I had the privilege of popping my Cannes Lions cherry last week. I wasn’t disappointed…it was a roar in every sense of the word.
As a full time working mum of two young kids, you’d think that I’d be pretty adept at burning the candle at both ends. I thought so too…then I touched down in Cannes. From the moment I stepped onto La Croisette and into the Palais, through to my last sip of chilled rosé, it was a blur of inspiration, great conversation, connection, wonder and laughter all set in the stunning surroundings of the French Riviera. I’ve not experienced anything like it. After a non-stop five days, I was quite relieved to get on the plane back to normality. I was exhausted. But a week later and I’m desperate to do it all over again.
Here's a few tips on making the most of the Festival experience (and surviving)…
Scale back the prep.
I’m one for preparation, but within hours of arriving my perfectly planned itinerary sunk to the bottom of my bag. Yes you’ll want to take a look at what’s on the speaker’s line-up, but beyond that go with the flow. There’s so much on offer, new activities to see and do popping up by the hour.
Don’t waste it.
Bringing the world's biggest brands and most creative people together, the Festival’s line up of speakers is jaw dropping. Don’t waste hours strutting up and down La Croisette, or sleeping off a hangover. Check-in on the next day’s itinerary of talks the night before (decisions, decisions – the choice is envious) and hit the Palais early to avoid the crowd. Listen, learn and absorb – I had the benefit of watching Academy Award winners, Grammy winning artists, Global CEO’s, industry leading creatives and activists – learning something new and insightful from (almost) every talk.
Embrace the queue.
Be prepared to queue for up to 20 minutes for talks hosted in the Palais, potentially more if there’s a famous face on the panel. Embrace it. Use the time to mingle with new faces in the crowd – everyone is friendly and open to striking up a conversation.
Expect long hours.
The days are looooong and expect to be on your feet a lot. If you’re making the most of it you’ll leave your abode by 9am-ish and be hitting the sack no earlier than 1am. Expect to be a frazzled, hot and sticky mess by the end of the day – but who cares, so is everyone else.
Walk the work.
As hard as you try, you won’t get to see it all. But do carve out half a day to walk the work in the Palais basement – it really is a must. Here you’ll get to view all of the winning and shortlisted work (making up just three per cent of the overall entries)…the creative bravery crowded under this one roof is mind blowing. The basement also plays host to ‘Inside the Jury Room’ – daily discussions that bring the judges together to understand what was classed as Lions-worthy – these sessions are as stimulating as the talks themselves, and great for picking up tips on how to hone your own work and future entries.
Eat It. Drink It.
Expect to live on canapés and rosé. No complaints here as it was pretty much all free – a blessing, as beyond the Festival gates Cannes restaurants are painfully pricey and all the decent ones are booked up weeks in advance. I discovered Facebook Beach on day one which serves a free flowing buffet lunch every day…thank you Mark.
Having spent your day attending the myriad of presentations, panels, and onstage interviews (you’d be a fool not to), come early evening, enjoy the ‘happy hours’ and catch up with colleagues, clients and new friends sharing your highs from the day’s line-up. And if you blag your way into any of the parties, make it the Google Beach Pride Party (Thursday night). It’s epic (Facebook take note – Google know how to do parties). As for the Gutter Bar…
So thank you to all my fellow Cannes-goers – colleagues, new friends and clients – for making my first Festival experience a week to remember. And to all the Lions winners – wow. I salute you.