A trip to Barcelona, and the hint I didn’t take

In 2008 I was working at a digital agency in London. A digital agency creates stuff for brands – usually campaigns, sometimes websites and products too. But all of it digital.

I found the work pretty interesting, but what I was really enchanted by was travel and festivals.

There was one in particular that caught my eye, Sonar in Barcelona.

They had quirky branding, alternative music, a new technology showcase, and a whole bunch of offshoot events around the city. Not to mention all the sun, sea, food, and cultural energy that Barcelona offers.

I wanted to go. This was 2008. I was 24. I had no idea. And I had zero money. Not many industry connections. No 20 year relationship with the festival director.

Still, I wondered how I could find a way to go.

I knew the agency paid for people to go to conferences sometimes. Perhaps I could try that?

No. I was really junior, they didn’t bankroll just anyone to go to stuff.

Somehow though, I convinced them to let me attend. Fully covered, for a whole week, at one of Europe’s most crazy festivals.

Here’s how – and also the hidden why.


I didn’t go to my boss like you normally would. Instead, I went to someone completely different.

Because the company were a digital agency, some of their team were pretty into emerging tech.

I could see the angle wasn’t the conference, and it definitely wasn’t the hotel rooftop pool parties. 

The angle was the hypermedia and tech element. So I went to the person running the emerging tech stuff.

But that wasn’t going to be enough. Aligning festival track and job role would not be sufficient for such a request.

So, I suggested I’d make a video of what I learned and share it with the team when I got back.

Miraculously, she said yes.

I got my Sonar ticket and travel fully paid for, and bunked down at a friends place. I managed to do the whole weekend on about 300 euros of my own dosh. (there are a few tales from that Sonar week, but that’s for another time).

And I made the video, using the camcorder I’d bought years before and had left in the dust. I went to the conference and cafes, beach parties and art galleries. Somehow the camera didn’t get smashed, lost, or stolen.

When I got home I spent ages editing the footage I’d collected. I spliced in b-roll, little interviews I’d made, demos of some of the tech I’d found, and of course some music. I spent hours and hours on it. Time disappeared.

A few weeks later, I came through on my promise. I played the video in a meeting where a lot of the trendy digital types were present. 

The response was… mmm.

Cool.
Yeah.
Nice one.
Thanks.

But nothing more.

Now, the video wasn’t great. And it wasn’t bad. 

But the response didn’t match the effort of filming each day, and the painstaking edit. I didn’t feel crushed, yet I still felt crumpled.

Of course, I knew the response shouldn’t have mattered. But humans aren’t rational, and neither am I.

It was years until I made another video. Years.


Why am I telling you all this? A few reasons.

First, people will often say no first time round. This is worth remembering.

Second, give people a reason to say yes. Give them an incentive. Give them an artifact. Give them new information to help make a different decision. As the late Zig Ziglar said, changing someone’s mind is very hard – but it becomes plenty easier when you provide them with new information.

But the third reason is the real point here. Video was a thing for me. I just forgot. I buried it. It was a hint I didn’t take. Even in a world that very soon after 2008 became video first, I still didn’t take the hint.

And the hint had been hinting at me way before that:

  • The school project I remember most vividly? Making a video.
  • A side project at college I spent ages on? Making a video.
  • Oh, and my favorite place to spend my time when I was 9? Hanging out in the local video rental store.

So, I’m back. Making videos. It still feels awkward and tense – especially being in the middle as for all of these projects that came before – the Sonar video included – I wasn’t in front of the camera. But I’m here. Finally I’ve taken the hint.

What’s the hint you’re relieved you took?

And what’s the hint you haven’t taken, but something inside knows you must?

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