Holding an event in Manchester usually means one thing is certain - rain. It had been grey all week so why would Wednesday be any different? With an outdoor BBQ planned and 50 guests expected for a rendezvous at Lock 91 there was no greater sigh of relief than that of theEword team behind this event when Wednesday morning dawned and we saw the first bit of sunshine for days. This was going to be a great day.
So the sun was out, the mood was set and we were ready and raring to go for our second Light a Fire of the year. As our very own MD, Daniel Nolan, took to the stage to introduce the evening, he rather aptly opened with a summary of what Light a Fire has been about since its inception almost two years ago: "It’s about sharing stories, sharing experiences and being inspired by interesting people." There was also a reminder of the event’s ability to bring people together and form valuable connections. "The first two guests we ever had at Light a Fire were the chief executive of Forever Manchester, Nick Massey and the now-president of the charity, Phil Jones. I was taken aback recently to learn from Forever Manchester’s Jean Mills that it was actually because of their meeting at Light a Fire that the two had come together, with Phil taking on the role of president. Hopefully this evening you will meet someone with who you will forge a similarly meaningful bond."
Don't be afraid to fail
Our guest for this event was the wonderfully accomplished MD of Weber Shandwick, Jo Leah, who straight away was eager to subvert the idea of being asked to discuss her successes: "We don't talk enough about failure," started Jo, "so I'm gonna take you through some of my big failures. In the era of perfect selfies, I'll talk about the times I've failed, as not everything is perfect," prompting chuckles from our audience.
As Jo began to tell of how she got started in the world of PR, sharing candid stories about how imperfect even some of the most celebrated industry professionals around today once were, she reiterated her belief that it's important to give yourself "permission to fail."
It was that self awareness and the acceptance that failure was a possibility that drove some of Jo's biggest decisions throughout her career. Every one of our Light A Fire guests has been incredibly successful in their chosen field, so it was interesting to hear someone recount the difficulties they experienced early on in their careers, and inspiring to discover how Jo had fought to overcome these challenges.
Going it alone
During her time working in London, Jo said: "I was working that hard that I thought, I'm going to do it for myself and set up on my own." It was this decision that took Jo back to Manchester. Jo explained some of the wacky and wonderful ways she won some of her first major clients once she'd set up on her own, much to the amusement of our audience!
When it came to discussing her attitude towards the workplace, Jo was clear on one thing - insisting people shouldn't be afraid to bring their personalities to work. She was also quick to point out that, after almost 30 years in PR, she's learnt to "just sit back and let brilliant people do what they do."
As is tradition at Light a Fire, we closed by asking Jo for her one tip the audience could take away to make a positive impact on their lives. She quoted Olympian Kellie Wells: "If you think you can’t, you won’t, and if you think you can, you will."
We'd like to say a huge thank-you to Jo for being so candid and sharing her experiences with our guests.
We'd also like to thank Lock 91 for a great venue and a delicious BBQ.
You can follow Weber Shandwick Manchester on twitter @WS_Manchester.
Our next Light a Fire event will be early Autumn, where we hope to put on another inspiring and entertaining evening. We look forward to seeing you there.
Main image via @ on Twitter.