different classifieds websites, or in other words ‘online marketplaces’, which often need to be related to sites like Ebay or Craigslist to garner a flicker of recognition from most people. Here’s the next thing, our team works among the thriving start-up scene of Berlin but the websites we run are based all across Africa. Oh, but actually the parent company is based in Switzerland, if that wasn’t confusing enough.

It’s a pretty unique set-up, which means we get to do pretty unique things. I’m incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to travel internationally, but also to bring my very international team with me.

At the start of the month the entire marketing team of the company met up in Nairobi, Kenya. This meant marketers from Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria & Uganda coming together for our annual Marketing Summit to introduce, train and develop the marketing team as a whole.

One of the primary aims of the summit was for the teams to all meet each other. It sounds bizarre, but more and more frequently companies are operating in a virtual way and actually meeting face-to-face has become something of a rarity - the importance of which can be easily overlooked. Understanding how each other tick in person is paramount to building a good working relationship. For me, this was the best part of the summit, meeting the people I interact with everyday over the internet, but for the most part, had not had the opportunity to meet.

It’s really important to constantly evaluate the experience you are providing, to ensure that it’s as optimised as your marketing campaigns.

After every session we asked the marketers to complete an anonymous feedback form, which gave us an idea of where we were going right (and wrong!).

Things we got right

One thing we do know: the presentations themselves got fantastic feedback. from Storytelling and Brand Voice to the more boring but essential HR Information Sessions, the marketers were really happy with the style and content on the presentations.

The secret? We kept the sessions incredibly interactive, stopping every 20 minutes or so with little tasks and more in-depth group work. This was not just to keep everyone engaged but to ensure that the team were relating the presentations to their individual roles, thinking of ideas to take back to their respective countries. The summit wasn’t intended to act as a barrage of information to be digested and forgotten, we were aiming to inspire the teams to take time out of their daily roles to think, excuse the expression, ‘outside the box’. Removed completely from the normal office routine encouraged a little creativity, collaboration and a different perspective on their day-to-day tasks.

Things we learned

Never underestimate the power of Snapchat. A team of Social Media Marketers in one room meant internet access was paramount. The amount of people operating Snapchat at the same time totally overpowered the basic internet that the lodge provided us, meaning working at times was difficult. Obviously this was not ideal, and meant that work was sometimes delayed.

Choose your location wisely. The showers had no hot water, which meant an incredibly brisk awakening into the world of marketing every morning. We will definitely be putting a little more research into the location next year. Although the views were absolutely spectacular…

Obviously not every company has the budget for an international conference, but I honestly think it’s one of the most valuable experiences you can offer your team. Spending time and learning together with such a passionate group of young people was an experience that I will definitely keep with me.

I’m looking forward to next year’s summit already!