Conference Notes

Kicking the Boxes


(Photo Credit: Darrell Webster)

In planning my keynote speech at the Digital Workplace Conference in Auckland last week, I wanted to bring a degree of physicality to the message on the importance of change management for digital transformation. It’s one thing to say it. It’s a similar thing to show a series of slides. But I wanted to take it a step further – and do something that would give an arresting / shocking / surprising moment.

So I hatched a plan, a plan that required multiple hours on the day before the keynote of wandering the streets of Auckland to locate and purchase resources. I ended up with 15 cardboard boxes, 5 rolls of wrapping paper, a pair of scissors, some good tape, and a thick felt pen. With those in hand, without telling him why I was doing it, I got my trusted sidekick to construct five wrapped boxes – three cardboard boxes in each – and each then wrapped in one of the colours (that matched the colour of the boxes in my slides). On each I wrote the appropriate word. When the boxes where ready, I strategically located each one under one of the 600-odd chairs in the auditorium before anyone came in.

Once the keynote began, and on getting to the appropriate slide in my deck, I asked if the person sitting on the chair with the grey (for tools) box underneath could bring it up to the front (for which they got two books in exchange). Ditto for the next four boxes at the appropriate points. Until I had the stack you can see above in the photo taken by Darrell.

The last slide says “getting to effective use enables your firm to benefit from significant indirect changes.” I then said something like “and if you fail to do the work, you will not reap the indirect effects” and kicked / booted the grey digital tools box across the room making the rest of the stack collapse and crash. I kicked the grey box about 10 metres across the room, and deliberately didn’t kick it into the audience, as someone suggested I should have done (imagine the headline for that in the NZ Herald – “Microsoft’s NZ CMO Taken to Hospital with Lacerations to the Head After Being Hit by Box” – or on TechCrunch – “Microsoft Felled by Dropping Box“).

There was a moment of stunned silence – and I then handed the stage for the second keynote to Jordana.

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