The Immeasurable Impact of Influential Events.
Events can change what we think, feel, say, and do. Events can, and should, inspire people, creating powerful moments and memorable stories. We can influence people. Sometimes we can even change lives.
There are some famous examples.
Iconic sportswomen Cathy Freeman, Serena and Venus Williams personal journeys all had origins from a catalyst event. Kurt Fearnley had the same.
Kurt Fearnley has had an amazing career, culimimating as the Australian flag bearer at the recent Commonwealth Games, with many significant events along the way. In his brilliant Australia Day speech  Kurt made mention of an event which helped start it all, taking him from Carcoar, NSW, to conquering the Kokoda track, marathons around the world, and the Olympics.
He recalled a turning point one Australia Day in the early nineties, a day not unlike any other, he’d been crawling around a field in regional NSW. A young man in Carcoar a town of a few hundred, chasing his mates when his dad picked him up on his shoulder and put him in front of the television. What he saw, helped change his life.
It was the ‘Oz Day 10k’ road race and he sat and watched people in wheelchairs race around the city of Sydney. A special annual Australia Day event where the heart of Sydney is closed to allow wheelchair racers to take the stage. Held around The Rocks, Circular Quay and Harbour Bridge, it is an iconic event on the national day. And immediately Kurt new this was his goal, ‘I knew that I wanted to be on that start line’.
As we know, events can be a catalyst, a goal, a finale, or the start of something.
To Kurt seeing these athletes, represented a new opportunity – as he said “to me, they were gladiators and I had a new dream: I wanted to be one. I had to be in that race”.
In another famous story, with the help of his school teacher, Maureen Dickson from BIayney High, he was introduced to Paralympic sport and from the very first moment he sat in a sports chair he was captivated, and wanted to be a wheelchair athlete. And in 1996, Kurt took up a position at the Oz Day 10km start-line for the first time. And he ‘knew that I had found my place in life’. Just seeing this event was a catalyst for a young man in a wheelchair from a town of a few hundred people to be inspired enough to take on the world.
And having personally been involved in delivering this event for several years, it is a nice reminder of the influence the events we produce may have in people’s lives. I think when we hear these stories, the influence our events may have, whether famous or not, we are reminded of how lucky we are to work in such a positive space.
Many of us have heard of people being influenced by similar moments. Some are more famous stories than others.
It could be said arguably Australia’s greatest sporting moment, was itself created by another event. Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medalist, iconic figure and igniter of the flame, Cathy Freeman speaks  of how watching the 1984 LA Olympics as a 11 year old created her aspirations to be the ‘worlds greatest athlete’. She’d discovered the Olympics a year earlier while watching a movie about American indigenous runner Billy Mills, and set her mind on ‘what she had to do, and the sort of person she had to become’.
The incredible career of the Williams sisters has another famous origin story. As the story goes, after watching the 1978 French Open, Venus and Serena’s father Richard (who didn’t know much about tennis at that time) was exposed to one of these influential moments. When the commentator mentioned the winner Virginia Ruzici had just made $40 grand in a week (more than Williams Snr had earner all year), he famously went out and bought a newspaper the next day to check the facts, and reportedley came home to tell Mrs Williams “we need to make two more kids and make them into tennis superstars”!
So the influence can be in many forms, but there is no doubt events are a powerful catalyst to many things.
Of course, it is overly simplistic to say these moments were the sole contributor to what Cathy Freeman, the Williams sisters and Kurt Fearnley have achieved, or even chose to pursue. Their own mindsets, the people and the environment around them, over many years will of course have contributed great influence. But I think it is fair to say, that these events impacted in a significant way. Influencing them and the people around them, and that they’ve gone on to create influential events themselves.
It changed their paths, and changed their lives. In some of these cases they may also have influenced yours?
While each of our own personal examples may be less known, many of us have experienced it. That moment at an event when you have been inspired. A sport or entertainment, music, art or intellectual event. It has cut through and connected with you. It has changed what you will do, then and now. Your interests, your friends, how you feel about things, maybe even your beliefs and your goals. For many in our industry, it was an event that influenced our career choice. It has changed our path. In small ways and bigger ways, events are influential in our lives.
So as event people, we should acknowledge and embrace the power of this influence. We can use our events to influence for good. To impact in small ways, and bigger ways.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”- Maya Angelou
We can (and should) use events as a catalyst to achieve our desired goal. It may be to create some attention. It can be to generate some action. It may be to change a life. To influence in some way. To connect, engage, and impact. We should influence. In that moment, and for the future.
What impact does your event seek to have? In who?
And let me know if I can help you create more influential events.
You can download this free, easy to read e book on the 7 common elements from the worlds most influential events. Use them in your event today!
Gold Rush by Micheal Johnson